Blue Monday is, apparently, the most depressing day of the year. The Christmas lights have come down and the weather – especially in Britain and the Channel Islands – is grey and wet. This combination of gloomy conditions come to a head around this time every year before we begin to look forward to longer, brighter, warmer days as spring rolls around.

Where does Blue Monday come from?

First coined in 2005, the term Blue Monday was calculated by Travel company, Sky Travel. It considered factors like the weather, how far away the next Bank Holiday is and the average number of daylight hours.

While the full science behind the original Blue Monday research has been widely debated, it’s hard to ignore the fact that nearly 2 million people in the UK are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at this time of year. SAD is a type of seasonal depression which usually worsens in the winter months.

There are plenty of support mechanisms individuals can undertake to help combat SAD, such as regular exercise, a Vitamin-D rich diet and regulated sleep patterns.

Robbie Clayton, Branch Manager for our Guernsey office says:

“I always try and start the day in a way that’s right for me. This includes time to make a cup of tea and headspace to think and plan for the day ahead. If I’m ever feeling stressed, a good walk is a great reliever. It helps me clear my thoughts.”

However, as we spend five out of seven days of our week working, it’s crucial that employers implement support measures for employees as well.

What are Close Finance CI doing?

Our people are our best asset and their health, both physical and mental, is a key priority for Close Brothers. As of December 2022, we have 63 qualified Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs), all of whom support the team throughout the year with any challenges they may come up against, while also raising awareness of different issues. Additionally, our Colleague Forum Wellbeing Team arrange wellbeing activities throughout the year.

This Blue Monday, not only will we highlight the effects of SAD, how to spot signs and symptoms in yourself and others as well as how to seek support, we’ll also be hosting Brew Monday.

Undertaken last year with great success, Brew Monday sees all staff members randomly paired with a colleague outside of their team to then spend half an hour online having a coffee and (non-work related) chat. Not only is it an opportunity to meet new people, but it’s a brilliant way to forge meaningful connection during the workday, decompress and take a short break, revitalising body and mind.

What about the rest of the year?

Of course, today is just one day out of 365. Mental ill-health can happen at any time of the year and certainly isn’t restricted to those darker, colder months. While Blue Monday is a great springboard for discussion and awareness of certain mental ill-health issues, supporting staff with mental health must be a year-round focus.

But, where to begin?

A good place to start when thinking about how best to support a team, all of whom will have different needs and wants from their employer, is with an employee opinion survey. Gathering an overview of how staff feel in their current role is a great way to begin the process of creating and implementing tools and processes that help with wellbeing. This can include what they like about working for your business and what they would like to see more of to ensure they feel supported at work.

Close Finance undertake a survey like this annually and from here, we have created, or begun creating, an array of wellbeing-focused events, assets, and tools for our staff members. These include:

  • Wellbeing rooms, where staff can take time out and relax in a calm, non-work environment
  • Close Finance’s Wellbeing Month. Here, we focus on a wellbeing pillar a week – physical, mental, financial, and social. Activities and information are posted on our intranet to spread awareness and provide support
  • An extra day’s leave each year specifically for wellbeing
  • Access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) where confidential support and a range of information on mental health can be accessed 24/7.

Investment in wellbeing isn’t just for those darker, colder months of the year. Blue Monday is a brilliant way to start, or continue, having those important conversations around mental health and wellbeing, but bear in mind how tools, policies, processes, and events can evolve to support your staff every day of the year.