No Image Available

Aaron Ross

Read more about Aaron Ross

Blue Monday: go on, give us a smile!


How did you cope with Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year? Aaron Ross has five top tips for survivingthe winter blues.

In 2010, ‘Blue Monday’ falls on Monday 18 January and thanks to a combination of depressing events in January – including wintry weather, credit card bills following the Christmas splurge, and pay day feeling like months away – it has been described as the most depressive day of the year, with experts predicting absence rates to reach higher levels on this date.

However, after analysing our real-time data at FirstCare, HR professionals will be pleased to know that the absence rate on Blue Monday actually decreased by 38% between 2008 and 2009, meaning more employees were getting themselves out of bed and making it into work on ‘Britain’s most depressing’ day.

As the recession continues to bite hard and the UK workforce is ‘knuckling’ down to beat the bad times, we anticipate that today will again see a decrease in absence (weather permitting of course!). But with more people forcing themselves into the workplace through fear of losing their jobs, motivation and health levels are sure to take a hit. So what can you do about it? Here are five ways to help kick start the motivational drive:

1)    Create clear performance goals
With the first two weeks in January showing some of the highest absence rates of the whole year, ensuring your employees are motivated from day one is a must.

In the lead up to the Christmas break, ensure line managers are preparing for the New Year and finding out the aspirations of their workforce. Once they are aware of where the employee wishes to be, clear performance goals can be set with key milestones, including ones for January. It’s a good idea to work with employees to set their  goals –  this will ensure they support the business but also allows employees to fully understand what they need to achieve, resulting in a sense of energy and activity backing the new year.

2)    Communication
Simply showing an active interest in employees can make an individual feel recognised and better about themselves. So encourage line managers to openly communicate on a regular basis with their teams and on an individual level. Ask them what they are thinking, how they feel and want they want. Re-emphasis this communication in an employee survey, so you can establish any departmental areas where motivation levels are low and seek to identify and tackle the problem before it impacts on your absence rates.

3)    Analyse absence
When employees feel de-motivated, it impacts not only their productivity but often their health resulting in increased absence. By using your absence management reports effectively you can keep an eye on absence rates on a day-to-day basis and easily pinpoint problem areas or trends before they become an issue.

If an individual or department is showing levels of high absence, try to discover the root cause of the absence and then see if you can offer any extra support. For example, if a team is all showing similar levels of absence, talk to them as the HR professional. It may be that the relationship with the line manager has broken down yet this may not have been communicated at the return-to-work interview. If this is the case, speak with the line manager and attempt to resurrect the relationship with the employees. This may take time but addressing absence efficiently can help improve motivation and levels of health in the long run.

4)    Recognise success
Everyone wants to be noticed for good work so ensure employees are recognised when they give above and beyond their normal role, or produce a great piece of work. Introducing a peer recognition scheme can be a great initiative to help recognise success across the company and it doesn’t need to cost the earth.

If you don’t have a recognition scheme, don’t let that stop you from praising employees. Ensure line managers take every opportunity to show they notice achievements of their team and commend them whenever a great piece of work has been undertaken, making a note on the individuals performance record. But remember, there is nothing more inspirational than seeing those around you achieve and be rewarded, so make sure that you praise publicly whenever possible.

5)    Use your benefits
Whilst cash is a key motivator for many employees, the importance of other non-cash related benefits should not be underestimated.

Offering a package which makes an employee feel valued can help improve engagement and subsequently motivation. Find out, through an employee survey, what employee benefits your workforce wants access to or would find so you are able to prioritise their requests and decide if any can be offered.

Aaron Ross is Chief Executive of FirstCare


Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.