Josefien Breedvelt: How should employers support staff through the ‘January blues’?

Josefien 430

Short days, cold weather, and Christmas festivities over for another year make January a difficult time for many people.

While there is insufficient evidence to legitimise ‘Blue Monday’, a day in January said to be the most depressing day of the year, many people are likely to feel the effects of the darker days and the consequences of overdoing it in December. To support staff this January, employers can share some practical steps on how to maintain good mental health and wellbeing.

First, inspire new healthy eating and exercise habits. Christmas is typically a time for overindulgence, so employers could encourage staff to kick any bad habits of 2015 and to start the new year with a commitment to healthier living. Why not sign up to Dry January or The Workplace Challenge as a team, and feature information from the British Nutrition Foundation in communications?

Other simple and low-cost interventions, such as providing fruit for staff and encouraging activities such as lunchtime walks, may all be helpful for improving wellbeing and productivity at work.

Second, encourage staff to seek help. It can be difficult to admit that after such an exciting time of year, we do not actually feel that great. But asking for help and discussing feelings early on with someone they trust (this can be a loved one or a GP) can improve chances for feeling better in the future. The Campaign to End Loneliness and Debt Awareness Week also have practical recommendations on how to address worries and come closer to finding solutions. January is also an opportune time to remind staff about access to employee assistance schemes and employee benefits.

Third, remind staff to self-manage their wellbeing. Maintaining mental health is just as important as maintaining physical health. Employers can support staff through the January lull by signposting self-management techniques to maintain their wellbeing, such as mindfulness, which can help reduce levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

Josefien Breedvelt is research manager at the Mental Health Foundation