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Blue Monday: how to support employee mental health

Blue Monday | Mental Health | HR Solutions

What is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday is the third Monday in January and came about almost 20 years ago by a psychologist who identified a formula for defining “January Blues” after having been asked to identify the best day for booking a summer holiday.  He identified several factors which he felt likely to contribute to low mood which included debt, monthly salary, the length of time since Christmas, the time since failing new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels, and the feeling of a need to act. 

Monday 18 January is 2021’s Blue Monday, and this year is even more blue that normal as a result of the pandemic. 

What should you do if your employee is suffering from mental health issues?

After 2020, 2021 must be a year for looking after ourselves and each other.  Whilst we remain in a pandemic, there is hope with the several vaccines.  As an employer, having a focus on employee wellbeing will be key.  Not only to ensure that their health and wellbeing is supported, but by supporting your employee it will help the organisation to minimise absenteeism, maintain employee engagement and help retain staff. 

If an employee is suffering from mental health issues: 

  • Use informal welfare meetings to explore in private, how they are feeling, what support measures may be needed at work, or even discuss whether they feel well enough to be at work. 
  • Remember though what the boundaries are; a line manager is not a medical professional and so knowing your limits is important.  Whilst you want to listen and be attentive to what they are telling you, recognise when you may need to direct them to a medical professional for further help. 
  • Where you can help, is in understanding what steps you can take in the workplace to offer support which could include temporarily adjusting working hours, approving last-minute annual leave, allowing time out of the workplace to attend counselling. 
  • If there is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place, be sure to remind them of the service and how it is used.   
  • If an employee does need a period of sickness absence, then maintaining an agreed level or regular contact throughout is key for supporting their eventual return to work. 

How can employers improve the mental health of their employees?

The culture and how the business operates can have significant implications for the health and wellbeing of an employee, both positive and negative.  Imagine an organisation that has closed, irregular communications and poor employee relations versus one that communicates openly and frequently, involves, and engages their employees and offers a working environment that encourages development, empowerment, and employee benefits – those which are financial as well as non-financial, such as income protection, life insurance, flexible holiday.  These are all factors which contribute towards an engaged and happy workforce.   

Whilst the workplace will not stop all cases of poor mental health, it can nurture an environment that encourages and promotes positive wellbeing.  Things to consider for supporting mental health, and to promote the importance of mental health in the workplace: 

  • Introduce mental health first aiders in the workplace 
  • Consider having an Employee Assistance Programme in placeproviding access 24-7 to counsellors and help and advice on a range of matters 
  • Have a clear sickness absence policy to provide clarity to employees on how their health can be supported and managed when needing to take time off from work 
  • Have clearly communicated policies on how you deal with informal and formal grievances  
  • Look at the way in which your organisation communicates with its employees and adapt as necessary, ensuring regular open communication is at the heart of any communication strategy
  • Review your current offering in terms of sick pay and associated benefits, such as income protection schemes 
  • Offer multiple, confidential reporting channels to your employees 
  • Facilitate a trustworthy open-door approach 
  • Give your employees access to anonymous reporting 
  • Consider team dynamics and where there are challenges, look at team building measures to improve and develop the team and alleviate any conflict. 

HR, Health & Safety Support

HR Solutions are here to provide businesses and employers with support and advice on any employment related issues; to find out more or call us on 0844 324 5840, or view the following the resources for more information.

Mental Health Training:  the ‘First Aiders for Mental Health’ qualification helps to provide a positive mental health culture within the workplace.  It provides learners with knowledge of the most common mental health conditions and the skills to be able to act should a condition be suspected. View our training courses page for information about First Aid for Mental Health training.

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