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16 Jan 2023

How to make Blue Monday a little sunnier for employees

The third Monday of the year is said to be the most depressing. This year, with the added impact of the cost-of-living crisis, what can employers do to take the blue out of Blue Monday?

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January is a particularly slow and dull month for many people in the UK and Ireland – literally and metaphorically.

Dealing with heavier workloads, tighter waistlines and smaller pockets with looming January bills? Don’t fret – you’re not alone.

With the cost-of-living crisis still making itself felt across the country, Blue Monday, said to be the most depressing day of the year, is likely to be felt a little more keenly this year by many people

When Christmas is long over

Blue Monday is the name given to the third Monday of the year. This year, it’s 16 January. Blue Monday was coined by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2004 when he created a pseudoscientific formula for a travel company to explain the phenomenon.

The festivities are over and many of us are still getting used to jumping back into normal routines. But as we know, the contrast between festive fun and January reality is hard to get used to.

Winter blues is a real thing

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), when people feel depressed in the winter, with its colder temperatures and shorter/darker days, is a scientifically proven condition.

Sunlight (or lack of) can play havoc with our mood as our hormones are affected by the level of light entering our eyes. Sunlight tells our brain to stop the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and this makes us wake up and kick-start into action.

People who suffer from SAD are usually affected by shorter daylight hours and reduced sun exposure, meaning higher levels of melatonin are produced, and this causes lethargy, demotivation and symptoms of depression.

Sunlight and vitamin D

Everyone should try to get as much sunlight as possible in winter. On a dull day, even sitting by an open window at work can help.

Banking up vitamins like vitamin D can help our bodies deal with reduced sun exposure and mood regulation. SAD can also make people crave high-carb/high-sugar foods. These can make people feel better short term but they must be careful to maintain a healthy weight and not rely on the dopamine high provided by food.

Regular exercise also helps people feel better and prevents many conditions from developing or deteriorating.

What employee benefits can do to help

Even though Blue Monday might not be 100% real, the wellbeing of employees is. Factors impacting their wellbeing are dynamic and can change depending on a multitude of circumstances.

Do we really need a PR firm to tell us that our employees may be struggling with depression, anxiety, financial concerns or low motivation this January?

Employees are worried about making ends meet and might not have had the best Christmas. People are finding it hard to keep on top of bills and credit responsibilities and work responsibilities may come last.

As employee needs change, so should their benefits. Employers can make a real difference to people’s lives with holistic wellbeing offerings. For example, access to nutrition resources or digital gym benefits can help maintain positive wellbeing and a healthier body.

Digital resources that enable mood tracking and information on how to avoid SAD, professional coaching or learning and development may encourage those struggling with their motivation to perform better in work.

Furthermore, incorporating financial wellbeing into wellbeing programmes like access to debt/budgeting advice or developing and incorporating flexible working policies can help ease financial pressures and keep further anxiety at bay.

We must listen and act upon our wellbeing needs to ensure everyone is supported and protected. Blue Monday gives us the opportunity to be proactive and evaluate how our employee needs differ throughout the year.

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