With the first quarter of 2022 in full effect, businesses are striving to adapt in the face of unprecedented Covid surges. Though employers hope to be met post-holiday with a refreshed and motivated staff, many employees are feeling exhausted and nostalgic for the ‘old’ normal. This can be highly detrimental to employee productivity and organisational growth.

You are most likely aware of Blue Monday, which defines the third Monday in January as the most depressing day of the year. Despite the event’s commercial history and questionable methodology, it remains widely accepted by Britons and defended as a valuable jumping-off point to further conversation.

At its core, Blue Monday is pseudoscience, a PR stunt designed to generate increased bookings. The business behind it, holiday company Sky Travel, intended to popularise the notion that January was a month to escape, and what better way than by hopping a plane to somewhere far off and summery?

But there’s something teachable about this marketing move, and it’s already begun.  Blue Monday is embedded in the public consciousness; if the conversation shifts on the day’s meaning, it will have a widespread impact on mental health discourse. Brew Monday was launched on you guessed it – the third Monday of January 2015 by UK suicide prevention charity Samaritans. The campaign is intended as a corrective to the commercialised aspect of Blue Monday; it encourages people to connect with someone over a cuppa to discuss their feelings and practice vulnerability. Per its messaging, Brew Monday runs year-round and is updated every January to remain current.

What Brew Monday suggests is that, in order to reclaim Blue Monday, we must go beyond the characterisation of depression as fleeting and borne of such factors as gloomy weather and post-holiday fatigue. Language matters, and depression is widespread, real, and potentially life-threatening if left untreated. It is not the state of feeling sad or out of sorts on a particular day, but a serious mental health condition that encompasses a fundamental loss of hope and interest.

Presently, more than 1 in 4 UK employees report moderate to severe symptoms of depression, with a staggering 90% attributing some degree of their mental health state to the pandemic. 54% of these individuals claim that their mental health is adversely affecting their work performance, and the data on employee wellness and business success agrees:

– 12.7% of sickness absence days in the UK are the result of mental health conditions

– UK businesses would save up to £8 billion per year if mental health support becomes status quo

So, in the spirit of Brew Monday, we introduce New Monday – an opportunity to open a fresh dialogue on workplace mental health and create an environment of safety and inclusiveness for your staff.

Mandy Lemon, our Client Director, is adamant about the disruptive potential of closed communication in the workplace:

I have seen firsthand how damaging it can be when employees do not feel empowered to share how they are feeling because they are afraid to show weakness. The employee assistance feature of our service package is extremely valuable in this regard because it gives your staff 24/7 access to professional, confidential counselling support. Many of my clients are service providers, and their ability to demonstrate care over their staff’s mental wellbeing has substantially increased their success rate in securing new tenders.

Accordingly, we suggest organising a staff meeting where employees can share their experience of how mental health is being approached in the workplace. You will be able to clearly define your workplace’s policies on mental health support and accommodation and encourage anyone who is not comfortable sharing to schedule a one-on-one with management. This is an opportune moment to review your metrics on workplace productivity, employee satisfaction and absenteeism, and reflect on whether policies need updating or the approach to workplace communication can be refined.

Long-term and debilitating conditions such as Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety disorders may be considered disabilities under the law. In such cases, you can make practical and affordable adjustments to accommodate your employees:

– Consider whether a temporary work-from-home arrangement is feasible

– Implement a phased return to work for employees on long-term sick leave

– Have a comprehensive ‘Wellness Action Plan’ in place

January may be widely associated with the winter blues, but it also carries the promise of a fresh start. Providing comprehensive mental health supports and cultivating an environment of empathy and openness is proven to enhance employee engagement and productivity and drive organisational success.

Out with the Blue, in with the New?

Comprehensive mental health support services should be at the centre of an organisation’s benefits strategy. With our all-in-one health and wellbeing solution, your employees gain 24/7 access to a confidential helpline for practical and emotional support, available via our intuitive Benefits Portal.