The third Monday in January is known as Blue Monday – allegedly the most miserable day of the year. With Christmas cheer fading from our memories, staff can start to experience negative feelings from financial pressures or the persistent darkness and gloomy weather. Helping employees beat the January blues encourages staff, and your business, to have a positive start to the year.

A key wellbeing initiative advocated by many businesses is the use of an employee assistance programme (also called an EAP). The provision of confidential counselling and guidance services to employees will play a significant part in supporting staff through this difficult month. With services covering issues relating to work and personal matters, this initiative can help beat the blues caused by the many external factors that weigh on employees during, and after, the festive period. Whether these are money and debt concerns, grief, legal issues or relationship breakdowns, an EAP is an invaluable service that provides a confidential and impartial ear to listen to, and advise, an employee who is struggling.

For those who don’t have an EAP, or do but wish to provide additional support, you can also signpost employees to other services where they can address any personal concerns. Understanding where to go, and who to turn to, is often the first step in taking action to beat the blues. Also, remind staff that any workplace issues will be positively, and properly, addressed internally if these are raised to the appropriate individual; helping to stamp out any internal issues that are contributing towards a negative mindset.

January is often the time when people kick-start their new fitness regime. However, the hangover from festive food and the darker nights can put people off recharging through exercise. You can support the improvement of your employees’ physical health and, in turn, foster good mental health, by providing fitness and exercise initiatives that focus on health. From a lunchtime running club or exercise class to negotiating cut-price gym memberships, any small initiatives will aid employee wellbeing. You may also want to review the type of food and drinks supplied at work to ensure there is a wide-ranging choice of food that includes healthy alternatives suitable for all dietary needs.

You can also show your commitment to workplace wellbeing with a well-timed awareness day, or afternoon, where you provide all members of staff with useful training. The theme of the training could be about a particular area, such as mindfulness, or more generally on stress and mental health awareness. Carrying out training that provides staff with the tools they need to recognise and take action when they feel off-kilter is key to helping staff help themselves, as well as ensuring they feel empowered and supported to raise concerns internally so these can be addressed by management.

With employees spending a large part of January slogging away at their desks or working flat out to meet business objectives, a review of workplace demands and the expectations placed on employees will aid positive wellbeing. For example, is an employee feeling greater pressure because they don’t know what targets they have to meet this year? Or are their new targets unrealistic and set too high? Carry out a start-of-the-year review on employee performance, objectives and workload. Include your employees in this review and ask them for any suggestions. Once this has taken place, roll out your new strategy and provide appropriate performance management to support staff during this month.

By Peter Done, as published in Forbes on 19th December 2018

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