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6 Min Read

Blue Monday and the winter productivity slump

17 Jan 2022

Falling on the third Monday in January – this year it’s the 17th – Blue Monday is supposedly the most ‘depressing’ day of the year. The idea was created in 2005 as a PR stunt by a travel company, which worked out the date using a not-very-scientific formula, based on a combination of factors that can make us feel down.

While Blue Monday was invented to help sell holidays, the weather, short dark days, being less active and the post-Christmas anti-climax can all contribute to making us all feel a bit low at this time of year. For individuals with depression, or who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it can make their symptoms worse.

The winter blues can also affect energy and motivation. A 2017 study by project management software company Redbooth found that productivity in the workplace drops during January and February. Analysing its data over a four-year period, it discovered that winter is the least productive season, with users completing only 22.8% of their annual tasks on average, compared to 27.3%in the autumn.

To support your team through this winter productivity drop and help protect them against some of the things that might trigger a low mood, you could share these seven ideas for combating the January slump.

1. Plan things to look forward to. Make a list of all the things you’d like to do over the next month – or feel comfortable doing, given the current situation – and the people you’d like to do them with. Include work get-togethers, one-to-ones, and catch-ups with your team. Then book them in your diary or calendar – and keep the commitment, no matter how you’re feeling.

2. Get out into the daylight. Spring can seem a long way off, and many of us are still leaving for work and returning home in the dark, so it’s important to get some natural light – even if it’s only for a few minutes. The increasing number of people who now work from home at least some of the week should take advantage of the chance to get outside!

3. Reflection what you’d like to achieve or change in the year ahead. If there’s something you’re keen to do – such as moving along a collaborative projector learning a new skill – make a start! It’s tempting to think ‘I’ll wait until I’ve got more energy’, but if you make the leap now, starting slowly and gradually building up your efforts, you can beat the lethargy and begin the year with a sense of achievement.

4. Aim to be present. Whatever you’re doing, at work and at home, focus on the activity and on the people you’re with. Always looking months down the line and imagining what they might hold can be overwhelming and lead to worry.

5. Keep a gratitude diary. At the end of each day, write down three good things that have happened or that you’ve heard about. This could be absolutely anything– from finishing a challenging piece of work, to making a perfect boiled egg!

6. Watch out for negative thoughts and predictions. Often when we’re down or anxious our thoughts are skewed negatively, and this can turn into a vicious cycle that makes us feel worse. Our thoughts, behaviours and emotions are connected – so if we think, for example, ‘Blue Monday is going to be miserable for me’, this may influence our feelings and our behaviours, which in turn can lead to more negative thoughts.

7. Take advantage of ieso’s How Are Things? Mood & Symptom Checker. This tool helps people get a clear picture of their current mental health. It’s an online, clinically validated self-assessment questionnaire, which takes about 20 minutes to complete. Within two days, they will receive a confidential, simple and easy to digest report and action plan, which includes mood and anxiety scores, together with self-help activities based on CBT, and advice about where they can go next to get support if appropriate.

Anyone who’s feeling especially down or depressed should seek support, talking to their GP about what help is available. They could also try online CBT, which is very effective at treating depression. You can find out more about how ieso helps businesses take care of their people’s mental health here.

ieso explores how Blue Monday began, how it now correlates to a productivity drop in January, and some tips that you can share with your team to combat what may trigger low mood
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