Next Monday, 21st January marks the gloomiest day of the year; otherwise known as Blue Monday. The third Monday in January earned its depressing name due to a combination of the cold weather, dark nights, post-Christmas blues and the impending arrival of credit card bills. There was even a ‘scientific’ equation that calculated it. Or so it seemed.
Blue Monday actually turned out to be a PR stunt by a travel company, aimed at selling holidays! Nevertheless, it gives us food for thought. And it’s another way to spread the message about mental health – which can only be a good thing. With this in mind, we wanted to share a few ways that you can support your employees’ mental health throughout the dark, miserable month of January and beyond.
Easing financial worries
There’s a direct relationship between mental health and finances, which can become more prominent at this time of year. Christmas festivities can take their toll on bank balances and this, combined with the pressures of a long month in January, can make underlying financial issues worse. In turn, this can create worries that affect people at home and at work.
To help, employers can:
- Encourage openness. As you would with mental health, you should create a workplace environment that makes it okay for employees to discuss any financial concerns.
- Communicate what’s available to help. Make sure that employees know what benefits are there to help support their financial situation. Things like employee discounts, travel loans, save as you earn schemes, pay advances or access to an employee assistance programme, can all help address the underlying concerns of a financial problem.
Promoting physical health
Driven by New Year’s resolutions, January is commonly when people kick-start new fitness regimes or make diet changes. But these good intentions often trail off as motivation wanes. There’s also a strong link between physical and mental wellbeing; evidence shows that exercising at least three times a week, can reduce risk of depression by almost 20%1. So, it’s important to try and keep employees motivated to maintain their physical fitness.
To help, employers can:
- Allow flexibility within the working day. This could be a longer lunch break to allow employees to attend a daytime exercise class, or an early finish so they can catch an evening fitness class.
- Offer health benefits. 87% of organisations offer some sort of health promotion benefit2. These can range from subsidised gym memberships and health screenings, to free eye tests and flu vaccinations. A preventative healthcare initiative such as a health cash plan, can also be a great way to help employees maintain their physical wellbeing.
Blue Monday is a helpful reminder that mental health should remain a constant focus. Not just when the January blues hit, but year-round. Have a look at our handy infographics for more information on how to further support employee mental health.
1. Mind: www.mind.org.uk
2. CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2018 report