The return to work after the festive break often comes with a heavy dose of emotional and physical fatigue. Yet for many in the UK, the third Monday of January dubbed “Blue Monday” isn’t just a temporary feeling; it’s a stark reminder of the need for actively managing one’s mental health.

For employers and business leaders, Blue Monday should serve as a call to action for instilling greater wellbeing initiatives in the office, creating practises that support the mental and physical health of staff, as well as fostering a healthy work-life balance all-year round.

Here we explore how employers driving forward wellbeing initiatives in their offices will not only support staff with their wellness and work-life balance, but it will also benefit the wider functionality and productivity of the entire office.

Opening conversations

In the UK, one in six adults experience common mental health problems in a given week, with work-related stress being the biggest cause of work absence. In 2022/23, 31.5 million working days were estimated to be lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

The pressure to return to the usual productive working-week, coupled with post-holiday financial and social anxieties, can lead to emotional and physical burnout. This is where employers have a vital role to play. Moving beyond reactive measures aimed at “Blue Monday,” it is crucial for organisations to cultivate proactive and holistic wellbeing strategies that will support employees all year round.

There are a range of initiatives employers can provide to foster a culture of open communication and destigmatise mental health conversations, that might be currently holding staff back from sharing their honest feelings. This can be achieved with regular counselling services and providing resources to help staff better manage their mental health.

For employers, investing in mental health initiatives will not only support staff on a personal level, but it will lead to significant cost savings too. A study by Mind found that for every £1 spent on employee mental health programmes, businesses see a £5.30 return on investment. Clearly then, helping staff talk through their mental health issues will benefit them tremendously in the workplace and encourage greater openness and support within the team going forward.

Ultimately, such initiatives that encourage staff to get talking about their mental health cultivate a more resilient workforce with a stronger workplace culture. Activities such as mindfulness workshops and stress management techniques can equip employees with tools to navigate challenging conversations in the workplace more effectively, ensuring the long-term success of staff and helping create a more productive business.

Promoting physical activity

Too often employees rely on coffee and snacking to stay upbeat and focused, without considering how time spent between working hours can significantly boost mental health and productivity in the office. Therefore, encouraging more beneficial solutions to feeling stressed, such as physical activity, should always form part of an employer’s wider wellbeing strategy.

At Birchwood Park, we support the wellness and physical health of staff where possible by providing a range of amenities encouraging physical activity or exercise, offer a variety of health and wellness programmes such as a discounted on-site gym for our occupiers, regular fitness bootcamps with businesses, as well as dedicated wellness weeks during the year.

Encouraging physical activity not only benefits the physical health of employees but also makes for a more productive, motivated workforce. Research from Rener Wellbeing shows that businesses that have implemented strategic wellbeing programmes that incorporate physical activity programmes have enjoyed reduced ‘presenteeism’, as well as a clear return on investments up to £250 for every £1 spent.

Employers can encourage physical activity through on-site gym facilities or subsidised gym memberships. If not possible, it is worth seeking access to further healthcare benefits such as dental cover, that can also demonstrate to staff a staunch commitment to employees’ long-term physical health. This will not only leave current staff satisfied, but a job opportunity with various health benefits listed with help attract and retain new talent, who are increasingly seeking additional ‘perks’ for new roles.

Finding a worklife balance for staff

The ever-blurring lines between work and personal life are a significant source of stress in today’s modern workplace. The expectation of immediate availability when out-of-office can lead to overwork and feelings of detachment from personal lives. According to research by LumApps, 88% of UK employees have experienced burnout in the last two years and constant connectivity in the digital age has seen 38% of UK employees make or received a work call whilst on holiday. Recognising this, employers must prioritise initiatives that promote a healthy work-life balance,

Employers must consider flexible work arrangements, such as remote working options or flexible hours, as they are essential tools for empowering employees to manage their time more effectively. This allows them to attend to personal commitments while meeting their professional goals. Additionally, setting clear boundaries around email and communication outside of work hours is crucial in establishing a healthy disconnect and safeguarding against burnout. A study by the CIPD shows that companies in the UK that offer flexible work arrangements see a 22% decrease in employee turnover and a 10% increase in productivity, again, reinforcing the benefits of a healthy work-life balance for both employers and employees.

Employers must encourage employees to take time off and disconnect from the world of work. This is essential for promoting mental and physical rejuvenation so that staff can then return to work motivated and feeling productive.

Implementing these initiatives may seem daunting at first, but the benefits can be tremendous for employers. Prioritising wellbeing can lead to increased productivity of teams, reduced absenteeism and improved employee engagement and retention. This, in turn creates a more engaged, productive, and resilient workforce, capable of navigating not just the January blues, but the challenges and uncertainties of any working day.

Remember, employee wellbeing is not a one-day fix; it is a continuous journey that should be regularly reviewed. By embracing a holistic approach that addresses mental and physical health, as well as worklife balance, employers can create a workplace where employees can flourish not just on “Blue Monday,” but every day thereafter.

Martin ORouke
Martin O'Rouke
Commercial Director at Birchwood Park | + posts

Martin O’Rourke is the Commercial Director at the North West’s largest out-of-town business destination, Birchwood Park. In his role, Martin manages all existing buildings across the estate, ensuring the needs and requirements of occupiers are met each day. Martin also supports with attracting new businesses to Birchwood Park and new office and warehouse developments.