Blame it on ‘Blue Monday’. The third Monday in January is allegedly the most depressing day of the year. Financial worries, post-Christmas blues, and short daylight hours add up to create a cloud of gloom. This year, we have the freezing weather and arctic conditions which aren’t likely to improve for much of the week. Once you’ve made a snowman and lobbed a few snowballs around, it loses its charm a bit.
The concept of Blue Monday was identified by Cliff Arnall, happiness and motivation expert. He based the theory on the ‘hibernation effect’ where people feel tired, don’t exercise, stay indoors and eat junk food. The limited number of daylight hours is a significant contributory factor, with 79% of respondents in a recent survey claiming that the shorter days over the winter months have a negative impact on their mood.
There’s been a good deal of debate about whether this formula is correct or not, but there’s no real doubt that at this time of year most people struggle to get up for work on a Monday (or indeed any day of the week). What makes the situation even worse is the news that on the other side of the world, Sydney has been enjoying its hottest summer on record, with Friday’s temperatures soaring to 46 degrees…
We’ve got a little way to go before spring gets off the ground. I’m not a great believer in the idea of Blue Monday, but I would say that January is a miserable month, probably for the very simple reason that it’s the furthest point from summer. But let’s not wallow (after all, every day above the ground is a good one). If you’re currently having to cope with a team as grumpy as a rhino and as drained as the weather, give some thought to turning it round.
- Carry out return to work interviews with staff who have been off sick to see if there are any adjustments in the workplace or support you can give to help them.
- Consider organising a staff event, such as drinks after work or a meal in the evening, to give employees something to look forward to.
- Make a point of chatting with your team members. It helps you to understand how they’re feeing and what’s happening in their lives.
- Be visible. Walk the office floor and offer to make the tea!
- Praise your employees where appropriate and let them know that their work is appreciated.
- Encourage healthy eating and exercise. Ensure they take a break at lunchtime, ideally to get outside for a few minutes for some light and air.
You’re not an agony aunt and may not be able to solve your employee’s personal problems; but showing that you understand how they’re feeling and are supportive can really help your employees through a difficult patch. For some workers, the whole month of January will have been a struggle, so anticipating this low mood and having strategies in place to cope with it is wise.
I hope (fingers crossed) this arctic weather will begin to ease off soon. I’m sure we’ll all feel a lot better when we don’t have to spend ten minutes scraping our cars in the morning, skidding out of our drives and having to wear wellies to work (believe me they do nothing to make me feel more elegant, even if my feet are dry)
Try to ensure that ‘Blue Monday’ only comes once every year and tackle motivational issues when they rear their ugly heads.
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