Five tips to support employees on the most depressing day of the year

‘Blue Monday’- the third Monday in January (17th) – is known as the most depressing day of the year, but according to Mark Fosh, Divisional Director at Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing, it’s the ideal time to remind employees of how to support employee wellbeing.

Mark Fosh says, “January is always thought of as a depressing month, but this year even more so with the pandemic still having an impact on some people’s health including anxiety, long COVID and other health vulnerabilities. Mental health charity Mind has said the pandemic will leave a deep and lasting scar on the mental health of millions in this country and that prioritising mental health has never been more critical than it is now[i].

“However, there are several practical and affordable ways employers can improve the mental and physical wellbeing of their workforce and support them to get through the January blues.”

Five tips to support employees:

Encourage exercise – Exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, boosts work performance and improve cognition and mental stamina. Generally, employees who lead healthy lifestyles and exercise regularly build stronger immune systems and take fewer sick days. Research from Howden and the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) found that 90% of employers felt poor physical wellbeing was having a detrimental on the performance of their organisation[ii].

As an employer you can encourage more activity including walking, introduce team challenges, stand up meetings and invest in standing desks. Be flexible and allow more time for physical activity in the day. Gym memberships and wellbeing apps have also become a popular benefit in an employee benefits package.

Get outdoors – There’s increasing evidence that spending time outdoors can really help with mental wellbeing[iii]. It can also boost the vitamin D in people’s bodies which helps weight loss, fight disease and reduce depression. Whether employees are working remotely or in the office, encourage them to take a lunch break and to get outside.

Mingle more and socialise – Getting together with the team in person or virtually for just 10 minutes a day can help to tackle the winter blues. That’s why the Samaritans encourage as many people as possible to reach out and connect with family, friends and colleagues over a cup of tea as part of its Brew Monday[iv] event.

Switch off – The pandemic has blurred the lines between work and personal life with remote working the norm for many now. Long hours online and disconnection from colleagues can strain the body and the mental wellbeing of those working regularly at home. Research published by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that working 55 hours or more a week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with a working week of 35 to 40 hours. so encourage employees to switch off and take regular breaks away from the screen.

Promote the support available – Blue Monday is a great day to remind employees of the support available through their employee benefits, such as a virtual GP or the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which are designed to support employees’ physical, mental and financial wellbeing and can include telephone and face-to-face counselling. Consider introducing wellbeing apps as part of your strategy in 2022 too.

To find out more about looking after employees’ mental health and wellbeing or request a review of employee benefits to make sure they are still fit for purpose and relevant, please get in touch with Howden on


For more information, please visit