It’s ‘Blue Monday’ on 21st January, widely considered the most depressing day of the year, as the gloomy weather, high debt levels after Christmas and failed new year resolutions take their toll, causing people to feel down.
With mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression on the rise, while Blue Monday may not have any scientific basis, it can raise awareness of mental health problems in the workplace and the need for employers to ensure managers are equipped to manage employee mental health issues.
Mental health problems are one of the leading causes of absenteeism in the workplace so if companies are experiencing high levels of sickness absence, they need to be mindful that it could be more serious.
According to charity Mental Health UK 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year[i].
A recent survey from healthcare company, Cygnet Jobs highlights that millennials are most likely to suffer workplace unhappiness as they focus on their careers. They found that 73 percent of 25-35 year olds have recently taken workplace stresses home, and as many as 62 percent say they’ve felt sleep deprived due to career stress in the past[ii].
Many employers want to do more to support their employee’s wellbeing and mental health and our advice is to start by tracking sickness absence consistently to see if patterns start to emerge. Our absence management software has red flags and alerts for managers when someone is taking a lot of time off. Such data is particularly useful for line managers conducting back to work interviews or to instigate conversations and explore if someone might be suffering from stress. It typically means conversations take place much sooner, support can be provided by the employer and this can prevent problems escalating.
This software can also keep track of people’s holiday entitlement and trigger managers if someone is not taking holidays, which are important for overall wellbeing and happiness. Employers can take steps to encourage people to take their full entitlement, which can also boost productivity and help reduce stress-related absence.
Investing in this technology can really help employers distinguish between the January blues or a more serious mental health condition and ensure they are offering their workforce a supportive working environment and culture in 2019.