The unofficial holiday observing the supposed saddest day of the year is upon us. In 2023, Blue Monday is on January 16.
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.
Why is Blue Monday considered the saddest day of the year?
Though there is no scientific basis behind this day, there are many factors that make the first month of the new year challenging for people’s mental health.
First and foremost, January is the month following the holidays, when many may experience post-vacation blues. It’s also when employees may begin to take stock of all the holiday spending and start feeling the impact of any overindulging done over the holidays.
The short, sunless days and the extreme cold weather in Canada can also make it a difficult time, especially for those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or winter depression.
Despite its negative connotations, though, Blue Monday is an opportunity for employers to improve mental health awareness and wellbeing in the workplace.
How can I boost morale in the workplace on Blue Monday?
To combat seasonal depression, employers can host some activities that bring much-needed bonhomie into the workplace. By turning Blue Monday into an opportunity to boost mental health, you can do your part in helping improve employee wellness in the workplace. Here are some ideas.
After-work virtual happy hour
One of the most effective ways to boost serotonin is to socialize. If your team is working remotely, you could hold a virtual happy hour after work. Otherwise, pick a spot close to the office and head there 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 isn’t something the majority of your staff would enjoy, you can also 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 way to boost morale and team bonding.
Organize a mental health talk
You could also host a virtual talk by a mental health expert on maintaining mental well-being during the pandemic. This is a good way to acknowledge the hardship people may be going through and emphasize the importance of self-care, healthy eating, and daily exercise to ward off stress and depression.
Recognize good work
Besides the financial stress brought on by the holidays, your staff may also be experiencing burn 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?
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.
Do you need help 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.