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How can HR help employees beat January blues?

Simon Blake, chief executive at Mental Health First Aid England, said employers should prioritise mental health support -

As employees return to the office after the festive season, HR experts give advice on how to foster a positive start to a new year at work.

As miserable weather sets in and over-ambitious new year's resolutions take their toll, it can be hard for employees to feel motivated in January. 

Simon Blake, chief executive Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA), told HR magazine that employers should prioritise mental health support at this time.

He said: “Some people find the start of a new year motivating and are full of energy for change. Others can find January a challenge for many different reasons including the seemingly endless darkness, wet and cold weather (in the UK), getting back into a normal routine if they have had time off, or the financial impact of the festive period.

“Wellbeing check-ins are important all year round but again, particularly at this time of year, managers and leaders can make them a priority and help people think about the steps they can take to support their wellbeing.”

Read more: A guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Jane Bradshaw-Jones, HR business partner at HR consultancy AdviserPlus said exercise and social interaction are also important for keeping January blues at bay.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “At AdviserPlus, we’re encouraging employees through an initiative, RED January, to enhance their activity levels and overall wellbeing. Whether it's incorporating a daily run or engaging in any form of physical activity, it promotes inclusivity and offers a free and accessible way to boost energy levels. 

“We have also introduced Brew Monday sessions, a positive spin on Blue Monday, a virtual coffee morning for employees that helps them connect with mental health first-aiders to share uplifting moments and provide support.”

Luke O'Mahoney, founder of HR platform Sapien, said employers should ensure the office is a positive and inviting place to return to after the holidays.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “We are a social species at our core, so I believe that in person contact is not only important but necessary for us to build deep connections with our colleagues and peers.

“With that said, mandating a return to the office or forcing people to return to a physical workspace can harbour negative emotions and resentment. If you want people to come into the office, the onus is on you to clearly and concisely communicate the value doing so will create for the employee (and business).

“Carrying out some employee interviews and surveys around sentiment towards returning to the office would be a great place to start.”

Read more: Should HR leaders be concerned about an epidemic of loneliness?