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Blue Monday: Tackling Workplace Stress in January

Posted by Thomas Faulker - Health and Safety Adviser

Commonly viewed as the most depressing day of the year, “Blue Monday” was coined to refer to the 3rd Monday in January which often leaves people feeling miserable. Between the combination of the dark days, return to the usual 9-5 routine, and the post-Christmas blues, this day is a particularly gloomy one in what is already a dreary month.

So, what exactly has Blue Monday got to do with workplace stress? In the same way that conflicts can arise more frequently during the festive period, work-related stress can have more of an impact on individuals as they will already be feeling the additional financial and mental strain that the start of the year places on many. 

Recognising the Signs of Stress

The first step to dealing with stress in the workplace is spotting the signs. This may sound straightforward but often individuals experiencing work-related stress are too caught up in their situation to realise that something is amiss.

This is where stress awareness training for employees comes in. These courses can help individuals recognise the differences between pressure and stress and educate them on the common signs of work-related stress. 

Behavioural changes are the most common signs of stress and being able to recognise these changes in their own behaviour will allow employees to seek help from their line managers before the symptoms turn into a more serious issue. The most common behavioural changes that indicate stress in the workplace include:

  • Increasing number of sick days or time off
  • A sudden drop in motivation and quality of work
  • Regularly turning up to the office late 

Once employees are able to recognise these changes within themselves, they can then take the appropriate steps to address them including working with their line manager to tackle the cause of the stress. 

HSE Stress Management Standards

Alongside the self-recognition and reporting of stress, the HSE Stress Management Standards should be used by the management team to regularly assess the areas of work design which are most commonly associated with work-related stress, illness, and absence. 

The six key areas of work design, as identified by the Management Standards, that contribute to stress are:

  • Demands – including issues with the size of the workload, work patterns, and the work environment itself.
  • Control – in relation to how much autonomy an employee has in how they carry out their work.
  • Support – does the organisation provide the necessary resources, support and encouragement? This also includes support from line management and other members of the team.
  • Relationships – including dealing with any unacceptable workplace behaviour and encouraging positive working practises to avoid any conflict. 
  • Role – does the employee understand their individual role within the organisation, and have steps being taken to ensure that they do not have conflicting responsibilities?
  • Change – whether or not there are measures in place to manage and communicate any organisational changed no matter how big or small.

Using the Management Standards approach, organisations can support employees by carrying out regular risk assessments in relation to each of the areas and putting safeguards in place that will protect them from unnecessary stress in the workplace.


Thomas Faulker - Health and Safety Adviser

Thomas has been working within a safety role since 2013 and is based at our Head office in Suffolk servicing clients in the South East. He has recently graduated from a Masters in Safety, Health and Environment at the University of Salford and is about to embark on a PhD in Organisational Health and Well-being at Lancaster University.

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