Why you should care about Blue Monday?

The third Monday in January is known as Blue Monday – Duvet Day for the masses. The most depressing day of the year. A day supposedly spent ringing round trying to make sure you had enough staff to cover the shifts. Whether you agreed with this idea during ‘normal times’, it might feel less relevant now when every day has become a Duvet Day and PJs are the height of fashion.

So, should you care about Blue Monday this year?

As always, the answer is Yes and No. 

You may not be ringing around trying to make sure you have enough people to cover shifts this year, but you are more likely than ever to have members of your team burrowed under the covers in need of some help to find their way back out again.

The original Blue Monday formula was based on the following:

  • Debt versus monthly salary
  • Motivational levels
  • The feeling of a need to take action
  • The weather
  • Time since Christmas
  • Days since New Year’s resolutions failed

Most of these are more relevant than ever – even the less obvious ones play a part in our wellbeing. The weather is very different from the last lockdown, when warm sunny days at least made daily exercise a pleasant experience. Failing to keep up with whatever resolution we have set ourselves often contributes to existing feelings of worthlessness. Finally, tweaking, “Time since Christmas”, to become, “Time since we last saw our friends and family face to face” creates a relevant metric for looking at loneliness in our workforce.

What can you do?

Whilst we are not recommending you start using the Blue Monday formula to measure staff wellbeing, there are proactive measures you could adopt to positively impact on your employees.


Keep talking. During these uncertain times communication is the most important weapon in our arsenal. The Office for National Statistics (ONS)’s Survey (OPN) for January, 2021 shows people are more anxious than at any time since last April. So, your furloughed staff are also going to be stressed and anxious. There is a tendency to avoid talking to your staff during uncertain times because you have nothing to tell them – at least nothing positive. Talk to them anyway. The deafening roar of silence can do more damage and add to feelings of isolation. 

59% of respondents to Harri’s Global Employee Impact Survey last summer said they hadn’t been in constant communication with their former employers. Let’s see if we can improve this metric. Staff need to be reminded that you know they are there and are keeping them in touch with everything even if there is nothing to tell. Of course, we all want to know when we can get back to work but we also want to know that we are still part of the family. You can find out more about Harri’s team communication tools here.

2. Let others add value

The ONS survey also recorded the indicator, “people feeling the things they do in their lives are worthwhile” is at the lowest level since last March and on a declining path. Helping team members feel valued is more important than ever. Your teams are made up of people with a range of different strengths and skills. How can some of those strengths be harnessed? 

Many people in the hospitality industry are young and may be living alone, with limited space, away from loved ones. These are often more junior members of staff and may well be feeling the most vulnerable and expendable. Are you checking in on them? If not, can you buddy them up with someone else to make sure that different members of your team are looking out for each other like they would members of their own family. 

Do you need to be responsible for all aspects of staff engagement or could you ask another team member to become a Mental Health and Wellbeing Champion?

3. Keep them learning

Perhaps learning breadmaking is too close to home for some of your teams but developing new skills or brushing up on old ones is a valuable way to stave off feelings of depression and worthlessness. If nothing else, now might be the perfect time to encourage your staff to access the wealth of free resources available and try a new personal challenge – not to be called a New Year Resolution.

The recent Harri Employee Engagement survey suggested that at least 22% of respondents were looking at other employment sectors. One way to minimise the brain drain from your teams is to keep them invested in the hospitality sector through encouraging continuous professional development in relevant areas.

4. Give people a reason to get dressed

As nice as it is to slob around in our PJs and slippers every now and then, in the longer-term, lack of personal care can lead to a decline in motivation. In an industry in which taking pride in your appearance is important, we need to give staff reasons to look after themselves. 

Encourage staff to get outside through team challenges. The Scouts recently walked to the Moon for charity. Your team might not be ready for the scale of that challenge (240,000 miles) but there are various resources which show how many steps it takes to walk from Land’s End to John O’ Groats (874 miles). Even just a weekly photo gallery of pictures staff took whilst on their walks might encourage the more sedentary outside briefly.

Zoom Book Clubs may not be your thing but perhaps Zoom movie Clubs or Netflix’s Watch Parties would be. Anything that involves visual interaction should encourage people to make a modest effort with their appearance and, conversely, a deteriorating personal appearance can be a useful way of identifying staff who may need a little extra support. 

5. Look after yourself

How are you doing? 

How have you been prioritising your own mental health? Leaders are also people trying to run a business in the middle of a pandemic. If you are too busy worrying about everything and everyone then take a breath? How far are you modelling some of the ideas set out above? There are lots of resources to help including this one called now pause. 

Harri offers mental health tools as part of our Compliance Package – Managing stress & anxiety in your teams.

Teams need stable leaders. If you are stressed and anxious it will filter down to your staff. This isn’t about being unrealistic about the situation, but it is about trying to present a positive aspect when communicating. Fake it ‘til you make it, may seem an odd mantra for these circumstances but it is an aspect of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. If we keep offering the world a positive face even when it is hard, some of that positivity eventually becomes part of our reality. 

Maybe the original idea behind Blue Monday was a bit of pseudo-science but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use the opportunity to give ourselves a mental health check.

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