Thought leadership

Employment law experts have warned employers to be prepared for a huge loss in workplace productivity as Blue Monday, “the most depressing day of the year”, strikes today.

The powerful trend was first coined in 2005 to refer to aspects such as weather conditions, debt levels, time since Christmas as well as national motivation levels. More worryingly, a study by the University of Exeter shows that the third Monday of January could cost the UK economy £93 billion.

Research shows that on Blue Monday someone Googles the term “depression” every two seconds in the UK, making way for a swathe of unauthorised absences, or sickies, as festive feelings fade and the return to work hits home.

Legal consultant for ELAS, Emma O’Leary says: “It’s important that employers fully understand the effects that stress can have on both the individual and the workplace productivity as a whole. In fact, as many as one in six UK workers will be affected by a mental health condition or problem relating to stress, which equates to 70 million lost working days a year.

“In addition, Blue Monday is a time when unauthorised staff absences increase exponentially as employees try to get back into their normal routine after the busy Christmas break. Blue Monday, and indeed January as a whole, is a period during which many unauthorised absences, or sickies, occur and employers should be aware of the pressures staff may be under and be proactive rather than reactive in their approach to the ‘Monday Blues’”.

Here are three top tips for employers aiming to beat Blue Monday and ensure that January is as stress free and productive as possible:

Promote good health: Adopt a responsive approach to identify those with issues and provide support to manage health problems effectively through early recognition and appropriate management (including early access to counselling or by providing advice on wellbeing)

Offer flexible working options: Organisations that take the time to offer flexible working options are less likely to report “pulling a sickie” as one of their top five causes of absence and additionally find that employees are less likely to attend work while unwell

Implement effective management of absences: Managing absences effectively will also help to stem the impact of absenteeism. For example, monitoring absences and conducting back-to-work interviews will enable managers to validate the reason for the absence and also establish whether the employee is well enough to return to work or whether they should be referred to an occupational health consultant

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