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    Don’t let Blue Monday get you down

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    Its origins may be questionable, but Blue Monday is a good time to reflect on wellbeing at work and how to improve it.

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    Don’t believe the hype.

    The third Monday of January has come to be known as Blue Monday, supposedly ‘the most depressing day of the year’. But in reality, the term was lifted straight from a press release by holiday company Sky Travel in 2005.

    Simple as that – no medical research or base in hard science. Instead, it’s a line from a company hoping to encourage more people to book a trip to the sun.

    For what it’s worth, the man behind the quote, Dr Cliff Arnall, has since apologised for coining the term and the negative connotations that followed1.

    But the idea is based around a few factors that can affect mood and morale – distance from Christmas, debt levels and the bad weather. There’s nothing we can do about Christmas slipping by, but we can look at some of the other factors.


    For employers looking to bring a little sunshine indoors, there are simple ways to lighten the surroundings.

    Smart lighting can be a simple boost for businesses looking to improve the lighting in offices – offering digitally-controlled settings for a range of soft to bright light. Light strips offer indirect lighting that tricks the mind and body into thinking it is outdoors.

    Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is now a recognised affliction. The exact cause isn’t known, but it’s often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight resulting in the hypothalamus in the brain not working properly.

    A malfunctioning hypothalamus can mean:

    - More melatonin – making a person more sleepy

    - Less serotonin – affecting mood, appetite and sleep

    - Body clock is out of kilter – lower light levels mean the body can’t naturally time certain functions, such as when to wake up and when to sleep2

    There’s no harm in raising awareness of the symptoms of SAD in the workplace. You never know how many employees you might be helping. According to the Mental Health Foundation, NHS estimates have suggested that approximately 1 in 15 people (7%) suffer from it3.

    A supportive employer might even invest in a light box – used as treatment for SAD sufferers.

    Money issues

    Post-Christmas expenses, still far from payday… money, or the lack of it, can be a particularly deflating factor at the start of January.

    34% of Britain’s working population believe employers should take more responsibility for financial education and guidance of their workforce. 86% say feeling in control of their finances makes them feel less anxious4.

    Line managers can help any employees feeling the strain. The new year is a great time for a one-to-one, informal meeting to discuss how employees are feeling and what is on their minds.

    There’s more practical support available too. Any employee covered by a Unum insurance policy has access to Unum’s Employee Assistance Programme, Unum LifeWorks, at no extra charge.

    There’s information and advice on work, family, relationships, money, health and more. You can find out more here.


    Dr Arnall has said the concept of Blue Monday was intended to promote positivity towards the year ahead – to use it as an opportunity for new beginnings and change1.

    Being mindful is about focusing on the present to remain calm and reduce stress.

    A little mindfulness goes a long way and there are plenty of easy ways to improve it. Take a look at this mindfulness infographic for some pointers. Why not pass it on to colleagues? Or print it off and pin it up in the office kitchen?

    Blue Monday doesn’t need to be a day based around negativity. Instead, for employers and employees alike, it’s the perfect time for a moment of reflection and self-improvement.

    Visit Unum’s press release to hear more about Blue Monday from Liz Walker, HR Director at Unum UK.


    1 Independent. (2017). Man who coined the term ‘Blue Monday’ apologises for making January more depressing

    2 NHS. (2017). Seasonal affective disorder: Overview

    3 Mental Health Foundation. (2017). Seasonal affective disorder

    4 Unum. (2017). Workplace Communication Blueprint, p6 & 24