The unofficial holiday observing the supposed saddest day of the year is upon us. In 2022, Blue Monday is on January 17.
What is Blue Monday?
Blue Monday, deemed to be the most depressing day of the year, falls on the third Monday in January. It was started as a PR gimmick by a UK travel company in 2005, but the idea found resonance and caught on.
Though there is no scientific basis behind this day, there are many factors that make the first month of the New Year a bit hard to take.
January’s the month of post-holiday season blues. It’s also when we begin to take stock of all the holiday spending and have bills to pay and start feeling the impact of all the unhealthy eating done over the holidays.
The short, sun-less days and the extreme cold weather also make it a difficult time, especially for those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or winter depression.
Given the alarming surge in COVID-19 cases across Canada and the world and the return to restrictions and lockdowns, staying positive and maintaining mental wellbeing is critical at the moment.
Despite its negative connotations, Blue Monday is an opportunity for employers to create mental health awareness in the workplace.
How can I boost morale in the workplace on Blue Monday?
You could bring much-needed cheer and bonhomie into the workplace by turning Blue Monday into a day of celebration.
After-work virtual happy hour
Plan a fun event with your team. If your team is working remotely, you could hold a virtual happy hour after work. Use the happy hour as an opportunity for a team catch up and find out how everyone has faring in the New Year.
Trivia quizzes and online games
If after-work virtual drinks is not something majority of your staff would enjoy, you could hold a virtual trivia quiz or a game of online charades. An appreciation game where all participants note a positive quality in their colleagues is another fun activity that would help your team bond. But pick an activity that everyone would be interested in.
Organize a mental health talk
You could also host a virtual talk by a mental health expert on maintaining mental wellbeing during the pandemic. This would be a good way to acknowledge the hardship everyone is going through and emphasize the importance of self-care, eating healthy and exercising daily to ward off stress and depression.
Recognize good work
Besides the stress and uncertainty brought about by another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, your staff may also be experiencing a burnt-out. You can motivate your staff through this difficult time by acknowledging their good work. Feeling appreciated at work will help them feel positive and motivated.
Spread out the cheer
If you have a workplace social committee and the resources, you could observe the Blue Monday week as a mental health awareness week in your workplace. The activities described above could be spread over five days, creating more opportunities to open conversations on the importance of good mental health. By doing so, you’d be turning the so-called most depressing day of the year into something positive.
What steps can I take to improve mental health in the workplace?
Offer a safe workplace
Your office-based staff may worry about contracting COVID-19 at work. If switching to remote work is not possible, ensure you follow all public health measures and put workplace health and safety controls in place to reduce the risk of virus spread in your workplace.
Make sure your staff has access to the personal protective equipment they need. Update your sick leave policy and share it with your staff. Encourage them to self-monitor and stay home when they feel unwell.
Implement a strict ‘no mask, no entry’ policy for your customers. Protect your public dealing staff from harassment by having a protocol in place for handling irate customers who refuse to meet proof of vaccination requirements.
Create a mental health policy for your workplace
Your mental health policy should set down the protocol to follow when an employee makes a mental health disclosure and requests accommodation. It’ll help provide clarity to both employees and supervisors on what to do in such a situation. You may also want to provide training to your supervisors to be able to handle such requests and discussions sensitively. Include your mental health policy in your employee handbook and share it with your staff.
Inform your staff about available mental health resources
Remind employees of your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and how they can access it. If you don’t offer an EAP, you can read our blog to learn about the benefits of offering an EAP.
Share resources on handling stress and on self-care during the pandemic. You should also encourage your staff to avail of the free mental health resources provided by the federal and provincial governments (Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia).
Share information on coping strategies for those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder this time of the year. Read our blog on seasonal depression for more information on how to support staff with SAD.
Offer flexible work hours
You could offer flexible work hours to your employees, especially those who experience winter depression. This way they’d be able to spend more time outside in the sun and run their errands or follow exercise routines in daylight.
Check in with remote staff
If all or some of your employees are working from home, make sure to check in with them virtually. It is easy to blur the line between home and office when working from a home office. If you notice an employee struggling to set boundaries (is online after work hours or on the weekends), reach out to them and review whether you need to re-assess their workload. Encourage your employees to strive for a work-life balance and not overwork themselves.
If you notice any signs of poor mental health, such as visible stress and exhaustion, decline in productivity, changes in behaviour, or increased absenteeism, schedule a one-on-one chat with your employee to find out what issue they may be struggling with.
Read our blog on how to support staff with mental health issues.
Encourage staff to take regular breaks
This applies irrespective of whether your staff is office-based or remote. Advise your staff to take short breaks through the day and step out during lunch to get some sunlight. Make sure your employees take their designated days off.
Organize virtual socials
Whether your workplace is entirely remote or hybrid, stay connected virtually. One way to do so is to organize weekly or monthly virtual socials or activities to help your employees stay connected during the pandemic. This would be especially useful for your employees who live alone and may be experiencing greater isolation.
You could also set up a team group chat over your company messaging platform to encourage interaction among your team members. This could be a space for your team to catch a break and have conversations over shared interests.
Do you need creating health and safety policies for your workplace?
Our experts can help you create company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety and employee management advice you may need. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652.