A 2022 OHID report revealed that 67% of Britons frequently experience anxiety on a Sunday, correlating to a term that most of us are familiar with: the ‘Sunday Scaries.’ The dreaded feeling of having to go to work the next day that starts creeping in on a Sunday afternoon is particularly felt by younger workers, with the OHID reporting that 74% of those aged 18-24 experience heightened anxiety towards the end of the weekend.

What’s more, global leader in mental health and mindfulness, Headspace Health, revealed in a Workforce Attitudes report (WFA) that 89% of British working professionals are experiencing anxiety at work. A shocking 93% of the British workforce even missed a full week of work during 2022 due to stress, anxiety and other mental health challenges.

So, how can businesses ensure their employees feel less anxious about returning to work on a Monday morning and minimise their ‘Sunday Scaries’? Here are some top tips to help your workforce do just that:

Encourage your employees to find a balance between their work and personal lives

‘Sunday Scaries’ tend to build in anticipation of feeling overwhelmed in the upcoming work week. Ensuring that your employees are able to balance work with their personal lives at all times, and not just over the weekend, is crucial to help alleviate these fears. As employers, it is our responsibility to audit the business to understand whether objectives and expectations have been communicated clearly and workloads are sustainable. We must define our core tenets to ensure that business objectives are met, but also allow room for flexibility to encourage your employees to be excited, engaged and feeling that they are doing purposeful work.

Ensure your workplace has a robust mental health offering in place

Headspace Health’s 2022 Workforce Attitudes report revealed that more than 80% of employees believe it is the employer’s responsibility to support mental health needs. It is critical to ensure that this mental health offering is culturally competent, speaks to the different needs of a population and promotes mental health for employees in an inclusive way. You might consider supporting employee resource groups (ERGs) for employees to create a safe space to talk about their experiences and be open about their mental well-being and to also deliver practical solutions that can improve the employee experience.

At Headspace Health, we recently expanded our International Care offering into the UK, which guarantees employers and their staff 24/7 access to dedicated mental health professionals in under two minutes. The complete mental health solution offers different types of support – from self-guided care through Headspace’s 1000+ hours of in-app content, through to text-based behavioural health coaching and therapy. This stepped-care approach is designed with an emphasis on prevention, to reduce the need for critical care for employees.

Headspace has also partnered with LinkedIn to offer two new LinkedIn Learning courses available to LinkedIn users for free until 15th April 2023. The courses include mindfulness-based tips and meditations, as well as easy-to-follow exercises designed to help professionals to stay present throughout their work day, deal with feeling overwhelmed and build stress resilience.

But having a mental health offering in place is not enough. On top of providing the best possible suite of resources, it is vital to train managers, particularly mid-level managers, who sit closest to the employees executing the bulk of the work. Managers should be encouraged to look out for signs of emotional distress or be able to spot when somebody in their team is struggling so that they can offer support when it’s needed. When employees feel supported, they are happier and are more likely to thrive in the workplace.

Model at the leadership level that it is the cultural norm to utilise these resources

Many people still fear making use of the mental health resources provided by their organisations or are simply unaware of the support available to them, with an average of just 37% of employees regularly using these tools (WFA Report). Leaders and HR professionals play an important role when it comes to destigmatising mental health in the workplace. It’s important to ensure that organisations regularly communicate the availability of resources offered and that these resources are easily accessible, whilst modelling that it is ok to use them. Of course, we would love to eliminate the feeling of ‘Sunday Scaries’ from the workforce entirely, however, it is inevitable that some challenges may still persist. By creating a supportive and open culture from the top, employers can help reduce the stigma that still surrounds discussing mental health at work.

Consider a four-day working week

Global studies have shown that four-day modelling week pilots are a resounding success with productivity increasing by as much as 8%. The world’s largest trial, ‘The 4 Day Week Campaign’ is encouraging more UK companies to take part, after 56 of the 61 companies that initially entered the trial extended the policy. 18 of the companies have already made it a permanent policy for their staff. At Headspace Health, we’ve been experimenting with a 4-day work week for a while now, through what we call “MINDays”, with a focus on productive output, rather than how many hours employees work. The unspoken message is that the organisation is prioritising employee wellbeing, which I personally think is a massive advantage.

According to WHO, close to 1 billion people around the globe are living with mental health disorders. We know that experiencing anxiety and ‘Sunday Scaries’ will not disappear overnight, however, there are clear solutions and paths that businesses can take to ensure that employees feel supported, safe and seen. These actions will ultimately lead to the reduction of stress, fear and help employees to feel that they are valued by their employer. In the end, it is the people who are the lifeblood of our businesses, and offering security and stability, particularly during times of uncertainty, will directly translate to greater engagement, retention, employee happiness and better work results.

Désirée Pascual
Chief People Officer at Headspace Health | Website

Désirée is Chief People Experience Officer at Headspace Health, where she uses human-centred design principles and data-driven inquiry to curate a joyful and resilient workplace culture, where employees are empowered to do their best work. She was previously Chief People Officer of Ginger, and prior to that Chief People Officer at Carrot, where she built and led the company’s human resources function across the employee lifecycle. She has also led human resources functions at The Permanente Medical Group in San Francisco and BaroSense, a medical device company.