Blue Monday has been noted to be the most depressing day of the calendar year. Falling on the third Monday of January businesses need to be aware of when they may mentally lose their employees, potentially, even losing them for good.

Blue Monday 2019It makes sense, Christmas is a distant memory. Everyone in the office now has the holiday blues after a few days off. You are seeing your family less. It is cold, and dark when you set off for your morning commute, then cold and dark on the way home. After a few weeks of January Blue Monday arrives and hits your business with an unproductive inefficient workforce.

But, does Blue Monday really exist? Is it a myth? Is there anything you can do to beat the Monday blues? At Talk Business we have spoken to a few industry experts who look to answer these questions.

Contents

Is Blue Monday a myth?

Prof Paul Allen, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Roehampton

“Blue Monday is claimed to be the day of the year when people supposedly feel at their lowest. But is there any science behind this? According to psychologist Cliff Arnall, there is a formula that proves this, combining factors like the weather and post-Christmas debt to explain feelings of sadness and low mood. But there are also brain-based explanations for low mood at this time of year. The limited amount of daylight in January is likely to be a factor. Low levels of ultraviolet light from the sun can exacerbate low mood in some people. Scientists are beginning to understand that the link between low levels of sunlight and low mood is mediated by the skin’s production of vitamin D, which requires ultraviolet light. Importantly, it is thought that serotonin, a neurochemical involved in regulating mood, requires vitamin D for its production. So increasing our exposure to ultraviolet light or vitamin D could help beat the winter blues.

“Another factor affecting our mood at this time of year may be our tendency to cut out certain foods and alcohol – just think of ‘Dry January’ or ‘Veganuary’. Whilst longer-term abstinence from alcohol has been shown to reduce feeling of anxiety and depression and there are clear and obvious health benefits associated with cutting out calorific food, reducing food and alcohol intake may not do much for our mood in the short term. That’s because cutting out or stopping rewarding and pleasurable behaviours may affect the brain’s dopamine system resulting in reduced positive emotions. Luckily, the brain’s reward system can be stimulated by other behaviours such as exercise, so maybe it’s time to renew that gym membership.”

Mary Hilditch, HR manager at RedRock Consulting

“I think Blue Monday has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are told that we should feel miserable in January and so we are; Blue Monday passes and we are told we should feel better – but do we? What began as a marketing effort is now widely accepted pseudoscience and does little to challenge long-term issues around employee engagement, motivation and mental health.

“There is undoubtedly something to the ‘January blues’, but – just as romance shouldn’t be confined to Valentine’s Day – employee engagement shouldn’t just be a priority at the beginning of the year.  Keeping staff motivated in the workplace is crucial year-round. While employees will surely appreciate whatever perks are introduced by businesses to counteract Blue Monday, it is meaningless without continued support for, and investment in, staff wellbeing.”

Heidi Allan, head of employee wellbeing of Neyber

“Blue Monday was a PR stunt formulated in 2005, but it’s as relatable as ever today. Low light and poor weather means January feels grey. Christmas debt is often high and the reality hits employees over the difference between their pay and their outgoings – and how they’ll make it to the next payday without adding more debt.

“Many people turn their thoughts to getting a new job with higher pay – or asking their boss for a payrise. But in reality, a small increase to someone’s pay is unlikely to deliver a sustainable or long-term solution. What is incredibly useful is helping people to break the borrowing and debt cycle and improve spending and saving habits to get stronger financial health and resilience. Indeed, by consolidating debts people can save on average £101 per month.”

Mental health

Mental healthJohn Hackston, head of thought leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company

“Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, is often referred to as the most depressing day of the year. The research behind this has been called into question, and the reality is that feeling low affects us all differently and involves a multitude of factors. Whether or not Blue Monday is really the most unhappy day of the year for you, the key to combatting the blues all year long is in building self-awareness and understanding your own personality. Understanding your own values and personality preferences can help to make sense of what causes you as an individual to feel unhappy or stressed, and therefore how to reduce those factors. Whether it’s investing more time into your relationships, having some ‘me time’ or ticking off personal goals, happiness is gained in a variety of ways, and keeping in mind where you gain your happiness from is helpful at any time of year.”

Annabel Jones, HR director at ADP UK

“Blue Monday is often referred to as the most depressing day of the year and, while it’s difficult to prove if this is really true, it’s an important opportunity nonetheless for employers to start a conversation around mental health and to better understand how their workforces are really feeling. ADP’s Workforce View 2018 report highlighted that a fifth of UK workers suffer stress on a daily basis, with a third feeling so stressed that they’re considering finding a new job. Yet a third (31%) feel their employers isn’t interested in their mental wellbeing.  While we cannot know if Blue Monday is really the most depressing time of year, it’s an easy way for HR departments and businesses to start a conversation around how their employees are feeling and if they’re getting the support they need. Supporting staff who are experiencing difficulties is key to improving engagement, productivity and, ultimately, ensuring the success of your workforce and your business”.

Jitesh Patel, chief executive at Peldon Rose

“Many of the concerns that underpin Blue Monday, such as post-holiday blues and broken resolutions are largely transient in nature, but our survey reveals that the nation’s employees are actually struggling with longer term issues, such as not feeling valued at work, which are significantly affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

“Employers must acknowledge that both our mental and physical health is affected by our work environment, and that to have a happy and productive workforce they must understand and meet their employees’ needs. Workers spend much of their working day sitting down being inactive and they believe that the opportunity for more exercise and activity will help improve their wellbeing and mood. Business that respond to these needs by improving the office environment or introducing new benefits will be the ones to reap the benefits by a more motivated and productive workforce.”

Hollie Ryan, employment specialist at Stevens and Bolton

“The key challenge is finding a way in which employees feel able to discuss and approach their managers about mental health. It is important that employers send a clear message to staff that mental health matters. One way of doing this is to support national mental health campaigns and publicise this across the workforce so that people feel comfortable talking about mental health – it needs to stop being a taboo subject. The Duke of Cambridge has also launched an online Mental Health at Work gateway to provide advice, resources and training on mental health in the workplace (https://bit.ly/2A2vZck). This resource is free and accessible to both employers and employees. There are other resources that are available such as Acas’ framework for positive mental health at work which may be helpful (https://bit.ly/2KZPcRT).

“Training to help managers identify mental health issues and develop the skills necessary to be able to have supportive conversations about mental health is key. Wider staff training can also reduce the stigma associated with mental health which can foster a much better culture of support and openness. Employers should also explain to staff that mental health illnesses should be taken as seriously as physical ailments and dealt with supportively. Regular individual meetings or even “drop in sessions” with managers could also help – if meetings take place sufficiently regularly they shouldn’t be too time intensive and could help by addressing issues at an early stage.

“Depression, anxiety and work-related stress are some of the leading causes of workplace absence. If employers are able to support individuals with mental health issues, this is likely to reduce absenteeism and the associated cost to the business. Wellness programmes can also encourage engagement amongst staff which leads to improved performance. It also means that staff are less likely to leave which reduces the costs associated with high staff turnover, such as recruitment and training costs.”

Adrian Lewis, director, Activ Absence

“Many employers want to do more to support their employee’s wellbeing and mental health and our advice is to start by tracking sickness absence consistently to see if patterns start to emerge. Our absence management software has red flags and alerts for managers when someone is taking a lot of time off. Such data is particularly useful for line managers conducting back to work interviews or to instigate conversations and explore if someone might be suffering from stress. It typically means conversations take place much sooner, support can be provided by the employer and this can prevent problems escalating.

“Investing in this technology can really help employers distinguish between the January blues or a more serious mental health condition and ensure they are offering their workforce a supportive working environment and culture in 2019.”

Noel McDermott, psychotherapist www.noelmcdermott.net

“The time of the year definitely affects how much we feel the Monday blues and without a doubt what sort of stresses we are experiencing at work also contribute. Conversely if the stress is at home then work might be a welcome relief. This is what we call reactive depression, it’s the body’s way of saying, I’m not happy with this situation, do something about it. In fact, reactive depression is a sign we are emotionally healthy as we should feel depressed if our circumstances aren’t great. Depression in this form is nature’s motivator, so listen to it and make changes.

“An employee should use the weekend to reframe your thinking, you have probably slipped into the habit of developing negative thoughts, producing stress hormones leading to emotional pain. Cognitive restructuring and challenging your thoughts is a powerful therapy tool to deal with this. “Get active and exercise, especially outside, this helps lifts mood. So why not walk part of the way to work? Or go to the gym before going to work. Stay away from stimulants, perversely they tend to increase a depressed mood because of their impact on adrenaline and cortisol.

“If you can change the stressors leading to the low mood (stress hormones over a period of time equal low mood or anxiety), then change them. If you can’t, you need to make changes to what you are doing.”

Clare Lee, head of HR UK, Ireland & Nordics at Johnson & Johnson

“We put the health and wellness of our employees at the very centre of our business. This includes a commitment to removing the stigma around mental health – not only on Blue Monday, but on every other day of the year too.

“A key part of our mental health strategy centres upon bringing your ‘whole self’ to work, which involves not only having a healthy body, but also a healthy mind and soul. As part of this, we run awareness campaigns celebrating traditionally underrepresented groups from within the D&I umbrella (such as LGBTQ+ employees) to remind them – and their co-workers – that they are a valued part of our organisation.

“Our mental health initiatives are complimented by our Employee Assistance Programme, which is available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year to all employees worldwide, as well as their families.”

Flexible working

flexible workingRufus Grig, CTO at Maintel

“Businesses ought to plan ahead and implement measures to help enhance their employee’s efficiency on a day they are said to be lacking motivation and positivity. One way they can do this is by understanding their employee’s working preferences – and ensuring they are equipped with the right tools to do so.

“Thankfully, employers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that health and happiness has on the day-to-day running of the business: if workers are not engaged and productive at work, it can cost the employer money, impacting its bottom line. Consequently, employers are starting to recognise that flexible working can help to facilitate a better work life balance.

“In fact, according to research by Maintel, flexible working is becoming more widespread and steadily being implemented more successfully, as 73% believe their company have a good flexible working policy. As a result, 64% say they don’t feel micromanaged when working remotely.

“Organisations must therefore allow flexibility to enable employees to work where they feel most productive each day. It’s important not to cut face-to-face interaction out entirely, it’s all about getting a good balance.

“It’s time to ensure employees have access to the right tools – whether they are in the office or not. By giving employees the freedom to work where they want, when they want – businesses can make sure they don’t feel too blue this Monday.”

Erik Fjellborg, CEO & founder of Quinyx

“Flexibility is key for motivating a disengaged workforce. Our recent study found that 73% of the UK’s workers still face issues when it comes to flexibility in their current work schedules.

“With flexibility around when, where and how we work becoming ever more important to the country’s workforce – Blue Monday presents the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that flexibility is at the heart of your business. Whether that’s letting someone work from home, or swap their shifts around, flexibility should be for everyone – and that applies whether you run a boardroom, a bar or a shop floor.”

Steve Haworth, CEO at TeleWare

“Blue Monday serves as a reminder of how technology has fuelled the ‘always on’ culture. For employees still regaining motivation following their Christmas break, having constant interruptions from work during their downtime is not helpful. It is important businesses give their employees the tools to allow them to manage their time effectively.

“Recent years have seen a number of apps and software introduced to help employees work flexibly, whilst also allowing them to switch off and divert their work communications to colleagues on demand. Employees can divert business calls outside of work hours to ensure they aren’t distracted during their free time.”

Healthy living

healthy workDonna Griffiths, director of HR & employee wellbeing, Westfield Health

“Employers need to create a positive environment that staff look forward to being in every day, and feel they can continue to grow and feel rewarded for their contributions. It’s important the workplace isn’t perceived to be a burden.

“In the short term, introducing exciting new lunchtime activities or training groups such as exercise sessions or healthy eating seminars will be something staff can look forward to, and will also provide a refreshing change to the usual daily routine. 

“Longer term, employers should be looking at how to implement a positive and healthy culture into the business. Whether that be making regular one to ones with line managers compulsory, encouraging employees to take regular breaks including their full lunch break, or incentivising activities that improve health and wellbeing both in and out of work.”

Rob O’Donovan, co-founder & CEO of CharlieHR

“When building and growing a company, focusing on people is the most important thing founders and managers can do. Our belief is that looking after your team doesn’t stop when they step foot out the office, but it’s the responsibility of all good employers to enable their people to build happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. It is perhaps of little surprise that illness is more common in the cold winter months, but it’s more alarming how few companies do anything about it. Ensuring team members take adequate rest during winter – and don’t use all their holiday up over summer – as well as providing time, space and encouragement for them to focus on their wellbeing are critical.”

Steve Preston, managing director, Heat Recruitment

“Blue Monday – ever the self-fulfilling prophecy. With that in mind as a business leader it is important to rally around your team and encourage wellness in the workplace. Here are my top five ways to beat slump.

  1. Sack off the blues and play some upbeat happy tunes.
  2. Encourage and inspire by having a motivational Monday morning. Here you can identify the superstars of the week, set some challenges and lift spirits.
  3. Encourage your team to move – take a walk to the fruit bowl, get some fresh air, whatever makes you feel good.
  4. Team up with a gym buddy and get the endorphins flowing, alternatively use gym time as ‘me time’.
  5. If all else fails, have an early night so that when you wake it will be super Tuesday, where you can smash it!”

Harriet Scott, MD and co-founder, GingerComms

“Blue Monday or not, we know as a business that Mondays can sometimes be challenging for employees. So several years ago we made the decision to allow all our staff to work from home on Mondays, to give them a more gentle start to the week. At that point we were a start-up – a challenger brand with a lot to prove. And the decision paid off. Morale was raised, a sense of trust and appreciation fostered, and productivity was maintained – if not improved. So our advice to other businesses which are able to facilitate flexible working is this – why not let your staff work from home on Blue Monday? “

Susan Hepburn, accredited hypnotherapist and psychotherapist

“Blues Monday is usually associated with a lack of enthusiasm and energy, and feelings of deflation. Whilst it is usually attributed to circumstantial factors, January blues can be due to a lack of daylight which alters the body’s hormone levels, causing symptoms of lethargy and depression. As such, I would encourage people struggling with Monday blues to look holistically at their lives longterm and to consider their diet, physical health and sleep patterns which all impact on mood.

“One useful technique is to keep a food and emotions diary detailing what you eat and drink and more importantly how this makes you feel. This forces you to confront what you are eating and in turn encourages nourishment to fend off a lethargic mood. I also cannot stress the importance of remaining active in winter month as exercise is crucial to stimulating the release of endorphins, which act as mood enhancers, giving your body a natural high. This becomes all the more important when we are lacking the vitamins we need from daylight.”

Dr Andrew Thornber, chief medical officer at Now Patient www.nowpatient.com

“The lack of sunlight at this time of the year, can play a massive effect on your body and the darker evenings and mornings can lead more people to feel anxious, depressed, exhausted, lack of energy or motivation – which can often mean you are suffering with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder or more commonly referred to as the winter blues.

“Symptoms can be very similar to those people experience around Blue Monday, including depression, fatigue, low self-esteem, tearfulness, reduced libido, anxiety, irritability  and withdrawing from social events. The lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the production of melatonin – which is hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels. It can also affect production of serotonin, which is sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness. A lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression, affect your mood, appetite and sleep.

“Anyone suffering with SAD feelings around Blue Monday, would be encouraged to try and get as much natural sunlight as possible.  Sit near windows when you’re indoors. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, with food rich in vitamins. If possible, avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage stress. Take vitamins B12 and D to help combat symptoms If symptoms persist, I’d usually say speak to your GP.” 

New Year’s goals

new year goalsDr Philip Clarke, lecturer in psychology at the University of Derby

“January brings time to reflect on the last 12 months and set new goals for the year ahead. If you’re struggling to stick to your New Year’s resolutions already, don’t beat yourself up. Go back over them and re-evaluate where you could make small changes to help you achieve your goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the goals most people set in January take time and effort to achieve. Start with small steps, you can make bigger steps when you feel comfortable and ready. January is a perfect time to wipe the slate clean and have a fresh start.”

Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library

“It’s important to maintain an atmosphere of honesty in the workplace, where employees feel that they are supported and able to voice their concerns. Start the year by reminding your employees that you’re there should they need anything and book in a one-to-one meeting to discuss their goals for the year ahead. In the fast pace of an office, it’s also easy to miss small things which can affect every day well being – even simple initiatives such as free food or drink in the office can boost morale.”

Ewen MacPherson, people director, Havas Group Media

“Employers need to start the year with a bang – look for opportunities from within existing processes and initiatives to engage and motivate employees now that they’re back in the office. Most will be coming back well rested, but equally it may be hard for some to get back into gear, so it’s important to have activity that engages them relatively quickly.

“Companies should also look to provide visibility as far ahead as possible, even if only for the remainder of the first quarter. A published calendar of activity will give employees something to look forward to and demonstrate an employer’s commitment to development and wellbeing.”

Lorenzo Luiso, director & consultant at Brick Digital

“First off, try not mentioning ‘Blue Monday’. But just like any other Monday, I try not to entertain the usual Monday morning talk of how far away the weekend is, and how bad it is to be back at work. Keeping the office happy on Blue Monday is all about making the week exciting for me, talking about goals for the week and helping people hit the ground running. One key piece of advice is to refrain from checking emails until Monday afternoon. That’s where doom usually lies, and depressing ‘Monday’ chat is shared both internally and externally in staff.”

Staff rewards

staff rewardsShaun Thomson, CEO, Sandler Training in the UK

“It’s no wonder Blue Monday has become so notorious – it signifies the peak of the most depressing month of the year, and the date when we are most likely to have given up the last of our New Year resolutions. Employers should ignore Blue Monday at their peril – unhappy workers get itchy feet, which is why online job searches peak in January. 

“To mitigate against a day of gloom and an impending staff exodus, take it as an opportunity to turn the workers frowns upside down with surprise desk-side deliveries of breakfast goodies and an early finish. Staff rarely leave for money, they leave because they don’t feel valued – businesses should use Blue Monday as an opportunity to recognise and reward the efforts of their workers.”

Vicki Field, HR director at private GP clinic, London Doctors Clinic

“Although it’s not the most sociable month, having a team meal out in January is a good way to bring some fun. Most people feel a bit miserable in January, but there’s a deeper issue of mental health which should also be considered. For instance, some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder around this time of year – a type of depression linked to winter. Giving managers the tools to identify problems through training and education, and ensuring employees have access to counsellors is really important. Employers can also openly discuss the charities which support mental health, or provide access to medical health screens or a support network – all of which can hugely benefit employees.”

Phil Foster, CEO of Love Energy Savings

“We know Blue Monday can take its toll sometimes, but we know with our staff, their job won’t be the thing that’s getting them down. We will always strive to pay our employees as much as we can afford, rather than the least we can get away with, and endeavour to provide top quality training and development opportunities to help them become a high-flyer.

“But as an additional little treat, this year we installed a doughnut wall to keep our staff sweet all day! Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about the weather!”

Harriet Shurville, people director at McCann London

“People need motivation, both physically and mentally when the chips are down. In order to help stop those ‘blue’ feelings in their tracks, we’re organizing a day filled with little surprises and inspirational moments.

“Throughout the day we’re getting our people to post inspirational and uplifting thoughts on our expression wall – a space that’s usually reserved for work ideas. We’ll also hold a raffle with some endorphin-boosting prizes. North Star Therapies will also be coming in to talk to our people about alternative therapies from Reiki to Power Coaching.

“We know that the tiniest of gestures can make the world of difference – which is why we’ll be offering healthy snacks and treats through the day to keep people’s energy levels up.

“And of course, we’ll be holding our Body Transformation class on our Terrace, as part of The Workout – our programme designed to give mental health as much attention as physical wellbeing.”

Sarah Kauter, CEO, VerriBerri

“Employee mental wellness is something that we have always prioritised in the office. As a business in the creative industry, we are always trying to find fresh ways to keep our team happy and healthy, which of course is particularly important in January. It’s a long month for everyone so we try to be as accommodating as possible by offering flexible working hours and bringing payday forward to cover those Christmas bills coming in. We also put a big focus on team morale around this time by booking in social events, organising a trip away and even going out for lunch on Blue Monday to keep the mood high.”

James Lintern co-founder at RotaCloud

“As Blue Monday approaches a few simple, cost-effective gestures can go a long way to help motivate and engage employees on the gloomiest day of the year. Allowing employees to choose flexible working hours, ditch the dress code or work remotely could help give staff the motivational boost they need to help them through this miserable Monday in January. Simple gestures such as free pizza at lunchtime, treating them to their favourite coffee and cake or even allowing all staff to leave at little earlier on the day could all help with office morale without breaking the bank.”

Craig Hall, operations director at Glass Digital

“For the same reason you shouldn’t only show your partner affection on Valentine’s Day, employers need to think far beyond Blue Monday when it comes to staff happiness. Buying in lunch might give the team a temporary boost, but competitive salaries and perks, a positive and supportive work environment, and flexible working policies are key if you want happy and productive employees.

“So, rather than offering a quick pick-me-up this Blue Monday, consider announcing a long-term perk to create a buzz that’ll last. For example, perhaps you can afford to let everyone finish earlier on Fridays, or start offering free fruit in the office.”

Gemma McCrae, owner of Prosperity Kitchen

“I work with various companies around the world on employee motivation and although motivation is not a one size fits all, one of the most successful motivators I’ve rolled out  is “Incentive January” – this is where employees are awarded additional holiday days, fun activities during work, company spa days, free massages, free coaching etc throughout January. Obviously the incentives depend on the size of the company, but it shows the employees that you care.”

Rebecca Wheaton, corporate cake consultant at Konditor & Cook

“We know from our experience that cake can go a long way in making people feel valued. Adding cake to a conversation about work prirorities and challenges removes barriers and helps people feel more creative. It can also build a community. Our monthly ‘coffee mornings’ enable us to get to know each other as well as find ways to work better as a team. 

“Simple gestures such as making sure everyone has a personalised cake waiting to greet them on their desk on their birthday never fails to make people feel good. We want to end the culture of people having to buy their own cake on their birthdays!

“We have clients that order persoanlised cake for other work celebrations; from welcoming new starters, celebrating work anniversaries to letting people know they have done a good job simply by saying thanks!”

Career development

career developmentKelly Feehan, services director at CABA

“Losing staff because they feel stressed, unhappy and demotivated can be avoided if businesses develop a strategy which incorporates wellbeing initiatives alongside career development and, above all, nurtures a positive company culture. Looking after the physical and emotional health of staff members can no longer be just a box-ticking exercise if companies want to attract and retain the best talent.”

Sue Andrews, HR and business consultant, at KIS Finance

“One of the biggest things that you can do to help your employees feel motivated and engaged is to ensure that their ideas and input are listened to and welcomed by management. You can achieve this by delegating tasks and giving additional responsibilities to certain employees. This method will help those who work more efficiently with increased ownership and the feeling that their work is valued.”

David Cliff, managing director of Gedanken

“Employers need to recognise the seasons impact how we feel. The long, dark days of January can make staff feel lethargic and miserable. Businesses would benefit from being proactive in holiday allocation during the early months, encouraging people to partake in some winter sun, or a duvet day, while it’s quiet.

“Slower business months can also be a good time to invest in staff training, away days, or development, to allow people to take stock and process what they’re doing. Not only can this ease the blues, it can increase productivity all year long.”

Peter Briffett, founder of Wagestream

“Rather than letting Blue Monday be a cause for concern for employees, businesses should see this as a platform to encourage positivity in the workplace, as this goes hand-in-hand with productivity, wellbeing and retention. Bringing in measures which can influence the financial wellness of your employees can make a huge difference. Important changes can include: offering financial education to employees, for example teaching budgeting and saving skills and offering staff a more flexible income. This can help employees who have entered debt because of “payday poverty” caused by the rigidity of the monthly paycycle.”

Office environment

office envirnomentAdrian Barraclough, chairman at Quickslide

“Encourage employees to get their daily dose of natural light – exposure to daylight is great for our wellbeing. It has been found to boost sleep quality, reduce daytime dysfunction and improve quality of life. So, encourage your staff to go for a lunchtime walk with colleagues to ensure they reap the benefits and beat the blues.”

Jonathan Cridland, CEO, Lumie

“Whether you’re a Seasonal Affetcive Disorder (SAD) sufferer or simply struggle with energy levels at work in the winter, it’s important to recognize the impact regular exposure to daylight has on our wellbeing. For optimum mood and energy, we all need light to our eyes as bright as a spring morning on a clear day for around 30 minutes a day and the light must be at least 2,000 lux (the technical measure of brightness). That’s roughly four times brighter than a well-lit office! Daily use of a light therapy lamp (such as Vitamin L – 10,000 lux) in the office can help you make up for the lack of sunshine. Bright light can lift your mood, boost alertness and help you to feel more energised, either first thing in the morning or early afternoon (to beat that post-lunch slump!).”

Ian Brough, managing director, Building Interiors

“A working environment is so important but is often not considered by employers. The design of your office space has a direct correlation with the retention and happiness of staff. You need to create a space that is positive, enjoyable, motivating and effective.

“Environmental factors such as poor, inefficient lighting can affect workplace health, efficiency and happiness. Identifying this issue and replacing old and dim lights not only gives long-term monetary savings but will transform the appearance of the office.

“The implementation of standing desks can make a huge difference to employee’s health. The concept is simple, electronic desks are normal desks with an electric motor in the leg frames. They are great for employee health and concentration; many report they feel more alert and focused when standing.”

Zoe Humphries, senior workplace consultant at Steelcase

“Organisations should provide workers with spaces to do quiet work, as well as collaborative spaces that can be modified by teams to encourage experimentation. According to Steelcase research this isn’t happening nearly enough, with 22% of UK workers strongly believing that their workspace doesn’t inspire creativity.

“Create spaces that support focus and minimise distractions help with concentration and create one-on-one connections: Organisations that empower their workers to take time out of their day to step away from their desk and work in these environments help reduce stress and increase productivity.

“Exposure to nature releases endorphins that improve your mood and put you in a more creative state of mind. Even when it’s cold outside, leaving the office can provide inspiration and a well-earned break.

“Seek out social spaces that foster personal and professional connections: Working in spaces that are designed with their users in mind allows you to connect with colleagues intuitively and easily, whether they are in co-located or distributed teams.

“The calming effects of fresh air, greenery and natural lighting have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so find ways to embrace biophilic design – this could mean incorporating natural materials, like wood, into your workspace, or simply having a plant on your desk.”

Kenneth Freeman, head of innovation, Ambius

“Blue Monday provides an important reminder for employers to try and take steps to improve employee wellbeing in the office – not just for January, but all year round.

“For example, human beings have an inherent need to connect with nature and green space. And with 40% of Brits spending just 15 minutes outdoors each day, office managers need to consider the elements of nature they can bring into the workplace. This could be through a reshuffle of interior landscaping using natural materials like wood and clay; the addition of easy-care plants around the office, or adding a splash of colour, like green, to stimulate creativity and productivity. Using glass will help let in more natural light, or if your window space is limited, you could even consider a biodynamic light management system, which will keep your office in tune with the natural rhythms and quality of daylight.

“All these considerations can help to reinvigorate and re-energise the work environment – and you’ll be surprised at the benefits.”

Asking for feedback

asking for feedbackJames King, sector manager, Rant & Rave

“The kind of dip in staff morale that’s understandable in a month like January simply isn’t picked up on by a once-a-year engagement survey that many companies issue. Businesses should be taking steps to improve culture and listen to their people all year round, capturing open and honest feedback via the best engagement channel.

“Closing the loop is also essential. It’s no good capturing feedback from employees if you don’t let them know they’ve been heard and you’re taking action. A message letting them know their feedback has been taken into account might be just the morale-booster they need in the January slump.”

Alister Esam, CEO, Process Bliss

“Blue Monday is a temporary downturn in morale and if employees are happy and motivated the rest of the time, then it will be only a blip. What I always try and do is support people and give them the structure to grow, learn and develop. I make sure no one is micro-managed and strive to keep people motivated. People may join a company based on salary, but few leave for that reason – it tends to be because they are unhappy, stressed and demotivated.

“You need to understand the motivators behind each team member and can discuss with them how to achieve it. I want to implement such an exercise as part of the appraisal process, which for us is a monthly exercise – six months feels way too long a period. This will help ensure the team is motivated, empowered and engaged, and not likely to be unduly bothered by Blue Monday.” 

Suniel Makh, a fully accredited mindset coach, www.sunielmakh.com

“One piece of advice that any senior manager should adhere to is to treat staff as ‘people’, rather than ‘employees’.

“Be effective with communication to inspire and engage, something which can start with the language being used. It’s often easy to focus on ‘what went wrong’, which of course is important to improve business success, but how often are successes appreciated and celebrated? Motivate staff by honouring and sharing their achievements, give them individual recognition and contribute to a more positive environment.

“Keep the energy high, particularly in downtimes, by creating variety through engaging the workforce in activities that encourage interaction as opposed to the same staid atmosphere.”

Alexandra Anders, talent director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand

“Companies should empower their employees and give them a chance to propose their ideas and hopes for the company this year, now. Do people have enough regular ways of discussing issues, their performance and progression, and company policies with management? Open dialogues are vital for pinpointing problems and responding to and resolving them before it’s too late. If employees start the year feeling supported and like their company wants them to succeed, it will show in their performance throughout the year and they may also begin to act as brand advocates externally too, which is helpful in retention and recruitment.”

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