What is Blue Monday?
Those of you who think that Blue Monday is only the name of a 12 inch single by New Order should prepare to be educated. Blue Monday is also actually a day which has been singled out and labelled as the most depressing of the year. It’s officially the third Monday in January (this year it’s on Monday 18 January) and is meant to represent that point at which the arrival of unpaid credit card bills, a bank account still struggling to recover from pre-Christmas spending, the terrible weather, the fact that Christmas is now well and truly over and done with and the way in which you’ve lapsed from all your virtuous New Year’s resolutions all come together to produce a perfect storm of gloom and despondency.
The Science Behind Blue Monday
Well, it’s a little shaky to say the least, but once the idea is out there and being shared (there’s even a #bluemonday hashtag) then it’s bound to have an effect on people, not least via a process of suggestion. There are, as well, some statistics to back up the concept of the bluest day of the year; according to Co-operative Legal Services, the divorce rate rises by 332% during the month as a whole and the University of Exeter commissioned research which found that the third Monday of January could cost the UK economy as a whole £93 billion. Most of this loss takes the form of workplace absenteeism or a drop in productivity, and it is this last factor which makes Blue Monday something which SMEs have to bear in mind. Amongst the steps which you could consider taking in order to make Blue Monday less damaging and more bearable are the following:
Cheer Your Staff Up
It could be something as simple as allowing a late start on the Monday in question, laying on some healthy breakfast snacks, arranging an after work outing or giving your blessing to any members of staff who may want to spend the day working from home. Anything which acknowledges that Blue Monday might be a bit of a long hard day to get through will naturally make it feel a little shorter and a lot easier.
Prepare for Absenteeism
Unwarranted absenteeism should always be frowned upon, of course, but even if you don’t approve, knowing it’s perhaps going to happen will allow you to draw up contingencies. Make sure the workload on the relevant Monday is fairly light and could be handled by a smaller workforce. If everyone does actually gird themselves to make it into work, you may even end up having a more productive day than you’d planned for.
Focus on it Throughout the Year
Blue Monday is just one day of the year, and may even be a fairly light-hearted concept, but the issue of staff mental health and problems such as depression is one which a responsible SME owner should focus on throughout the year. The best way of doing this is by creating a workplace atmosphere which minimises stress and boosts job satisfaction, but there are also specific steps that could be taken. The key is to liaise with staff before embarking upon any programme, as this act in itself will also have the beneficial effect of opening the lines of communication and reducing the stigma around mental health issues. Initiatives which could be introduced include:
- Setting up a walking or jogging group
- Encouraging employees to get involved in voluntary work
- Creating links with local gyms, yoga classes etc.
- Encouraging a healthy work life balance by, for example, not phoning or emailing staff at weekends or during annual leave
It’s not just your staff; customers might be suffering the Monday blues as well, so take advantage by marketing yourself as offering extra value for money or an ideal chance for people to lift their spirits by treating themselves.