The third Monday of January, known as Blue Monday, is considered the saddest day of the year, but some Canadian employers are trying to make it a little happier for their employees.

At CAA Club Group, Blue Monday will kick off a week of events dedicated to mental-health awareness. “We have a mixture of fun things, educational things and programs that are going to be available throughout the week,” says Mara Notarfonzo, assistant vice-president of compensation and benefits at CAA. “It’s really taking the opportunity for us to reinforce all the programs we have available and how important wellness is to us.”

Read: CAA honoured for wellness programs that include remote workers

On Monday, the company is keeping it light by focusing on how employees can brighten their day, encouraging them to wear colourful clothing and take a recharge break with a mindfulness-themed colouring book. At the CAA’s Thornhill, Ont. campus, which has more than 800 employees, the organization is offering free massages.

On Tuesday, employees will receive wellness bingo cards they can fill out throughout the week by completing tasks like performing acts of kindness, showing gratitude, doing stretches or taking a walk. Anyone who completes the card will be entered into a draw to win points for CAA’s internal recognition program.

“It’s a little bit of gratitude, a little bit of gamification being used, but the key message there is really trying to do things for yourself, which we’ll encourage through different kinds of contests,” says Notarfonzo.

Read: Half of Canadian workers experience the winter blues: survey

On Wednesday, messages through the company intranet — the first thing employees see when they log into their computers — will drive staff to the company’s wellness app, which features mental-health tips and articles. On Friday, CAA is drawing attention to National Compliment Day by encouraging employees to send thank-you notes to colleagues through its online recognition tool.

Each year, CAA highlights different pillars of its wellness program, with 2020 focusing on mental health. Notarfonzo says the company will have other week-long events throughout the year to keep the employee assistance program and benefits front of mind for employees.

“Regardless of the communications we send out, it may not register because it’s not meaningful at that time. Six months from now the same message may have a different meaning for you. And we always want mental health to be top of mind; it’s very important for us as a culture to have a mentally healthy workplace.”

Read: Corus seeks mental-health boost through four-legged festivities

Meanwhile, CSA Group is using Blue Monday to launch its implementation of the national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace across the 13 countries in which it operates, as well as other programs and resources to address psychological health concerns, remove barriers to treatment and reduce stigma.

The initiative will involve making sure employees are aware of the warning signs of mental-health challenges so they’re “empowered and educated,” says Melodie Mason, CSA’s vice-president of total rewards.

The company will also conduct a psychological health and safety workplace assessment and share the results with all staff. And it will provide mental-health training for all employees and people managers.

Read: Treatment access, innovation integral to supporting employee mental health

CSA’s human resources team is also planning activities for employees at the company’s Toronto headquarters, including ordering lunch for the office, playing music in the kitchen and sending around work-appropriate viral videos. Employees will also be encouraged to wear bright clothing and treat each other kindly, while the leadership team will bring in chocolate for people to enjoy. CSA will also send out an email to its global workforce with tips on how to combat Blue Monday and remind them of the company’s EAP and digital wellness platform.

This is the first year CSA has had initiatives on Blue Monday, which is linked to its approach to employee mental health, says Mason.

“Our own internal [mental-health] claims aren’t that high for the Canadian office but we know it’s out there, we know family members are dealing with [challenges]. We’ve been thinking about it for a year or two on how to get going on this and . . . show all the things we already do, but find a new way to explain what things exist and then add on to those.”

Read: The case for offering mental-health days

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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