Blue Monday: Is today the most depressing day of the year?

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Sad at work

It’s Blue Monday, the day of the year that is supposedly the most depressing. Coined by psychologist Dr Cliff Arnal in 2004, the Blue Monday theory is based on a variety of factors such as weather, money and the festive period being well and truly over.

Whilst Blue Monday is not scientifically proven and remains a topic of discussion, for many people, it is a genuine phenomenon and has a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing.

With the beginning of this year being a challenge already, due to another national lockdown, Business Leader heard from some industry experts about Blue Monday 2021 and what you can do to support yourself and colleagues today.

Industry Reaction

Aliya Vigor-Robertson co-founder of creative industry consultancy JourneyHR said: “January is always a tough time of the year, but this Blue Monday may hit us harder than ever before. The challenge of a third national lockdown in England has left many feeling isolated, alone and with a weaker support system.

“Employers can play a significant role in helping their team by establishing an open culture that actively encourages employees to share concerns without judgement or stigma. A positive and open culture at work can help to establish a broader support system, which is especially vital for those in lockdown alone, juggling home schooling or caring for others.

“Regular one-to-one catch-ups, mentor or buddy systems and employee surveys are all fantastic ways to understand what people need, allowing businesses to implement changes that are relevant and helpful. We can all play a part in supporting ourselves and our community too by instigating open conversations with our family, friends, and colleagues. It is crucial to come together during this challenging time.”

James Leo, Head of Employment Law at The Wilkes Partnership LLP, and member of the Birmingham Law Society commented: “The pandemic has altered the working world considerably, with significantly more people working from home and keyworkers facing growing pressure to continue going to work. With that in mind, it is even more important that employers carry out risk assessments and uphold their responsibility for employee welfare.

“It is important that employees feel supported by their employer. This should come as a company-wide initiative, led from the top and not just a HR responsibility. Establishing dialogue is strongly advised because mental health is often an ‘invisible’ threat and employers may not be completely aware of the severity and extent of it across their workforce.”

Jonathan Richards, CEO and Founder of Breathe, the HR software platform said: “Discussing mental health on a par with physical health has never been more important. Prolonged isolating during the pandemic has caused mental health problems to soar. According to MIND, around one in four people experience a mental health problem in their lives, so it’s critical to think about these issues year round, not just today, ‘Blue Monday’.

“People are facing pressure from different angles now, whether that’s home schooling or care responsibilities — it’s been a really tough year for many people. Because of remote work, employers need to go the extra mile in offering support, we don’t have eyes on everyone and it’s difficult to identify those who are struggling. There are many avenues businesses can take to ensure that wellness is actively championed in a remote environment, this includes: creating a safe space for teams to talk openly about mental health in both formal and informal ways, offering enhanced flexibility or simply encouraging people to get outside more during the day.”

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage comments: “This year, Blue Monday may seem even more subdued as we find ourselves in the midst of another lockdown and for many of us, working from home for the foreseeable future. Before the pandemic hit, we were already a stressed-out nation. Add the high tension and rollercoaster ride of the previous nine months and it’s not surprising that many are finding Blue Monday and January that much harder than in years before.

“Employee support can take various guises, from checking in with an employee and talking about what’s happening outside of work, to providing an employee assistance programme, which can give them access to the specialist help they may need at this time, to developing a ‘virtual’ open-door policy to build a more welcoming and supportive culture.

“While we’re facing these challenging times, and mental wellbeing is being put to the test, there are plenty of ways to help struggling employees feel better. By coming together and providing the support people need, we can get everyone through this day, this month, and the lockdown and come out with better, stronger and more collaborative teams as a result.”

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