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Blue January
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Blue Monday 2022: How HR can turn January into a more positive month

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January is termed blue for a lot of reasons, and none of them good. Here is a toolkit to help you rebrand the most depressing month of the year and establish a proactive wellbeing path.

17th Jan 2022
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January is termed blue for a lot of reasons, and none of them good. It’s cold, people have money concerns, are more focused on themselves as they try to get back into the swing of work after the festive break and new year resolutions, and for those on this side of the globe, it’s cold, dark, short days.

Also, there’s maybe the business financial year end approaching, KPIs to be completed, extra pressure on people and their job security, and of course Covid-19 with its variants still wreaking havoc on lives, livelihoods and mental wellbeing.

An opportunity for HR

But therein lies the paradox and the opportunity for HR, because 'blue' is anything but a cold and gloomy colour. It is vibrant, calm, peaceful and reassuring. In a world shaped by diversity, blue is a colour of equity and inclusion; One that reassures us, irrespective of one’s culture or tradition. Our perspective of colour is framed by culture, society, environment and experiences.

January is as good a time as any to begin to implement goals of creating and or maintaining a strong, vibrant, happy, incorporated and strong workforce

Blue January emerged from Blue Monday, a PR campaign created by a UK travel company - Sky Travel. It was backed by psychologist Cliff Arnall ,who in 2005, was paid to back the concept as part of a marketing campaign.

They came up with a formula that takes into account a variety of factors, including: weather, debt, monthly salary, time elapsed since Christmas, failed New Year’s resolutions, motivational levels, and need to take action. This PR campaign has since held sway because of the reasons mentioned above.

Undoubtedly, everything does seem to pile on in January. Our minds are lulled into thinking everything is new, but nothing really is except for the month and year. 
January is as good a time as any to begin to implement goals of creating and or maintaining a strong, vibrant, happy, incorporated and strong workforce.

How can HR turn January into something to look forward to?

By starting with the company culture and letting go of performative allyship, performative wellbeing and mental health strategies, performative team building exercises.

Intentionally creating a culture where no one is left behind. One where everyone feels seen, heard, appreciated, celebrated and supported. Culture goes beyond company policy, or the tagline we sign off emails with. It’s the everyday sound and feel of verbal and non verbal interactions.

Here are some active steps you can take to revamp the Blue January narrative.

  • Introspection

  • Intentionality

  • Feedback

  • Process Refinement

You need to begin by checking in with yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Breathe. How are you? What do you need? 
After your self check-in, examine your company’s culture. How are people addressed? Is it like they want to be addressed? Is it with respect? Are foreign names pronounced properly or given the brush off and replaced with the bearers nationality when In-Groups are speaking? For example: 

- "Did you hear Yin is leading the delegation tomorrow?"

- "Who’s that?"

- "The Zimbabwean girl (the autistic one)."

What’s wrong with that? If she’s aged 18 and above, she’s an adult. And if you’re not describing others who are white or like you by their nationality eg: ‘Steve the boy from York’, ‘Pat, the Manchester girl’, then don’t do it to someone from a minority group.

There should be zero tolerance of situations like this to instil respect into the culture of your business. You must be very intentional about creating or evolving your existing culture into one that has RESPECT as a key value.

How supportive is your organisation?

Is there an open door policy and 360° feedback? How supportive are the onboarding and offboarding processes? Most people focus on the onboarding, but the offboarding process is just as important in maintaining an inclusive and supportive culture.

If your people are aware and confident that you’ve got them, that you’re there for them beyond the welcome, salaries, benefits and references, then, they’ll feel safe enough to bring their whole selves to work, to engage fully and be your ambassadors. Your people need to know that you’re invested in their wellbeing and professional growth.

Learning and Development initiatives shouldn’t just be on things directly related to the job. It could be a LinkedIn training, or even a DIY upcycling class

When you receive a guest, the welcome, the stay and the goodbye determines how effective, and warm your skills at hosting a guest in your home are. You can’t skip one process as that dilutes the experience.

Regular “get to know each other” conversations are needed to help each understand where the other is at and what the other needs. These keep one engaged and committed. A good friend of mine, Scott Leiper says: "My own view is people are on loan to any company they ever work for and it's our job to make them as productive and happy during the term of their employment.”

If you’re offboarding, perhaps some support in CV and cover letter writing or even LinkedIn training could be helpful in their search for their next job. By doing this, you create a ripple effect of positive brand perception both within and outside the organisation.

How holistic and inclusive are your wellbeing strategies? Are your Mental Health First Aiders or Wellbeing Champions trained in diversity and inclusion to help them broaden their understanding of how different cultures and personalities may display distress and ways to respectfully support them?

Know your people

Who are your employees? Why is it important to really and truly know all your team and how to do this? Most organisations use some sort of psychometrics and personality assessments in their hiring process. This shouldn’t only be used for recruitment and promotion purposes. Personality assessments should be done at least twice a year.

Using diversity, equity and Inclusion to foster happiness (purpose, meaning, and job satisfaction) at work is an easy win when regular psychometrics and personality assessments are done and given with a coaching feedback. Personality tests are situational and our personalities could change completely if we experience a life changing event.

I’m a fan and accredited administrator of DiSC because it does not only assess strengths, but shows that personalities are like a quadrant, with each person having a little bit of each within us, and depending on life events, could switch to any for our survival. It highlights that we are inherently diverse (psychological diversity), and when we accept this within us, we find it easier and more natural to accept other forms of diversity (gender, race, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, to mention but a few)

These points are what a good DiSC coaching on wellbeing and mental health support should contain:

❖ Communication preferences

❖ Masking at work or in public,

❖ Stress response

❖ Rejuvenation needs

Using this, we can tweak our wellbeing strategies, team building and feedback language accordingly to support everyone. A good knowledge of DiSC and team dynamics also enables Wellbeing Champions / Mental Health First Aiders to identify blind spots, modify behaviour and communication style when supporting colleagues. With a handy tool like DiSC, you can begin to understand your people better, and device ways to truly get to know them.

Consider watercooler hours

This is time set aside every week to exhale and inhale for the next week. This should be a combination of short impact learning sessions, sharing, discovery, peer coaching and networking. If this isn’t your forte, perhaps consider drafting a colleague who’s forte it is or outsourcing. Learning and Development initiatives shouldn’t just be on things directly related to the job. It could be a LinkedIn training, or even a DIY upcycling class.

Projects that benefit communities almost always have instant buy-in, because people like to be part of something bigger than themselves

Provide financial management tips

Do you have an employee newsletter? Consider including tips on financial management. January presents a lot of money worries after the expenses accumulated over Christmas.

Be generous

Projects that benefit communities almost always have instant buy-in, because people like to be part of something bigger than themselves. Give your people the opportunity to give back through volunteering, donation or fundraising.

In the end, January is perhaps like a swan, gliding by slowly and gracefully, while paddling furiously underneath. If our perception of colour is a result of our cultural influences and environment, then I’ll say you have a great opportunity here to change how your people see January.

Interested in this topic? Visit our Wellbeing in the Workplace Hub page for more.

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