Back to the office? How to beat the January Blues

As we head back to work, HR practitioners need to step up to help struggling staff

Back to the office? How to beat the January Blues

There’s no denying that 2020 was a challenging year for HR practitioners, with many dubbing it the ‘worst year of their career’.

The festive break offered some respite for the overwhelmed – even if it had to be spent celebrating Christmas remotely or far away from family.

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And now, as we all get back into the working groove, it’s clear that HR leaders need to go the extra mile this New Year to stave off the January Blues.

What are the January Blues?

The January Blues, sometimes dubbed the post-Holiday Blues, is a condition which manifests after the December holidays – making someone feel increasingly low in the first months of the year. While it’s rare to be diagnosed outright, the condition has been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and depression.

What causes the January Blues?

Research from the American Psychological Association found that 38% of people reported increased stress levels over the holiday season – mainly due to lack of time, lack of money, and the pressures of family gatherings.

There’s also the normal anxiety over returning to work, lapsed deadlines, and upcoming responsibilities which prey on minds during the festive break. 

Now add into that the hellscape of 2020.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has left many people struggling with mental health issues –loneliness and exhaustion have become the norm for most HR leaders working beyond their contracted hours.

READ MORE: The 50 best workplaces in 2020

This melting pot of anxiety-riddled uncertainty is a recipe for disaster – one which could spell trouble for psychological wellbeing in the year ahead.

What are the symptoms?

The January Blues present in different ways to different people – however there’s some staple symptoms which seem concurrent including;

  • Low mood
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Nausea  

These feelings can affect anyone in the organisation – from the CEO to the intern – and not much evidence linking January Blues to salary, workload or job title.

The January Blues has many secondary symptoms too – including absenteeism, substance abuse and declining physical health – all of which have the propensity to spiral if left unchecked.

January Blues causes high turnover

Let’s not forget – January is the most popular month of the year to move jobs.

In fact, a report from Instant Offices found that most employees are likely to hand in their resignation on January 31st – a direct result of the January Blues.

The message is clear - if you want to hold on to your top talent, it’s time to put in some preventative measures.

How can HR leaders help employees?

So, how can you as an HR leader spot and help ease the January Blues? Helping employees through the post-Holiday Blues while working remotely is tricky, but it’s not impossible.

There’s three simple steps that you can present to your employees – and even follow yourself if need be – to guide them through this difficult time.

  1. Open up communication

“Send a communication to employees reminding them about the confidential support services offered by your organisation,” added Dr Melanie Peacock, Canadian HR Award’s Lifetime Achievement winner.

“Be frank and advise that if people need assistance as the new year begins there are resources available.  This helps to destigmatize mental health issues.”

  1. Stay away from unrealistic New Year’s Resolutions

Want to lose weight? Spend more time with your family? Read a few more books? That’s fine – New Year’s Resolutions are common, and often they help us strive to be better versions of ourselves. However, it’s important to remember that failing in a resolution isn’t the end of the world.

Studies have shown that 80% of New Year Resolutions fail by February – making people feel guilty and unproductive. Why do they fail? Because they’re unrealistic or simply not specific enough.

Help your team make promises that are achievable – even if they seem minor.

  1. Remember what you’re grateful for

“Before the first team meeting in 2021 (virtual or otherwise) let everyone know that you will be asking them to share one success or good news story from 2020,” explained Dr Peacock.

“While it has been a difficult year, there have been good points and things worth remembering and being grateful for. By starting 2021 on this note of positivity, it sets an upbeat tone as we enter a new year with new possibilities.”

Mental health hotlines

If you feel like you’re struggling with mental health issues at this time, HRD has collected some helpful resources and hotlines to offer support.

Key Takeaways for HR

  • The January Blues is a condition which manifests after the December holidays – making someone feel increasingly low in the first months of the year
  • Symptoms include depression, fatigue, anxiety and nausea. Secondary conditions can include substance abuse and physical decline
  • 80% of New Year’s Resolution’s fail in February, sending employees into a spin. In order to keep up morale and avoid the blues this year, help your team make realistic, achievable, promises

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