Blue Monday, the 3rd Monday of January, has come to be known as the most depressing day of the year.

That may not be surprising given that the holidays are behind us, the days are dark, wet and cold, household budgets are feeling the pinch and a summer holiday seems a lifetime away.

In a recent poll we found that over 9 in 10 employees have at some point in their career gone into work when experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety or depression. A MIND study found 1 in 5 employees felt they couldn’t tell their manager that they were overly stressed at work, and less than half with a diagnosed mental health problem have told their manager.

We acknowledge that there may be a gulf between the ‘blues’ which may be relatively short term, and depression, stress, and anxiety causing mental ill health but here are our top tips of what organisations can do to combat the most depressing day of the year.

Say thank you – It is always amazing to see how far a thank you goes. From an organisational point of view, to reflect on those that have gone above and beyond, who keep things ticking over and generally all staff that make it a great place to work. As an individual, showing your appreciation to a friend or colleague can really brighten up their day. Think back to when you last received a genuine thanks and how that made you feel.  If 1 in 5 of us did this today then think of how many people’s days we could brighten up.

Connect with people – As organisations are busy implementing their 2020 plans, and focus is on the year ahead; take time to reconnect people to the wider vision. Remind colleagues of the great work that has got you this far, ideally with personal stories, and how the organisation’s vision benefits society generally. You may find that colleagues minds are on life outside of work right now and so only focusing on financial goals is not going to connect with people. Similarly, we are social beings and talking to people is often a great way to focus on the here and now. Try having a conversation with someone instead of sending an email or go for lunch with a colleague rather than eating at your desk.

Redesign your work environment – The removal of Christmas decorations may leave the work environment feeling dull. Where possible try to inject a bit of colour, introduce some plants, redesign the space (even if it is in a small way) so that people feel a little more inspired. On an individual level, for those with fixed desks, change some of the pictures or treat yourself to a new mug, anything that gives you a sense of new. For those who hot desk, sit somewhere you haven’t sat before, talk to new people, try to have a different work environment than the usual.

Exercise – Enormous amount of research talks about the benefits of exercise on wellbeing. Most organisations will have some form of a wellbeing programme, and it may be a case of reminding people of certain opportunities within that. We suggest doing this in a light touch way such as posters or methods of creating awareness indirectly as many people may have admitted defeat for their New Year’s resolutions so a reminder of this may have the adverse effect. On an individual level and weather permitting, try to go out for at least a small walk during your lunchbreak. Having some time to reflect on the things you are grateful for could be a good way of taking the pressure off yourself at a time of year when many targets are ambitious to say the least.

Fruit! – As many may still be on their health kicks and as a relatively small investment for organisations, make plenty of fruit available. Not only do they add colour to the work environment, people will talk to one another as they rush to get the last banana.

Do things you enjoy – This might be the day to go out and buy your favourite lunch. The ‘Chedder & Posh Pickle’ baguette from Pret, or a ‘Cheeky Nando’s’. Or, having something particular to look forward to in the evening; whether that be your dinner, or entertainment such as your favourite film. Recognising that this may be the gloomiest day of the year and actively planning for a good day should hopefully turn that around.

You’re not alone – For many there may be quick and relatively easy tips to combat Blue Monday, but for others, whose experience of the Monday blues lasts longer than a day, there are other avenues for support within or outside of your organisation.

Combatting Blue Monday with an effective strategy will help individuals look after their wellbeing. In ours and other research, we see a clear link between wellbeing and employee engagement. A Gallup study found that engaged employees were three times more likely to be ‘thriving’ in their overall lives as opposed to those who were actively disengaged. Similarly, Engage for Success found that engaged employees with high wellbeing were 35% more attached to their organisations than those with lower wellbeing, and the best companies to work for frequently outperformed the FTSE100 norm.

In short, looking after your wellbeing has mutual benefits to you and your organisation. A win-win.

If you wish to discuss wellbeing or the employee experience more generally at your organisation, please contact Lee Cartwright, Employee Experience Director at Lee.Cartwright@BMGresearch.co.uk.

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