Updated: Aug 24
Lisa Seagroatt, guest blogger and Managing Director of HR Fit for Purpose returns with more great advice about creating healthy workplaces.
We’re into February – yippee - and at the time of writing this from my north London office, the sun is shining in through my window (now that Storm Ciara has passed) and I can actually hear birds singing. It’s not exactly spring just yet but …… it feels like it’s coming …. and some of the bulbs are starting to bud in the garden – hooray! The days are also getting longer and lighter which makes us all feel better doesn’t it?
January really was quite a long and grey month. Unless, of course, you were lucky enough to head off to sunny climes as we did a week into the New Year. A week spent under blue skies and warm sunshine most days on the lovely island of Gran Canaria made January feel much shorter and less depressing than usual!
So, now that we leave the first month of the new year behind us, I thought I should make some reference to the fact that since 2005, we’ve been ‘bouncing around’ this ‘Blue Monday’ saying in relation to our mental health and wellbeing on a particular Monday in January. A press release from 2005 stated that ‘January 18th was the most depressing day of the year’. Actually I do relate to that statement as my mum died on January 18th back in 1998 (it was a Sunday and a grey, dark, rainy day) so for me, it’s a key anniversary each year and I do allow myself to feel sad as I miss my mum every single day but I won’t allow myself to remain sad for long.
For many of us, and this is something for employer’s to be mindful of, ‘Blue Monday’ is apparently a combination of several new year ‘blue factors’ including our awful weather, worries around debt (due to so much overspending to meet the ‘perfect’ Christmas expectations we heap onto ourselves) and a pure lack of motivation. Up until more recent times, if anyone mentioned ‘Blue Monday’ to me I thought they were talking about that chart topping single from 1983 by ‘New Order’ which I used to sing along to during my secondary school days!
When ‘Blue Monday’ kicks in each year, this is the day that people are likely to call in sick at work as when the clock has struck midnight on New Year’s Eve and a New Year has started, nothing has probably changed in anyone’s lives despite the emphasis on ‘New Year, New Start’ which you hear about all of the time as December morphs into January. Has this been something you’ve noticed in the workplace maybe? If so, it may be worth thinking again about how to offer some motivational distractions in the workplace during the start of the year to help people get back to work following the anti-climax that inevitably follows the festive season.
As I’ve said previously, I try to ensure that I include some good things going on to ensure that those long grey dark days are put to good use even if it’s clearing out the kitchen cupboards or concentrating on my family tree research, a life-long passion (actually it’s an obsession!) of mine which I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in their family history and wants something to distract themselves with on the long dark evenings or wet weekends of winter. Genealogical research into your own family sets you on a roller coaster ride of emotions including many ‘highs and lows’. I guarantee you if you’re feeling a bit low, you’ll forget your woes when you start digging into the family history!
Delving back in time is not only fascinating and entirely relevant to us as individuals because it’s ‘our’ history but, in many instances, it’s very humbling uncovering our roots particularly when those long dark winter days are making you feel miserable and demotivated. Seeing the unimaginable struggles some of our ancestors encountered often on a daily basis brings into sharp focus how lucky some of us are today – even when we are feeling sorry for ourselves because we hate our job and don’t want to go to work on Monday. The constant worry for the labouring classes of having no regular work coupled with large families to feed would have placed a massive strain on their mental health and well-being. One ancestor on my husband’s side was imprisoned in 1912 for ‘deserting his wife and 15 children’ and was described as a ‘known inebriate’ (drunk)! I’m not defending his actions, but one might have some sympathy with trying to raise such a massive family on a shoe string income and can perhaps understand how he ended up with an alcohol addiction! This was very commonplace and symptomatic of working lives in those times. Drink was cheaper than tea and there was a public house on every street corner – people were encouraged to spend their spare time there more than at home as the pub was clean and warm - whereas home quite possibly wasn’t if they couldn’t afford fuel for the fire or good quality accommodation.
So, goodbye to winter and all the greyness and difficulties attached to motivating oneself during that time. We can all breathe a sigh of relief now that Spring is starting to show itself and life carries on as it has before. Life isn’t easy at the best of times but for some people, it’s a far harder struggle than it is for others and we should be mindful of that. Some of us are more resilient than others so keep an eye on your colleagues, friends and family members as we travel through February.
Employers could introduce some new initiatives in the workplace just to help people feel more motivated during our winter months (and beyond) – wellness days are a good one to introduce during February with the focus around getting enough exercise and embracing healthy eating (maybe!). Initiatives like this in the workplace are sometimes all your people need to help them feel valued and needed by employers which then gives them the impetus they need to get out of bed in the morning and come to work for you - so no more ‘Blue Mondays’ - hopefully!
Lisa Seagroatt is the Managing Director of HR Fit for Purpose. They help their clients to focus on improving workplace practices around positive people management, helping them to develop their line managers and grow a healthy workplace culture. The aim of a healthy workplace culture is to enable businesses to thrive and grow - good employee engagement leads to low sickness absence, low turnover and high productivity in the workplace.
This is one of a series of articles about the impact of bullying and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. Conduct Change was founded by Nicki Eyre, offering training and coaching support programmes for businesses and individuals. She and her team support businesses to prevent bullying, as well as individuals struggling to cope with bullying, during and after the experience. Nicki is also a speaker on the topic of workplace bullying.
Contact Nicki for a confidential discussion about your experience: e firstname.lastname@example.org t 07921 264920 www.conductchange.co.uk #coaching #workplacewellbeing #workplacebullying #antibullying #bullying #cyberbullying #conductchange #culture #healthyworkplace #training #leadership