Blue Monday and supporting employee mental health

What is Blue Monday? And how can employers support the mental health of their employees? Victoria Templeton, HR Knowledge Manager at HR Solutions, explains what employers can do if staff are suffering from mental health issues.

Blue Monday

What is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday is the third Monday in January and was so named almost 20 years ago by a psychologist who identified a formula for defining the “January Blues” after being asked to identify the best day for booking a summer holiday. He identified several factors which he felt likely contributed to low mood, including:

  • debt
  • monthly salary
  • the length of time since Christmas
  • the time since failing new year’s resolutions
  • low motivational levels
  • the feeling of a need to act

While few professionals believe the day has any more significance than any other day, so called Blue Monday falls on Monday 18 January in 2021, and this year will almost certainly be even more blue than normal for obvious reasons.

What should you do if your employee is suffering from mental health issues?

While Blue Monday doesn’t necessarily need to be taken seriously, with the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our day to day lives, 2021 must be a year for looking after ourselves and each other.

As an employer, having a focus on employee wellbeing will be key. Ensuring your employees’ health and wellbeing is supported will not only help your employee, it will help the organisation to minimise absenteeism, maintain employee engagement and help retain staff.

If an employee is suffering from mental health issues:

  • Use informal welfare meetings to explore, in private, how they are feeling, what support measures may be needed at work, and discuss whether they even feel well enough to be at work.
  • Remember what the boundaries are; a line manager is not a medical professional and so knowing your limits is important. Whilst you want to listen and be attentive to what they are telling you, recognise when you may need to direct them to a medical professional for further help.
  • Where you can help is in understanding what steps you can take in the workplace to offer support. This could include temporarily adjusting working hours, approving last-minute annual leave or allowing time out of the workplace to attend counselling.
  • If there is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place, be sure to remind your staff of the service and how it’s used. 
  • If an employee does need a period of sickness absence, then maintaining an agreed level or regular contact throughout is key for supporting their eventual return to work.

How can employers improve the mental health of their employees?

The culture of a business and how it operates can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of an employee, both positive and negative. Imagine an organisation that has closed, irregular communications and poor employee relations versus one that communicates openly and frequently, involves, and engages their employees and offers a working environment that encourages development, empowerment, and employee benefits.

These are all factors which contribute towards an engaged and happy workforce. While the workplace will not stop all cases of poor mental health, it can nurture an environment that encourages and promotes positive wellbeing. Things to consider for supporting mental health, and to promote the importance of mental health in the workplace:

  • introduce mental health first aiders in the workplace
  • consider having an EAP in place, providing access 24-7 to counsellors and help and advice on a range of matters
  • have a clear sickness absence policy to provide clarity to employees on how their health can be supported and managed when needing to take time off from work
  • have clearly communicated policies on how you deal with informal and formal grievances
  • look at the way in which your organisation communicates with its employees and adapt as necessary, ensuring regular open communication is at the heart of any communication strategy
  • review your current offering in terms of sick pay and associated benefits, such as income protection schemes
  • offer multiple, confidential reporting channels to your employees
  • Facilitate a trustworthy open-door approach
  • give your employees access to anonymous reporting
  • consider team dynamics and where there are challenges, look at team building measures to improve and develop the team and alleviate any conflict

About the author

Victoria Templeton is the HR Knowledge Manager at HR Solutions, an outsourced HR services firm offering employment law, and health and safety support and advice to businesses across the UK. 

See also

Working from home: what are the pros and cons for your business?

What is flexible working?

How to support workers without childcare

What are the benefits of an employee assistance programme (EAP)?

Find out more

Mental health conditions, work and the workplace (HSE)

Image: Getty Images

Publication date: 18 January 2021

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.