'Lockdown 3.0' | HR tips for supporting staff on Blue Monday & beyond

HR tips for supporting staff on Blue Monday & beyond

With today marking Blue Monday – the day that has been dubbed the ‘most depressing day of the year’ – it is possible that staff will be feeling a bit gloomy and disengaged at work.

This coupled with the fact that England is currently in ‘lockdown 3.0’ and remote working continues to be the norm for many workers, could mean that the challenges faced by employees will be felt even more acutely this year.

Sharon Clarke, Professor of Organisational Psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School, said: “Blue Monday is said to be the ‘most depressing day of the year’ due to the low light levels, adverse weather and the fade-out of holiday positivity.

“It’s possible this year it will be felt more acutely than ever.”

As such, it is important that employers and HR provide staff with necessary levels of support both on Blue Monday and beyond.

Wellbeing

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, employee wellbeing has been top priority for employers and HR leaders as employees have faced different challenges.

For example, new research published in Close Brothers’ Changing Trends of Financial Wellbeing report found that two in five UK workers (40%) have felt a rise in anxiety around their finances since the pandemic took hold.

Elsewhere, the study found that 41% worried more about their mental health, with 45% concerned about their physical wellbeing, suggesting that support for staff is needed.

In a previous interview with HR Grapevine, Dr Nick Taylor, CEO and Co-Founder of Unmind, explained that employers should think about how they can counter the negative impacts of lockdown on mental health, physically, psychologically and socially.

Dr Taylor said: “This means not only equipping staff with the information and resources to look after their mental health, but also finding time to check in with each employee, providing opportunities for remote team building, social activities, and looking after employees’ physical wellbeing, such as allowing time for daily exercise.”

Elsewhere, Unmind’s CEO said that as with the previous two lockdowns, employers and HR play a role in creating a sense of routine for staff and ensuring that they maintain a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout from occurring.

Burnout

With employees working and living from the same place and some employees juggling home-schooling and childcare simultaneously, some employees have experienced burnout.

In the first national lockdown last year, research from LinkedIn’s Glint revealed that burnout doubled from March (2.7%) to April (5.4%), suggesting that HR urgently needed to address this before it impacted on productivity and employee engagement.

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Glint’s study also found that the effect of burnout was 2.3 times greater for those workers who felt that they had an unmanageable workload.

With England currently in a third national lockdown, it is crucial that employers and HR put preventative and curative measures in place to help tackle employee burnout.

Debra Clark, Head of Specialist at Towergate Health & Protection, said: “Employers must look at tackling burnout in a sustainable way, eradicating the factors and issues before they take hold.

“The past year has been incredibly tough for everyone. With the effects being cumulative, for some people they may only just be beginning to show.

“Now is the time for employers to ensure they have everything in place to offer employees the support they need, and clearly communicate it or risk burnout,” Clark added.

To help with this, employers could invest in mental health first aid training and support, circulate wellbeing guidance or host workshops and give staff members access to virtual GP appointments among other things.

Additional tips for supporting staff

Other ways that HR and employers can help support staff is encouraging flexible working hours, arranging virtual exercise or mindfulness sessions and allowing more time for socialising during work hours.

In fact, to beat the blues, charity Samaritans is encouraging people to turn ‘Blue Monday’ into ‘Brew Monday’ by making a hot drink and having a virtual chat with families, friends and colleagues.

Elsewhere, in a 2020 interview with HR Grapevine, consumer delivery firm Hermes UK explained that it had introduced 72 volunteer ‘Mental health Ambassadors’ to support staff.

Do you have any tips for supporting employee wellbeing? Let us know in the comments below...



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