Blue Monday: can it be a force for good?

Published on January 16, 2019 by Camille Brouard

Blue Monday: can it be a force for good?

Is it possible to turn negative press coverage about Blue Monday (the 'worst day of the year') and workplace absenteeism into something more positive?

Now that the New Year is upon us, we're edging closer to the day known as 'Blue Monday'. This year it falls on Monday 20th January. Blue Monday has been touted by the media as the most depressing day of the year. It originates from calculations made for a travel company press release back in 2005. The formula has since been debunked as pseudoscience; however, the concept of Blue Monday has nevertheless gathered steam in the last few years. It's also a staple topic for puff news pieces.

Blue Monday: why does it still appeal?

It's easy to see why the idea of Blue Monday has a certain appeal. The short and cold days of winter can be dispiriting; plus, getting back into work mode after time off for Christmas means that January isn't typically everybody's favourite month. Blue Monday is the culminating moment of the January blues, a shorthand we can use to sum up feelings of disappointment or demotivation that can occur during this month. There is no doubt that the festive season, with its costs and family pressures, is stressful for many. For those who deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder and other mental health issues, even more so.

Could we use the Blue Monday concept to initiate more meaningful conversations about mental health in the workplace?

Related post: Improving employee mental health at work

Brew Monday: Starting mental health conversations

Brew Monday

We clearly need more awareness of the impact of poor mental health in the workplace; in 2018, the CIPD found that poor mental health is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in the UK. Despite this, only 49% of employees reported feeling supported by their employers with regards to mental health. Furthermore, many reported that they are reluctant to speak about mental health or disclose conditions.

We can use Blue Monday to spark positive conversations about mental health if approached in the right way. Such conversations shouldn't be limited to one day of the year, of course, but opportunities to address the growing issues surrounding poor mental health and stress in the workplace are golden, not blue. Other such days include Time to Talk Day and World Mental Health Day.

The mental health charity Samaritans have turned Blue Monday into 'Brew Monday', using the day as a conversation starter. On their website, the Samaritans recommend Brew Monday as a day to "get together with your friends, family or workmates […] have a cuppa, raise vital funds for Samaritans and beat the January blues!" Such initiatives are a great way to open up conversations about mental health and make an active difference.

Discussing mental health in your workplace

The familiar idea of Blue Monday could be a great stepping stone to starting conversations about mental health in the workplace. By doing so, we can show employees and colleagues that we can offer them support. Such conversations should be approached with planning and forethought from a HR perspective.

The CIPD and charity Mind have published mental health at work guidelines for employers and managers, to help organisations facilitate conversations about wellbeing and promote better mental health for employees. Why not read up on how to better handle mental health in your workplace as a New Year's resolution? With a better understanding of how work can affect mental health, we can look upon 'Blue Monday' each year with a more proactive and positive approach.

Picture of Camille Brouard

Written by Camille Brouard

Camille is a Marketing Executive for myhrtoolkit whose writing interests include HR technology, workplace culture, leave management, diversity, and mental health at work.

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