It is important to realise that some employees may not be as upbeat and motivated with a return to work. Mid-January is recognised as ‘Blue Monday’. Enclosed is a useful article from advo’s Head of HR, Alison Gill, aiming to help improve awareness and motivation.
Blue Monday, which falls this year on today, Monday 15th January 2024, is known as the most ‘depressing’ day of the year. Whilst the initial concept was created for a travel company’s marketing campaign, it is possible to see in the month of January, how cold dark nights, debt post-Christmas and post-Christmas blues could contribute to low mood. Everyone should be mindful when using the term ‘depressing’ as, whilst there may be contributing factors which make people feel low or down in January for the reasons outlined above, depression is not a one-day event and could be offensive to those suffering with their mental health.
Mental health and wellbeing are increasingly discussed more openly. It can be a difficult landscape to navigate as in comparison with a physical condition it may be difficult to see how an employer can assist an employee with a mental health condition, especially if employees are working from home.
However, day to day changes in an employee’s behaviour may be the first visible sign of poor mental health that can be picked up even whilst working remotely. Examples may include: an increase in unexplained absences, a lack of energy, poor performance and changes in mood. If an employee is showing such symptoms, make sure you speak to the employee and ask them how they are and what you could do to help and support them.
Where employees may be suffering from poor mental health, the provision of an employee assistance programme (EAP) can be really helpful and provide the support that an employee need at that time. An EAP would provide employees access to a counselling service, which would enable them to have an impartial, confidential conversation to discuss the issues they are facing and find a way forward. If you do not have an EAP but would like to know more about these, please do get in touch.
There are also other ways to help to create a positive work environment and help motivation in January.
Encourage employees to take lunch breaks. During the dark winter months employees rarely see the sun, so it’s a great idea to encourage them to get outside, enjoy the little bit of sunshine that is available and keep spirits lifted. A break, fresh air and a few steps could break up the day and encourage motivation.
You may wish to organise a team event to lift spirits, a charity fund raising event, or just a motivational team meeting about the year ahead. Company updates are also helpful to provide employees of news about the business and plans for the future.
For many employers, January is also the start of the holiday year so this is a good time to start to talk to employees about their holidays and we would recommend that regular holidays throughout the year is planned and booked.
We would advise that employers continue to encourage employees to take regular holidays. Some employers manage this by setting deadlines for taking holidays e.g., half of the annual leave entitlement should be taken by the end of June. This helps to manage the allocations, especially when some may have carried over annual leave into this leave year. If this is something you wish to implement, please communicate in advance to all employees, explaining clearly why the business has decided to introduce this new rule and whether it applies for one year only or whether it will be a standard process moving forward.
Communication is key to keeping employees engaged and motivated in what may be the dreariest and mood lowering months and little things that the employer can do to lift spirits will enhance the work environment and productivity.