Blue Monday (Monday 15 January) is recognised as the most miserable day of the year for many staff with Christmas debts being realised, New Year’s resolutions broken, uninspiring weather and relationship strains coming to the fore.
Nearly half of UK employees want to leave their jobs
Whether or not Blue Monday really is the most depressing day of the year is open to debate, but with research* by Investors in People, showing that nearly half of us are unhappy with our jobs, feeling demotivated about returning to work can be real for many people.
Blue Monday is a helpful reminder for employers to review how they are supporting their staff. The Health and Safety Executive report that last year 12.5 million** working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression and anxiety, and pointed to lack of managerial support as a leading cause. The Investors in People research backs this up, with 49%* citing poor management as the main reason for wanting to leave their jobs.
Whilst you can’t bound into work and fix things in one day, you can take the day as a reminder to do more to enhance engagement and ask important questions, especially if you sense there are employees who find it more difficult to manage during the winter months. It is clear that taking steps towards more positive mental health will not only benefit the individual but also promote improved productivity across the workforce:
Ask how employees are feeling
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says: “Annual staff reviews, where career objectives are discussed, may not pick up the early signs of mental health issues. Asking people how they are from a work perspective but also taking into consideration outside-of-work pressures can go a very long way in showing that your organisation cares about the welfare and wellbeing of its staff, and making that individual feel valued.”
How does your mental health support stack up?
Christine advises the following steps:
- Review your company’s wellbeing policies and procedures – do your employees have access to mental health support, does support start early enough and last long enough?
- Do employees know how to access the mental support you offer and do you constantly remind them of its availability? Mental health support often falls on deaf ears until it is needed, so regular communication is essential.
- Utilise any support services that are available to the employer as well as the employee (via insurances or EAPs) – they may give the organisation some direction in introducing initiatives such as discounted gym memberships, fitness challenges, app & tech as well as providing fresh fruit: there is a strong link between physical health and good mental wellbeing.
- Consider the middle (wo)man too: line managers and colleagues may also need support in dealing with members of staff who are struggling with mental health conditions.
Commit to making real business changes
Iain Bell from MintCentral, creators of brandable employee engagement applications, believes that an overall aim to start improving employee advocacy can not only maximise profits and increase productivity in the workplace but also boost happiness. He suggests that you start by creating and maintaining an ‘open door policy’ and actively pushing for constant feedback to improve all areas of the business by using internal surveys. This means staff will feel more engaged and confident that their views and concerns are being listened to and acted upon.
“Investing in your employees by continually training and also supporting staff is important in improving the happiness of employees. By taking the time to touch base with employees, from social committees to mentoring, co-workers and management can support each other both professionally and personally. Knowledge and insight into how people work best, for example which hours suit and pain points, help to create a better workforce and it can be used to improve workflows and better management. This helps achieve optimum levels of productivity.”
“It’s worth remembering it is the little things that often have the biggest impact, ensuring staff are happy and well looked after at work. While financial rewards are great, other, more creative incentives are beneficial too, such as free fruit, an early finish on a Friday or team days out.” Iain also notes that an engaged employee knows and understands where their business is heading and how it is going to achieve its goals. “In most cases this requires good, open communication between management and staff, ensuring that goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). Everyone needs to grasp their role and how their actions impact business goals and achievements. When staff contribute to the company’s success, it should be celebrated collectively.”
Don’t forget managers
Being responsible for the management of individuals and teams can be incredibly stressful, are the managers themselves being forgotten on Blue Monday?
It is critical that managers receive support, not only to deal with any issues they may be experiencing themselves but also in their role as managers. Otherwise, managers can become the cause of workplace stress and staff illness rather than part of the solution to reduce or avoid it.
The causes for mental health issues can be broad-ranging and may fall outside any previous experience a manager has had. Spotting that there is an issue may be the easy part, but knowing how to offer support whilst still fulfilling the managerial role can be challenging. Making sure managers feel properly equipped is essential.
Brett Hill, managing director, The Health Insurance Group said: ‘Managers shouldn’t be forgotten on Blue Monday. They have a fundamental role in maintaining staff morale and productivity. Support is available, and companies should take advice on the specific help they can put in place to help managers deal with staff issues before they develop into serious issues.’