Beating those January Blues

Posted in : HR Updates on 12 January 2017
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

Blue Monday

Research shows that the third Monday in January is the day most likely for people to take off as sick. 'Blue Monday' as it has been coined, is regarded as the most depressing day of the year. But why?

The transition from leisure time to working life can be tough particularly after the build up to Christmas followed by the sudden aftermath of debt, tighter clothes, dark days, and the inevitable return to work after the holidays. So how can we help combat such low mood and re-energise our workforce?  Here are some top tips on how to drive away the January blues.

Kick-starting the year

January is usually the start of the performance management cycle and with this comes SMART goals and objectives for the year ahead. This is a great time for line managers to sit down with staff to discuss the role they play in the success of the business and what they'll need to do to meet that. It should always be a two-way conversation, allowing the employee the chance to have their say in how to shape their objectives.

To compliment this, and even prior to the appraisal meeting it is always beneficial to meet as a team, even if informally, soon after everyone’s back at work. The time can be used to chat about the holidays but not to dwell on this for too long. The aim is to get staff back into work mode so the conversation should turn to the plans for the year ahead and discuss say, upcoming employment legislation or company industry awards.

The progressive employer may consider setting aside time in their team meeting to allow staff to consider their personal goals for the year. This may be a nice ice-breaker to the session and will show staff that you are interested in their personal wellbeing; not just them as employees.

Organisational-wide 'kick-off' meetings in January are also an effective way to get the whole company on board with what lies ahead for the year.

Meditation and mindfulness

How about introducing mindfulness into the workplace? An article written by CoreHR recommends how this technique 'can increase your awareness of disruptive thought patterns, and according to a US study can lead to “improvements in innovative thinking, communication skills and more appropriate reactions to stress.” David Gelles talks about mindfulness and mediation in the workplace in Talks at Google. Interestingly he begins his talk by asking the audience to focus on their breathing and take a brief moment to pause and meditate. He describes how mindfulness and mediation can train the mind to give us a moment to pause to find an appropriate way to respond to things, rather than constantly reacting, for example to endless emails or a sharp word from a colleague. Check out his video:  It’s almost 50 minutes long but very compelling.

It's not about the money

January may also be the time to take stock of your organisation's reward and recognition packages. As is widely proclaimed, money is not enough to motivate. There needs to be more. Flexible working arrangements allow staff to balance home and working life and research has found that it can be a greater motivator than financial reward. Recognition also plays a key role in motivation and a simple 'thank you' can go a long way. According to the CIPD's People Management article, ‘Ways to beat the January blues ', it should not cost much to keep your workforce happy. The article refers to expert advice and how saying 'good morning' to colleagues and starting meetings on a positive note, can make a huge difference to workplace happiness.

Career progression and learning and development opportunities are also key motivators enabling staff to see that there are prospects for them and that they are being invested in. And with training that is planned and booked for a forthcoming date, this will also give focus for the months ahead.

Healthy staff and finances

January is the ideal time to introduce a health and wellbeing initiative by tying in with people's New Year resolutions such as their desire to lose weight for summer holidays. In the past, I introduced a healthy weight loss programme in work each January partnered with Business in the Community. This gave a strong message to staff that their health was important to the business and with the fundraising element, this was a strong motivator for weight loss. We also used this as an opportunity to invite a local gym in to offer discounted gym membership which was the ideal complement for the programme.

Employers could also consider running sessions in January on managing finances which tends to be the time of year when people are struggling with post-Christmas debt.

Is it more than just the blues?

Of course, as well as trying to combat the January blues, employers also need to be vigilant to the signs of something more, namely stress related illnesses. It is essential that line managers are trained not only on how to manage stress but also how to prevent it in the first place. According to another CIPD People Management article, HR staff are the least happy at work compared to other professions and also suffer from the January blues. Perhaps we're so busy being concerned about our colleagues’ wellbeing that we forget to be mindful of our own!

This article is correct at 12/01/2017

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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