How can businesses bust the January blues?

While the festive period is typically associated with joy and celebration, the start of the year is marked by the ‘January blues.’

So much so, the third Monday of January is commonly referred to as ‘Blue Monday’.

Post-Christmas, employees are likely to be feeling the continued impact of gloomy UK weather, the stress of returning to work and financial pressures given the cost of Christmas and looming tax returns for many.

These factors can cause both physical and mental ailments including fatigue, feelings of depression and poorer sleep health.

Despite these challenges, employers play a crucial role in supporting their workforce and tackling those January blues. Not only can this help reassure and relieve workforces to start the year refreshed, in the long term this can also benefit businesses looking to attract and retain employees, as well as improve their overall productivity and growth.

Keep socialising

Socialising is extremely effective for mental health and wellbeing, especially in those winter months when serotonin levels are likely to be lower.

While many employees will have socialised with family over the festive period, this doesn’t always create the same impact as socialising with peers. For those who were hosting friends and families over Christmas, this may have been a stressful time and they could be looking forward to the different settings they’ll experience with colleagues.

However, there will also be employees who will be feeling anxious about the return to the office and seeing their peers once again; this is a normal reaction after a sustained period of time away from the workplace.

Therefore, employers need to look at ways they can ease this transition and encourage socialising via companywide events, participating in committees and working groups that offer a chance to engage with others outside their direct team, and encouraging calls over emails.

Encourage exercise

It’s important that businesses encourage exercise and highlight the benefits of movement.

This doesn’t have to be strenuous and can be within the capability and interest of most employees. Employers can offer a range of initiatives including discounted gym classes, cycle-to-work schemes, lunchtime yoga sessions or a team-wide ‘sports day’ event to increase connectivity and encourage exercise amongst the workforce.

By incorporating 30 minutes of exercise or movement into their daily routines, employees can activate their neurotransmitters, in turn, boosting their mood. Employees can build in small changes that can have a big impact such as jumping off the tube a stop early and walking, or walking up the escalators or stairs when they have the choice.

For employers, this means better productivity and can lead to better retention rates.  

Create an effective workplace culture

For many employees returning to work after the Christmas break, they are likely to be grappling with mixed emotions including stress as they tackle their workload.

A workplace culture that promotes ‘psychological safety’ can go a long way in alleviating these feelings. Given that communication is crowned as the make-or-break tool when it comes to workplace culture, managers should ensure they have processes and structures in place to comfortably and regularly check in on employee wellbeing, as well as their training and development.

This will help employees feel safe, encouraged, and comfortable to talk openly and express any challenges. As part of this, additional resources such as anonymous EAP services should be readily available for all employees.

Lead by example

Employees look towards their managers and business leaders on how to act within the workplace and navigate renewed workplace pressures. Just as negativity within a team or wider organisation can spread, so can positivity.

Business leaders who communicate positivity, discuss forward plans and exciting developments,  and remind teams of the wellbeing benefits and programmes available to them will make their workforce feel more positive and upbeat.

Equally, it’s important that managers ease back into work and don’t get sucked into urgency. If employees see their managers taking regular breaks and unplugging from work during non-working hours, it’s likely to encourage a better work-life balance across the workforce. In turn, this will minimise risk of burnout which can lead to health issues, including fatigue and anxiety.

Conquering the January blues at work is both achievable and necessary, and will set the standard for the year ahead while keeping employee health and wellbeing at the core. By implementing these strategies, business leaders can ensure that they’re minimising the post-holiday slump while turning the new year into an opportunity for productivity, growth and increased job satisfaction.