Blue Monday: Not an Exact Science, Still a Force for Good

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis

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16 Jan 2019

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You’ve heard of Blue Monday, right? It’s ‘scientifically proven’ to be the most depressing day of the year...

Here’s the ‘science’ behind it:

  1. Take the amount of debt you’re in.
  2. Minus your monthly salary.
  3. Add the weather (whatever that means).
  4. Multiply it by the time since Christmas to the power of the time since breaking your New Year’s resolutions.
  5. Divide it all by ‘low motivation’, multiplied by the ‘feeling of a need to take action’.

And voila—the most depressing day of the year is the third Monday of January.

You don’t need a PhD to know that this formula is a little bit bonkers. You don’t even need a pre-school level of education. Even toddlers can recognise that ‘weather’ is not a number.

That’s because ‘Blue Monday’ isn’t science. It began as a PR campaign run on behalf of the now defunct TV channel Sky Travel fourteen years ago as a way to sell holidays in January. The idea was later borrowed and updated by a mental health charity. We have them to thank for the equation above.

But while we don’t condone fake news (or in this case, fake maths), the PR people got one thing right—January is a challenging time of the year.

Lower light levels, shorter days, colder weather and financial uncertainty or debt following Christmas can have harmful, often unseen effects on your staff’s mental health.    

So don’t discount Blue Monday just yet. It could be a powerful force for good in your business...

Start talking on Blue Monday, take action all year-round

The HSE reported that 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18.

You have a legal duty to prevent harm to your workers’ mental health. But it’s more likely that your personal sense of duty motivates you to protect your workers.

Blue Monday can be the water-cooler moment that helps you discuss mental health in the workplace this January. But here are some practical steps you can take to protect workers’ mental health all year round.

Raise awareness of mental health in the workplace

  • Run campaigns and events to raise awareness of mental health.
  • Use Blue Monday as an opportunity to ask your employees for ideas on how to promote better mental health at work.
  • Give your line managers training on how to spot and address mental health issues in their teams.
  • Consider appointing a ‘mental health first aider’ who can provide immediate care and support in an emergency.

Tackle the causes of work-related mental ill health

  • Make sure you and your managers check workloads carefully to prevent people from taking on too much.
  • Give your employees guidance on what you expect from them in their roles. Where possible, give them more control over how they work.
  • Have regular discussions about career progression and planning. Help staff understand what skills they need and support their development.
  • Where possible, allow flexible working to help improve employees’ work-life balance.

Support employees who are experiencing mental ill health

  • Have clear policies to help your employees return to work when they feel they can.
  • Stay in touch with your employees while they’re off work to see what you can do to support them.
  • Provide external services such as occupational health, employee assistance programmes and counselling.
  • Change your absence management policies to consider issues outside of work that may cause employees to experience mental health issues.

Mental health is important

This Blue Monday, get practical advice on how to support your staff and grow a safe and successful business. We offer a FREE consultation service to help employers tackle mental health and health & safety risks in their workplace. Call us on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in Employment law, HR and Commercial Legal advice for large organisations across the United Kingdom.

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Andrew Willis

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