Blue Monday (on 21 January this year) may have become somewhat trivialised, but it is true to say that the start of the new year remains a struggle for many employees: RedArc’s latest figures show a 29% average increase in the number of new patient/employee referrals for mental health conditions like Anxiety in January vs. December over a five-year time frame.
What are the triggers for employees?
Relationship issues tend to surface over the Christmas period and coupled with other issues can lead to increased stress. This is one of the main reasons for requesting support from the RedArc Nurse Adviser during January. Issues vary from coping with childcare issues during the holiday period; parents not having time for each other; step families coming together but not getting on; shift-working and having planned leave cancelled which can put a strain on relationships.
Stress and anxiety can also be exasperated at this time due to financial difficulties. Expected bonuses or pay rises that didn’t materialise, overspending on the festive season, and working overtime to compensate, are all common conversations held by RedArc Nurses with employees.
Christmas and the holiday season can also be difficult times to cope with bereavement, depression and anxiety – the pressure to be happy and positive can exacerbate certain conditions.
Over and above these specifics, shorter, darker days; susceptibility to winter bugs and illnesses; and broken New Year’s resolutions, can all be a heavy burden on vulnerable employees.
Supporting staff is as easy as ABC
• Ask employees how they are feeling (and listen to the answers).
• Boost any wellbeing policies, procedures and benefits to ensure they are fit for purpose and meet the needs of the current workforce.
• Communicate how employees can access mental health support if they need it – especially lesser known benefits like Employee Assistance Programmes, or access to added-value benefits such as self-help apps or third-party nurse support and doctor services.
Why should employers take action?
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc said:
“Employees with a history of depression, anxiety or other mental health condition can find the winter months and the festive period more difficult to manage. However, there’s another type of employee, who has never previously been diagnosed with any mental health issue, and may be less aware of their symptoms or embarrassed to seek help. That’s where the day-to-day interaction with an employer can be so powerful in helping signpost a member of staff to meaningful help before things escalate. Not only does this benefit the employee directly but often a positive by-product for the employer is staff retention, reduced absenteeism and improved productivity.”