The third Monday of January has traditionally been labelled the most depressing day of the year due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills, all adding up to a dismal time where pressures are biting.

However, this year, employees also have the added challenges of lockdown, furlough home schooling and an inability to socialise as normal – it all adds up to what could be a very dark time for our teams – and employers are playing a critical role in wellbeing, even if they did not set out to.  We spoke to industry professionals for their thoughts on this unusual ‘Blue Monday’:

Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder of creative industry consultancy JourneyHR, says:

“January is always a tough time of the year, but this Blue Monday may hit us harder than ever before. The challenge of a third national lockdown in England has left many feeling isolated, alone and with a weaker support system.

“Though 2020 was rightly dominated by discussion of the coronavirus pandemic, mental health is also a pressing health concern. Data from the Office for National Statistics found that almost one in five adults in Great Britain were likely to be experiencing some form of depression in June 2020, which is almost double the rate from before the pandemic.

“Employers can play a significant role in helping their team by establishing an open culture that actively encourages employees to share concerns without judgement or stigma. A positive and open culture at work can help to establish a broader support system, which is especially vital for those in lockdown alone, juggling home schooling or caring for others.

“Regular one-to-one catch-ups, mentor or buddy systems and employee surveys are all fantastic ways to understand what people need, allowing businesses to implement changes that are relevant and helpful. We can all play a part in supporting ourselves and our community too by instigating open conversations with our family, friends, and colleagues. It is crucial to come together during this challenging time.”

Peter Ryding, founder of VIC Your Coach added:

“We’re already seeing searches increase for mental health keywords on VIC’s AI-based employee support and coaching system, and we expect this trend to continue in these challenging times.  More than ever, employees need their workplace to support and develop them, not just ’employ’ them, and that also applies to employees who may be furloughed.   It’s really important that HR maintains contact and signposts struggling employees towards the mental health benefits within your EAP, towards resources like VIC and towards a trained, sympathetic line manager who understands the importance of mental health first aid.  Furloughed employees should not feel ‘forgotten’ and treating furloughed members of staff as an important part of the team is absolutely critical if the UK is to return to work quickly once lockdown is lifted.”

Graham Moody, Director of People, International, at Auth0 shares how his company is supporting its employees:

“Employee wellbeing is about taking a human-centred approach to helping people achieve balance in the areas of their lives that are important to them. Not only is this the right thing to do from an organisational standpoint, but it has an actual impact on the success of a company. With stakes that high, it’s really a no-brainer: People teams need to ensure that they are doing everything they can to support the wellbeing of their employees.

“Businesses need to consider the full spectrum of wellbeing, including mental and emotional, physical, financial and family/social needs. At Auth0, our leadership team has taken a number of initiatives to ensure our employees feel they are being heard and taken care of. At the beginning of the pandemic, our CEO committed to weekly communications which he has delivered consistently since last year, and have been well-received by our employees. We hold “fireside chats” among our managers and the CEO, where they can discuss how employees are feeling and where our managers have opportunities to better serve them. Auth0 have also continued our quarterly “All Hands” meetings, ensuring that our employees are receiving all available information and resources that relate to the pandemic.”

 

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.