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Are you ready for Blue Monday?

Monday 15th January 2018 marks ‘Blue Monday’ – the day officially now identified as the most depressing day of the entire year ahead. Despite its somewhat depressing connotations, Blue Monday is now widely recognised across the UK, and plays an important role in raising the profile of mental health within the workplace.

So, what exactly is Blue Monday?

Generally falling on the third Monday in January, the term ‘Blue Monday’ was originally coined by Cardiff University lecturer Cliff Arnall. Loosely based on a mathmatical formula, Blue Monday is comprised of a variety of different factors, including the weather, increased debt levels, the amount of time since Christmas, low levels of motivation and even established medical issues such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

How could Blue Monday affect your business?

The impact of Blue Monday should not be underestimated. Whilst some employers dismiss the day as little more than a PR stunt, few would dispute the serious impact that stress, anxiety and depression are increasingly having on the modern workplace.

The mental health charity Mind now estimates that as many as 1 in 4 employees could be currently dealing with a mental condition in the workplace. Mental health continues to be very much a ‘hidden’ problem in many workplaces, with workers at all levels often feeling embarrassed or even afraid to talk to their colleagues and managers about mental health issues. It is estimated to cost UK employers as much as £15 billion in productivity, and over 91 million working days lost to mental ill health.

A recent BUPA study also uncovered a string connection between workplace stress and other serious illnesses, which then led staff to take more sick days. The report found that those at senior management level have the second highest absence rate after graduates, with 35% admitting to taking sick days.

What can businesses do to help employees cope?

A positive outcome from the ‘most depressing day of the year’ could be using it as a valuable opportunity to raise the profile of mental health and general employee wellbeing across your business. There are many ways that HR could contribute to improving mental health levels within the workplace:

  • Incorporate knowledge and awareness of different conditions into wider manager training.
  • Offer regular health checks to employees, incorporating both mental and physical wellness pointers.
  • Introducing an occupational health service. This is proven to boost confidence levels in employees, increase morale and bump up awareness of health issues, yet 60% of employees surveyed by BUPA had never been offered medical support in their workplace. This was despite 62% saying they would find regular health check ups beneficial.
  • Place staff health and wellbeing at the heart of your company’s focus. This could involve introducing schemes to tackle drug and alcohol problems, setting health initiatives such as ‘cycle to work,’ or even looking into discounted memberships for employees at local health clubs.

Can HR software help?

Mental health issues can often be poorly understood within the workplace, and as a result can often create a pattern of short term sickness absence. However, intuitive HR software can help in identifying and managing those who may be struggling with mental health. Absence tracking features can spot trends and common patterns, and can act as a useful tool to spark conversations between employees, managers and HR teams.

If a health condition is identified, a good HR system can help to keep accurate records of informational conversations between managers and employees, any relevant medical appointments and referrals to appropriate occupational health schemes or counselling programmes. It is even possible to set up Workflow reminders for managers to ‘check in’ regularly with staff who may be managing a mental health condition in the workplace.

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