02 Jan 2020

Is ‘Blue Monday’ the prompt employers need to tackle mental health issues at work?




Monday 20th January 2020 or ‘Blue Monday is being billed as the most depressing day of the year – with the miserable weather, debt and post Christmas blues all considered to be major contributing factors.

While Mental health charity, Mind is dismissive of Blue Monday , absence management expert, Adrian Lewis, director at Activ Absence believes the day could serve as a positive reminder for employers to think about reducing employee absenteeism this year and especially tackling mental health issues.

Adrian Lewis says, “Every year, companies report a spike in levels of absenteeism at this time of year. Blue Monday may not be based on scientific fact, but it increases awareness of mental health issues, which can only be a good thing. It can encourage employers to think about how they can reduce absence levels by understanding why people are taking time off sick. They can then offer support where needed, which can help improve productivity, reduce absenteeism and save money in the long run.”

The Centre of Economic and Business Research suggests that workplace absence costs the UK economy £18bn in lost productivity, rising to £21bn in 2020 and £26bn in 2030. A rise in mental health issues is a major contributor to increased levels of absenteeism.

On average, employees suffering from a mental health-related illness take eight days leave, with two in five (44 percent) taking more than 10 days.
A 2017 Business in the Community report highlighted that three out every five employees (60%) have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work and almost a third (31%) of the workforce has been formally diagnosed with a mental health issue (29% in 2016). The most common diagnosis was depression or general anxiety.

Adrian Lewis says “Tackling the root causes of absenteeism will be priority for many employers this year and it will be important for them to focus on long term patterns rather than single days such as Blue Monday.

“Whilst employers can expect a spike in absence levels in January often due to post Christmas blues, there are days throughout the year where we see sickness absence rise, for example, it is almost always higher on a Monday and on a Tuesday following a bank holiday.

“We advise employers to record and monitor absence levels in a very transparent way. This alone can reduce absence rates. It will highlight trends which will give managers warning signs that perhaps people are suffering from bigger problems including mental health issues.”

“If employers understand the causes of absenteeism they can put policies in place to support their staff before things get out of control. Investing in absence management software can help managers across the business keep track of absence and can be an effective tool to reduce absenteeism in 2020.” adds Mr Lewis.