‘Blue Monday’ opportunity to enhance support for employee wellbeing

The third Monday in January is often regarded as low point for mental wellbeing. Yet it is also an opportunity for employers to emphasise their commitment to employee health and humanise their workplace.

A Happy Caucasian woman holding a piece of paper with blue emoji, isolated on orange background. Blue Monday concept

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The combination and cumulative impact of shorter daylight hours, more challenging weather, post-festive-season financial pressures compounded by the cost-of-living crisis make January a particularly tough month. Figures from the Ministry of Justice also show that January has the highest number of divorce applications, adding extra stress and pressure to those affected.Employers are therefore encouraged at this time of year to reiterate the support they have for their workforce – and promote it within a positive wellbeing culture. Debra Clark, head of wellbeing at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “Rather than viewing Blue Monday as a time to curl up and avoid the world, employers can take the chance to promote mental health awareness, to offer support and to make sure that they have the right provision in place.”

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Supporting employee wellbeing today and year-round

Many types of support can be implemented with Blue Monday in mind. These encompass the four pillars of wellbeing: emotional, physical, social and financial.Options include meditation and yoga classes, wellbeing apps and counselling, as well as employee assistance programmes (EAPs), which offer several avenues of support, says Towergate Health & Protection. Promoted well, these approaches can support an open workplace culture, which is highly valued by employees today and year-round.However, data released ahead of Blue Monday by HR, payroll and finance software services company, MHR, shows a full 79% of employees it polled do not believe their employer when they promote mental health initiatives in the workplace. The finding shows the importance of employer commitment year-round to promoting wellbeing and having the right culture.Commenting, Jeanette Wheeler, chief HR officer at MHR, said: “This is a huge amount of employees who think that there is no support in place, even if this is not the case. Engaging properly with employees on what they need, but also communicating any resulting initiatives effectively, is vital and technology will be key.“Blue Monday – said to be the most depressing day of the year – gives companies an opportunity to reflect on their role in improving their employees’ mental wellbeing. Looking after employee wellbeing is not just a moral imperative. It has a significant impact on talent retention and overall business resilience, but there are far too many companies out there who have not yet fully grasped this.”

Making mental wellbeing everybody's business

The scope for employers to do more to fulfil their duty of care obligations and promote wellbeing was also voiced among the 20,000 employees GoodHabitz surveyed globally for their report.Published in October to mark World Mental Health Day, the study found 37% said they regularly discuss their wellbeing with their manager. Yet 78% said a closer connection with colleagues and line managers would boost their wellbeing at work.To create cultures where this can happen, GoodHabitz HR director Sandrien Boogaard said in the accompanying webinar, “Wellbeing is a team sport. You need everybody to achieve results.” As Dame Kelly Holmes pointed out: “It’s not easy, opening up. Is it going to show some kind of weakness?” Yet the reality is that mental wellness is everybody’s issue.”“Typically people only take notice of the things that directly affect them,” continues Towergate Health & Protection’s Debra Clark. “If they are not suffering from mental health issues at the time, they will likely ignore any messages regarding mental health support. This is why it is vital that a wellbeing programme has all elements regularly communicated, so that support is front of mind at the time that it is needed.”

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