Blue Monday: Inspiring your teams on the 'least productive' day of 2022

'Blue Monday is a symptom - the disease is weak company culture'

Blue Monday: Inspiring your teams on the 'least productive' day of 2022

It’s that time of the year again - the dreaded Blue Monday. Known as the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday falls on the third Monday of January – and is typically when employees feel at their very lowest and least productive. For HR leaders, it’s been a year of challenges and disruptions, with the ongoing COVID chaos looking set to be with us for the majority of 2022. As such, heading into the New Year employees were understandably more apprehensive and less jovial than normal – making inspiring them even more taxing.

“Employers should be proactive about championing mental wellness and helping their team members prevent burnout and fatigue,” Pavla Bobosikova, CEO and co-founder of WFHomie, told HRD. “It’s not easy to get the momentum started after the holidays. Blue Monday is a symptom - the disease is weak company culture, health and wellness programs, and coaching support systems. These gaps, in turn, cause low employee engagement and fuel the vicious cycle of employee burnout, disengagement and ultimately resignations.”

So why does Blue Monday hold so much sway? First coined by Dr Cliff Arnall, Blue Monday is calculated by looking at a series of determining factors – such as weather (W), post-holiday debt (d), time since Christmas (T), failing New Year’s resolutions (Q), low motivation (M), and a lack of decisive action (Na).

The day that best encapsulated all said data was found to be the third Monday employees return to work after the festive period. And, whether or not you believe the metrics, the reasoning behind them are hard to dismiss.

“Most employees are still getting settled back at work after taking some time off,” explained Bobosikova. “We all spend the holidays at a slower pace, taking time to rest, enjoying being with our families, and indulging in comfort food and leisure activities. People try to keep work off their minds. That makes coming back tough – there’s anxiety about the accumulated work since the end of the year. The first few days back tend to be sluggish - there could be organizational changes and announcements, planning and kick-off meetings, but by the time Blue Monday comes, we should be back at work at full speed. Many employees still won’t be ready. Combine that with the pressure of new year’s resolutions and new Q1 goals, add short and dark days on top, and you have a perfect recipe for anxiety. HR leaders can help alleviate some of this debilitating anxiety by being present and available for their team and emphasizing the fact they are there to support their team to do their best work.”

However, it would be remiss to believe that all this burnout and stress is the culmination of one solitary day. A recent report from Ceridian found that 87% of employees have experienced burnout in the past few months, with 44% reporting high or extreme levels. What’s more, the top three drivers of burnout were found to be increased workloads, insufficient compensation, and mental health challenges. These issues are not only adding pressure to already overloaded HR teams, but they’re also driving employees to look for new roles – ones which promise better work-life balance and managerial support, especially when it comes to psychological wellbeing.

“We’re living in a post-pandemic world, where some places are still going into new lockdowns, and the pandemic is still causing disruptive changes in how we are going about our work and life,” added Bobosikova. “The New Year is an excellent opportunity for people and organizations to set new goals and set processes in place to meet them. Mental health has rightfully been gaining popularity over the last few years, and more companies now have practices and budgets in place to help support their employees’ mental well-being. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup - it’s in companies’ best interest to support their employees to be at their best and do their best work.”

Whatever your thoughts on the validity of Blue Monday, the message behind the pomp is a clear one for HR. Looking after your teams has never been more important than it is right now. Yes, we might be looking at the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, but the aftereffects of COVID will linger in our workplaces for years to come. Ensure you’re doing everything you can to communicate with your people today – check in with your teams – and put mental health at the forefront of your organizational strategy for 2022.

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