Blue Monday, which falls on the 16 January this year, is often recognised as the most depressing day of the year and a difficult time for many. Those that are facing the winter months, with colder weather and shorter daylight, may be susceptible to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). With The World Health Organization reporting that 15% of working-age adults live with a mental disorder and twelve billion working days are lost every day to depression and anxiety alone1, ill-mental health is a topic that cannot be overlooked. International SOS highlights the importance for organisations to recognise the impact this can have on their employees and take steps to protect and promote the mental health of their workforce.
Dr Rodrigo Rodriguez-Fernandez, Global Health Advisor, Wellness & Mental Health at International SOS, says “Following the excitement of the holiday season, it is normal for many to feel a little down at this time of the year and have a difficult time adjusting to the return to work. Some may have experienced family and financial pressures over the festive period, as households cope with rising energy bills, mortgages, and inflation. Within a similar vein, the International SOS Risk Outlook 2023 report reveals that the cost-of-living pressures will be most likely to have a negative effect on mental health and productivity in the next 12 months.”
Work can be a protective factor for mental health, but it can also contribute to worsening mental health. Without effective support from employers, mental health issues can impact employees’ ability to work productively and increase absences. A workplace culture which focuses on preventing mental ill-health and promotes self-care is invaluable for employees.
Dr Rodriguez-Fernandez adds “Organisations are now recognising the increased need to focus on mental health.2 Creating working conditions in which an individual employee can enhance their skills to improve mental wellbeing and having initiatives in place to prevent mental ill-health are key. However, employers should know that employees may often feel reluctant to discuss their mental health issues with their colleagues and manager they work with. To counter this, it is important for organisations to offer a range of tailored solutions that meet each employee’s different needs and expectations. Mental health and wellbeing support such as one on one short-term counselling, having wellbeing days at work, 24/7 wellbeing hotline and stress awareness training are found to be valuable to employees.3”
To help organisations support the mental health of their employees during what can be a challenging time for some, International SOS shares below expert tips:
1. Create an emotionally open culture and encourage open communication – create a safe space for employees to talk about their mental health and wellbeing. Encourage them to speak up if they are feeling overwhelmed or struggling.
2. Promote self-care – provide resources on self-care practices such as exercise, healthy eating, and stress management techniques. Allow and encourage employees to take regular breaks within the workday to get fresh air and stretch.
3. Provide flexibility – in terms of working hours and location to help employees balance their work and personal lives based on individual needs.
4. Ensure that employees know that they are not alone – encourage them to make use of any mental health resources and support available, such as counselling or employee assistance programmes.
5. Focus on upskilling line managers with mental wellness training or mental health first-aid training – to recognise the signs of mental health issues and how to support employees who may be struggling.