Cold mornings and dark nights can take their toll on the UK’s workforce, and with the long, distant wait until pay day, it’s no wonder in January we’re faced with Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year. Blue Monday, the day when we’re all most likely to be miserable thanks to post-Christmas credit card bills, bad weather, failing our new year’s resolutions and a lack of motivation at work.
Mental health issues, including financial stress, depression and even SADs (seasonal effective disorder) are just some examples of problems employees may already be coping with even before the credit card bill lands.
Essentially, for employers this can lead to a drop in productivity and even impact employee absence levels – not the strong start to 2018 many will be hoping for. Here are my top tips for taking a proactive approach to employee wellbeing and beating the January blues:
Act now to stop your team’s productivity taking a nose dive
According to the latest ONS figures, mental health issues (including stress, depression and anxiety) resulted in 15.8 million working days lost in 2016*.
Due to the depressing nature of January, employers may well see an increase in employee turnover and absence or presenteeism – and the productivity of the workforce could see a marked decrease in the first few months of the year.
Fortunately, promoting the wellbeing of staff doesn’t need to cost a fortune and there are many things you can introduce that will make a big difference to workforce wellbeing:
- Good mood foods:
It’s tempting to fill up on carbs and sugary treats in the winter months, but as tempting as they are, these kinds of foods will only give short bursts of energy and can make you feel even more tired as a result, as the body comes down from its temporary sugar high.
Studies have found that low mood is linked to a lack of omega-3 fatty acids. Snacking on nuts and seeds, which are high in healthy fats, is a great way to combat this and can help make individuals feel fuller. Fresh fruit and raw vegetables are also considered to be a ‘good mood food’ – rich in vitamins, antioxidants and fibre, consuming one of your 5-a-day will help to support energy, bodily functions and boost moods. Employers should consider using their vending machine in the best way possible by swapping unhealthy, sugary treats with healthier alternatives. If you want to go one step further you could create a free fruit station, offering this to employees could be a great way of boosting team morale. In any case be sure employees understand the part food plays in helping them cope.
It’s also important to stay hydrated. Aim for 1.6 – 2 litres (6-8 glasses) of fluid (preferable water) a day because even mild dehydration can affect the employee’s mood and productivity.
- Help with debt:
Debt can be a common worry, particularly at this time of year – December is a period of over-indulgence, socialising and in many cases over-spending. Employees may feel stressed about their financial situation and unsure where to turn to for help. Offering free advice sessions could really help employees improve their financial situation.
There are all kinds of ways to save money, for example auditing direct debits and standing orders could uncover regular subscriptions that are no longer wanted, from unused dating sites to gadget insurance you might be surprised at what employees will find. Simply spending a few minutes studying their bank statements could save thousands of pounds during the upcoming months. The right advice now can help in January and for months afterwards.
- Get out in the fresh air:
Low mood can leave you feeling low in energy which might put you off being more active. Being active is not only great for your physical health; there’s lots of evidence to suggest that it can improve your mental wellbeing too. By encouraging staff to take even just a quick walk round the block on their lunch break this will blow away the cobwebs and help them to feel refreshed, plus, any extra glimpse of daylight is a bonus. Being active can help to chase away tiredness and leave employees feeling happier and reenergised.
- Health check point:
Providing a way to ensure employees are aware of their own health and where it may need to be improved, which can be easily done, allows them to establish a plan of action and monitor any changes and improvements. Testing allows staff to confidently check their weight & BMI, body fat, blood pressure and heart rate, as well as giving them advice and guidance where actions may need to be taken.
- Reap the rewards of long-term planning
Putting new plans in place to support employee health and wellbeing is a positive way to start the year, but this shouldn’t be a one month programme that then disappears until next year. A long-term plan, incorporating a focus on occupational health and wellbeing all year round, is necessary to ensure employees feel fully supported through 2018 and beyond. Prevention is better than cure, and this is where an organisation with a robust long-term plan will reap the rewards.
- Employee engagement with a difference
There are fundamental aspects of an employee’s wellbeing that can be supported without breaking the bank. Staff benefits such bereavement support, a 24-hour-GP service, counselling and various discounts, are just some of examples of what health and wellbeing providers offer at very little cost.
The start of a new year marks a good time to reverse bad habits and set new goals. So why not use this New Year as a prompt to start focusing on staff health and happiness.
Whether you plan to focus on short-term initiatives to start with or implementing (or improving) a long-term plan, the steps you take now will be a move in the right direction to ensure your employees know that you are there to provide essential support and importantly, create a resilient workforce.
For more information, please visit: bhsf.co.uk
* Sickness absence in the labour market: 2016, ONS: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/labourproductivity/articles/sicknessabsenceinthelabourmarket/2016