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Mental health: why meeting planners don’t have time for Blue Monday

It is the third Monday of the year and the sky is that rinsed-clean blue – somewhere between a cornflower and the flag of Argentina – that can send negative thoughts scuttling for the shadows.

January can be a challenging month, but Blue Monday, which is meant to be the most depressing day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere at least) was only ever a bit of marketing fluff.

It ought not to be taken seriously.

The idea that various factors – personal debt levels, the miserable weather, and job dissatisfaction – ‘peak’ on the same day every year first appeared in a 2005 Sky Track press release.

The brainchild of Cliff Arnell, a former psychology lecturer at Cardiff University, and marketing agency Porter Novelli, the fag-packet formula was quickly debunked as pseudoscience.

I suspect people who organise international association meetings have little time for the idea of Blue Monday, mainly because their work schedule leaves them little time for anything.

Organising events is a stressful and time-consuming job and employers should take the mental health of those working in the hospitality and events sector seriously all year round.

To fixate on one day probably isn’t helpful, even if it’s only meant as a bit of fun. Anyway, being lighthearted about depression doesn’t feel very 2020 somehow. So here’s Erik Fjellborg, CEO and founder of Quinyx, the workforce management specialist, sharing his top three tips for retaining and maintaining a happy, motivated and productive workforce 365 days a year.

Tackle with tech

With heads down catching up after the festive period, it can be hard to know how your team is actually feeling. But tech can be a great option for busy managers and teams alike – providing a non-intrusive, accurate way to take the pulse of their workforce.

Things like anonymous surveys, data analytics and wearable tech can give employers a real-time view of how their workers are really feeling. This information can then be analysed and used to take steps to rectify discontentment within the workforce – actions could be as simple as awarding virtual badges to employees or introducing small perks like an early finish one day a week.

The important thing is to take time to truly understand the sentiment of your staff and take the appropriate action accordingly.

Pursue passion and purpose

Increasing salary has long been seen as a quick – if expensive – fix for keeping staff on side. But the good news for hospitality business owners is that while ‘increased salary’ has traditionally topped workers’ wish lists, the tide is changing. In fact, meaning is the new money – with research finding that employees who feel like they have a meaning and significance in their workplace are more likely to stay with their organisation.

The onus is thus on employers to ensure workers understand their value by making it clear how their role contributes to the goals of the business. And if workers are also more likely to work for, and stay with, an organisation that has values which align with theirs, it’s important for employers to make sure the businesses’ values are clearly communicated. This process takes time but is ultimately worth it in the long run.

From old to young, flexibility is key 

One of the biggest workforce changes that employers have had to negotiate over the past few years is the rise of the multi-generational workforce. With increasing numbers of baby boomers either choosing to remain working or returning to the workforce after caring for their families, it’s not uncommon for four or more generations to be working alongside each other.

The good news is that there is one thing that will be appreciated by all generations of your staff and that’s flexibility. Whether it’s a second job, education or caring responsibilities, all generations have other demands stretching their time – and our research found that nearly a fifth of UK workers believe they’d be more productive if presented with flexible working opportunities. So, January is a great time to demonstrate that flexibility is at the heart of your business – giving your staff the flexibility they desire and boosting productivity at the same time.

“While January can be a tough month for employees and employers alike, there are steps that can make it easier – and more enjoyable – for everyone,” says Fjellborg. “From using tech to keep an eye on your employees’ wellbeing to offering flexible hours, if you take the time to make sure your workforce isn’t feeling down this Blue Monday, you’ll reap the rewards the rest of the year.”