Once the fun and excitement of Christmas and New Years’ Eve is over and the reality of failed New Year’s resolutions sets in – teamed with the awful weather – it’s not really surprising that the ‘most depressing day of the year’ has been calculated to fall in January. Termed ‘Blue Monday’, this day tends to fall on the third Monday of January which in 2018 is Monday 15 January (today).
The term first emerged in a press release by a holiday company and was calculated in an attempt to determine the best day to book a holiday. The formula used to determine the first ‘Blue Monday’ took in to account weather conditions, debt levels, low motivation levels, as well as time passed since Christmas and since setting (and often failing) New Year’s resolutions. It has since been used to describe the most depressing day of the year by many.
Blue Monday is often dismissed as a publicity campaign and many mental health organisations view the notion as trivialising mental health problems. It does, however, draw attention to the serious impact that mental health can have on individuals both in and out of the workplace.
The mental health charity, Mind, considers that one in six workers are dealing with mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. The Centre for Mental Health has estimated that the cost to UK employers can be as much as £15.1 billion in reduced productivity each year and can result in over 91 million lost days due to mental health problems. According to its research, taking simple steps to improve how mental health is managed in the workplace could enable employers to save around £8 billion of these costs a year.
Studies have found that the impact of mental ill health in the workplace is significant, including potentially resulting in an increased likelihood of engagement in conflict with colleagues, difficulty in multitasking and concentration, as well as affecting management of clients and customers.
Some forms of mental health may be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) if they have “a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”. The Act makes it unlawful for employers to treat a disabled person less favourably for a reason arising from their disability, in absence of a justifiable reason.
Indeed, mental illness has been found to be the largest single cause of disability in the UK, according to a 2016 Acas research paper. Employers therefore have a duty to make reasonable adjustments in order to provide support to employees to carry out their role. Taking active steps to manage stress in the workplace could increase productivity and reduce the risk of employees bringing stress-related claims.
It is advisable that managers are trained to handle mental health issues appropriately, including being able to encourage employees to discuss problems at an early stage.
It is also advisable to have a stress at work policy in place. A consistent organisational response is key, ensuring that individuals at every level understand the company’s policies regarding managing mental health.