Blue Monday: Reasons to support your team all year round

Bupa's UK's Clinical Director for Mental Health, Pablo Vandenabeele, shares his top tips on how managers can support their team and their business this Blue Monday, and beyond.

Blue Monday: Reasons to support your team all year round

Bupa’s UK’s Clinical Director for Mental Health, Pablo Vandenabeele, shares his top tips on how managers can support their team and their business this Blue Monday, and beyond. 

Though many may deem today to be the most depressing day of the year, technically-speaking, Blue Monday isn’t rooted in any scientific evidence. With that being said, the increased national lockdown restrictions in place may have left many of us feeling bluer than usual, this January. 

In fact, according to recent research by Bupa UK, 82% of adults have experienced at least one symptom of poor mental health during lockdown. This shows that it’s more important than ever for us to make sure we’re checking in with one another and prioritising employee mental health – not just today, but all year round.  

It starts with you

A positive team attitude starts with a positive manager as an example. As a manager, your team will look to you for guidance and reassurance, especially in uncertain times, so it’s important to practice what you preach.

It’s important for managers to think about the things that they need to keep themselves well, generally, for example, getting eight hours of sleep, eating a balanced diet, being physically active. Keeping yourself physically well can often naturally lead to good mental wellbeing, too. 

With this in mind, you could add a mandatory ‘wellbeing break’ to your calendar and promote your team to do the same. This gesture serves as a reminder to both you and your team that taking the time each day to do something for them each day is important for wellbeing. 

Whether it’s playing with the kids, doing a daily workout, or cooking a nutritious meal from scratch, achieving that work-life balance can’t be underrated. As many of us are still working from home, it’s crucial to reiterate the importance of having a clear line between work and home life to avoid burnout.

Authenticity and transparency

During the good and bad times – in work and outside of work – sharing your achievements and challenges promotes an open culture and invites other team members to share their own experiences, advice and coping mechanisms. 

Strong, enthusiastic and healthy teams are better equipped to deal with new demands. Additionally, our research shows that 71% of employees feel more comfortable sharing their wellbeing issues with a manager if their manager feels approachable. 

Invest time encouraging colleagues to share more with one another about their lives outside of work – you’ll find that, over time, this helps you all to become closer and form stronger bonds.

Be flexible

Each person in your team will be facing their own challenges as they work from home. Whether it’s a temperamental internet connection, home schooling, or providing care for a vulnerable person, don’t forget to consider that individual home situations have the potential to impact both mental health and productivity.

Reach out to your team members individually to get an idea of their home responsibilities. Once you know their full picture, this makes it possible to make reasonable adjustments help them effectively and realistically do their job, which should positively contribute towards their wellbeing and work capabilities. For example, you could agree staggered shift times to accommodate home-schooling, more breaks, or extra one-to-one support. 

Keeping connected 

The Office for National Statistics reports that 1 in every 20 adults in England feel lonely often, or always, with younger people (aged 16 to 24) reporting this more commonly. Whether you live alone or with a bustling family, loneliness can affect anyone and can negatively impact their mental health. 

Our Workplace Wellbeing Census revealed that half of employees say their colleagues have a positive impact on their work wellbeing, so it’s clear that our work relationships are something key to nurture in order to avoid loneliness and maintain good mental health. 

A daily virtual team huddle is a good place to start with sharing news and feelings. Gauge the mood of your team members by asking them to share a number out of ten to describe how they’re feeling today. As a manager, start this session with an open and honest answer and your team is likely to follow. For team members who regularly give low numbers or seem stressed, why not pick this up with them later to show that you care?

Beyond daily huddles, try to inject other social events into the calendar, where you can. It could be a Friday quiz, virtual coffee or a team yoga session ‘ get creative and find something that your team enjoys together to keep things engaging and fun. 

Protect vulnerable employees

You may have employees who are harder hit by COVID-19. They may have a pre-existing mental health condition which is exacerbated by the pandemic (e.g. OCD or anxiety disorders), or they may be shielding as they’re clinically vulnerable. 

Keeping in touch with these employees is particularly important as it’s likely to be an especially stressful time for them and their family. Make sure you’re aware of any effect their individual circumstances may have on their mental health and stay in regular contact to help them feel comfortable to share ways you may be able to help, as their manager.

Direct to further support

Don’t forget to remind your staff about any additional support that’s available to them through work, e.g. an existing Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or occupational help. 

Alongside of work-based support, organisations like Samaritans, Mind, Mental Health Foundation and Rethink Mental Illness are all there to help those who are struggling mentally. 

Although we have little control over the pandemic’s effect on working life, one thing you can control at as a manager is the way your team connects with one another. 

At a time where we all may feel overwhelmed, setting a positive example for your team and promoting better relationships between employees is a worthwhile step towards helping you become stronger: together and individually. 

Pablo Vandenabeele
Pablo Vandenabeele

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