Understanding and addressing Blue Monday in the workplace

Coined in 2004 by a psychologist working for a holiday company, ‘Blue Monday’ rolls around every year on the third Monday in January and is often dubbed ‘the most depressing day of the year.’ Initially created as part of a marketing campaign, the concept aimed to encourage booking holidays by capitalising on post-holiday blues, financial strain, cold weather, long wait for payday, and failed New Year’s resolutions. Despite its commercial origins and lack of scientific backing, the term has gained traction, highlighting broader mental health and wellbeing concerns, especially in the workplace.

The reality behind Blue Monday

Various research, including a 2009 UK report, challenges the notion of January, or specifically Blue Monday, being a peak time for anxiety and depression. Contrary to the Blue Monday hypothesis, higher rates of mental health issues have been observed in other months, with no concrete evidence supporting a significant spike in unhappiness on any specific Monday in January. However, the term has served a purpose in raising awareness about mental health and reducing stigma, thanks to efforts by charities like The Samaritans, who introduced their Brew Monday campaign in 2020.

Employer’s role in addressing workplace wellbeing

Recognising that employees can experience low moods and mental health challenges at any time, it is crucial for employers to adopt a consistent, year-round approach to employee wellbeing. This approach goes beyond acknowledging Blue Monday and involves:

  1. Creating a Supportive Work Culture: A positive work environment with open communication, employee engagement, and developmental opportunities can significantly impact employee wellbeing.
  2. Offering Comprehensive Benefits: Including financial and non-financial benefits like income protection, life insurance, and flexible holidays can contribute to a happier workforce.
  3. Mental Health Resources: Introducing mental health first aiders, employee assistance programs, and access to financial advice can provide critical support.
  4. Regular Communication and Reporting Channels: Ensuring regular, open communication and multiple confidential reporting channels helps in addressing concerns effectively.
  5. Reviewing Policies and Benefits: Employers should continuously evaluate their policies on sick pay, grievance handling, and mental health support to ensure they are effective and supportive.

Supporting employees with mental health issues

Employers can play a pivotal role in supporting employees facing mental health challenges by:

  • Providing Mental Health First Aiders and welfare meetings.
  • Recognising the boundaries of managerial support and directing employees to professional help when necessary.
  • Offering workplace adjustments like flexible hours or time off for counselling. In some cases, there may be a legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments such as these.
  • If there is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place, be sure to remind them of the service and how it is used.
  • Maintaining contact during periods of sickness absence to support the return to work process.

Final thoughts

While the concept of Blue Monday may lack scientific foundation, it serves as a reminder of the importance of mental health in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to view employee wellbeing as an ongoing priority, integrating mental health support into their organisational culture. By doing so, they can not only address the immediate concerns associated with Blue Monday but also foster a healthier, more productive, and engaged workforce year-round.

Further information

If your employees are dealing with any mental health issues we are here to help. We offer Level 2 Mental Health First Aid training which has been designed to help employers to provide a positive mental health culture within the workplace.

The course also provides learners with comprehensive knowledge on a range of the most common mental health conditions and the skills to be able to act should a condition be suspected.

For more information on our Level 2 Mental Health course, visit our Training Courses page. If you require any HR advice then please do get in touch and speak with one of our HR Consultants.




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