Let me ask you a question. How do you feel today?
Do you feel any different from any other Monday? Has a bad weekend or the winter weather affected your mood?
I ask because the third Monday of January, today, is coined Blue Monday: ‘the most depressing day of the year’. And sure enough, this time of year often provokes thought around mental health and wellbeing.
However, as our Senior Disability Consultant Christopher Watkins has pointed out in a previous post, Blue Monday has no real connection with disability, In fact, it’s just the day on which is it easiest to sell you a summer holiday.
Created by Porter Novelli on behalf of Sky Travel about ten years ago, the idea of ‘Blue Monday’ claims to be based on a formula including metrics including ‘travel time’, ‘delays’, ‘time spent packing’, and a number of other factors without defined units of measurement . By 2009 the formula had been reviewed to consider slightly more reasonable factors like ‘weather’, ‘debt’ and ‘time since failing new year’s resolutions’, again without any defined units of measurements but reassuringly (or miraculously) coming up with exactly the same day.
However, with recent research (from October 2016) indicating that 77 per cent of employees have experienced a mental health problem—and 62 per cent believing this was because of work, it is clear that poor wellbeing is not confined to ‘Blue Monday.’
A more difficult question is how to promote, or improve, wellbeing in the workplace. Indeed workplace wellbeing was subject of public debate between Christopher Watkins and fellow Senior Disability Consultant Angela Matthews at a recent event.
In many ways the dilemmas around workplace wellbeing promotional schemes mirror those of Blue Monday: whether it is valuable in promoting inclusion, or counterproductive because it promotes overly general ideas of what is meant by ‘well’ or ‘unwell’.
The solution for wellbeing schemes was found to be ensuring that they took individual employee needs into account, providing adjustments as employers would with a job – a tailored solution rather than a general one.
Similarly the best way to approach Blue Monday as an organisation might be to use the general subject of wellness and happiness to initiate and then widen the conversation about mental health, wellbeing and disability.
Although Blue Monday has no real link to disability, it can be used to start the conversation about it.
Needless to say it needs to go beyond ‘the most depressing day of the year’. Businesses should keep mental health and disability as part of their conversations about well being all year round. This is why we encourage our Member and Partner organisations to keep in touch and make use of our Advice service and consultancy, your relationship with us can make a huge difference to the well being of your staff.
If you are looking for guidance around mental health in the workplace take a look at our line manager guide Mental health at work.
Thirty-seven per cent more mental health referrals in January – http://bit.ly/2jPoWZl
Disputed ‘Blue Monday’ (16 January) date actually coincides with sudden rise in mental health referrals, research suggests (Health Insurance)
Workplace design can combat winter weather’s effects on employee wellbeing – http://bit.ly/2ij8EXD
Features such as natural lighting, quiet areas and communal spaces could boost workers’ wellbeing during winter months (Workplace Insight)
44 per cent of workers say winter has negative impact on their mental health – http://bit.ly/2ijaHeo
Similarly, 30 per cent say winter affects their productivity (Business Matters)
 Business in the Community, ‘Mental Health at Work Report 2016’, p.3 (http://wellbeing.bitc.org.uk/system/files/research/bitcmental_health_at_work_exec_summary.pdf, retrieved 19 December 2016)