Employers can use the time surrounding ‘Blue Monday’ to ensure they’re communicating properly with employees and highlighting mental-health supports, says Gianna Ricciardi, vice-president and practice leader at Vita Assure Inc.

Blue Monday — typically the third Monday in January — is considered to be the saddest day of the year because the combination of dreary weather and the post-holiday comedown can negatively impact people’s mental health.

But Ricciardi notes simply offering mental-health supports without proper communication won’t guarantee that employees take advantage of those resources. “Highlighting the benefits of various employer-sponsored programs, as well as the best way to access care, will increase employee adoption. Regular communication is key to [keeping] benefits top of mind and will contribute to reducing stigma. Employers may want to build a communication calendar to ensure various programs are being promoted at key times of year, like Blue Monday.”

Read: Employers can use ‘Blue Monday’ to reset workplace mental-health strategies

Blue Monday falls just when many people are returning after taking extended time off during the Christmas holidays, she adds, noting it’s important that employers remain flexible and recognize that most employees will need to ease back into their routine. “Employers can take advantage of this period for managers to meet one-on-one with direct reports, discuss goals and how the organization can support employees and organize team-building activities to encourage the development of social connections at work.”

According to a recent survey by the Hewlett-Packard Co., 77 per cent of Canadian knowledge workers don’t have a healthy relationship with work and 55 per cent of these employees struggle with their self-worth and mental health. It also found knowledge workers would take an 11 per cent pay cut to work somewhere with empathetic, emotionally intelligent leadership and above-average employee engagement and fulfillment.

Read: Blue Monday: Wattpad offering meditation classes to workers amid stressful times

Ian Clark, president of Mason Frank International, notes the start of the year can be a difficult time at work as deadlines and targets come into view. “To make January more manageable for staff, employers should encourage their employees to open their calendars and plan some vacation time sooner rather than later. Taking breaks is essential for everyone’s well-being, but planning ahead also gives [employees] something to actively look forward to, which can help with those January blues.”

He adds the first month of the year is also a good time for employers to revisit their workplace culture. Working towards an environment where staff are empowered to be honest about their workloads is a great way to mitigate any potential burnout and support employee well-being as the year rolls on.

Read: How can employers help employees combat Blue Monday?