Last reviewed 13 January 2020

With the festive season a distant memory, employees now have to get through the infamous January blues. Recent reports have found that mental health illnesses cost the UK and Irish economy more than £41.8 billion (€49.7 billion) combined, each year.

What are the January blues?

While the New Year is a time of optimism and new beginnings, many of us feel a significant drop in our mental wellbeing once the seasonal festivities and celebrations subside. This is known as the January blues.

As with many mental health problems, it can be difficult to pinpoint the precise cause of the January blues, however it is generally believed that the cold weather, shorter days and the looming reality of returning to work all play a role in the make-up of our emotional wellbeing in January.

How to tackle the January blues

While employers should be fulfilling their duty of care towards their employees and supporting their wellbeing throughout the year, it is worth paying it special attention in January.

1. Brew Monday

To combat the effects of the January blues and particularly “Blue Monday” (the third Monday in January, claimed to be the most depressing day of the year), mental health charity, Samaritans, is encouraging employers to host a “Brew Monday”, on any chosen Monday during January and February.

The aim of Brew Monday is to get employees talking about mental health and therefore to support each other through any emotional hardship they may be experiencing during the turn of the New Year.

Resources are available on the Samaritan’s website, but employers can do much by simply encouraging employees to gather for some tea and cake. By allowing workers a break from work and a chat with their colleagues, you’ll be contributing towards a more positive workplace environment during one of the hardest times of the year.

2. Recognise good work

Staff can often feel demotivated — especially if they’re feeling overworked and that their achievements are going unnoticed. It’s important that employers recognise a good job being done when they see it; even just a “thank you” can work wonders to raise morale.

3. Encourage regular breaks

Make sure your employees feel comfortable taking breaks to keep moods lifted. During the dark winter months employees rarely see the sun, so it might be worth encouraging them to get outside and enjoy the little bit of sunshine that is available.

Overall, your wellbeing strategies should be tailored to your staff throughout the year. And while most members of your workforce may seem resilient and positive in the New Year, it is important to acknowledge that others might be suffering.

Supporting depressed employees

If managers do notice anyone struggling this month, it would be worth arranging some one-on-one time with them to see how the organisation can support their wellbeing. Otherwise, Health Assured offers a comprehensive employee assistance programme with a confidential helpline for both employees and employers. See www.healthassured.org.