How Managers Can Overcome the Stress of Blue Monday

16 January 2017 -


The one day waking up for work feels particularly difficult, Blue Monday is for many people, the most depressing and stressful time of the whole year

Jermaine Haughton

Believed to have been originally devised by life coach and happiness consultant Cliff Arnall, Blue Monday is a culmination of the poor weather, overhanging Christmas debts, the dissipation of the warming Christmas feeling and the failure to keep up with New Year resolutions causing sadness and hopelessness.

Sickness absences rise during Blue Monday with many people unable to face going into the office. Even those present at work often report symptoms of stress such as listlessness and frustration.

The troubles faced by many managers on Blue Monday highlights the longer-term workplace stress and depression faced by individuals. Stressful times aren’t limited to the arrival of post-Christmas credit card bills, as stress caused by employment has an adverse effect on mental health and day to day life throughout the year.

The increasing difficulty for managers and their teams to switch off in the increasingly 24-hour workaholic working culture, with constant access and pressure to work through smart technology and communications, is a major cause of stress.

CMI’s own Quality of Working Life study strikes right at the heart of the issue.  The CMI research found that of the 1,574 managers surveyed, over three quarters (77%) work for at least an additional hour each day, adding up to an extra 29 days over the course of a year.

With average holiday entitlement only 28 days, this extra time cancels out managers’ annual leave. Up to 10% put in more than three extra hours each day, the equivalent of working a 15-month year.

More than half (54%) of managers agree that long working hours are leading to elevated levels of stress. Some 61% of managers blame technology for their increased hours as they find it harder to switch off, with one in five managers reporting that they are ‘always on’ and check emails all the time. Those struggling to switch off report lower personal productivity levels and experience more stress.

The threat of redundancies and demotions, and the need to ‘do more with less’ makes many workers push themselves too hard. With employers scrutinising their workforce more closely, many employees are reluctant to take time off sick, leading to a rise in presenteeism – continuing to work when they should be resting or seeking treatment.

The CMI research reports a link between working longer hours and suffering from increased headaches, irritability and insomnia, early symptoms of mental health problems and potential burnout.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke said Blue Monday is a reminder of the challenge facing employers to help overworked and stressed employees.

“’Blue Monday reminds us of the importance of tackling unhappiness in the workplace,” she said. “Our recent research highlighted the fact that the average manager in the UK works an extra 29 days over the course of a year. Over half of managers say their working hours have a bad effect on their stress levels, which is having a disastrous impact on the nation’s productivity.

“Recent reforms announced by the Government to transform attitudes of mental health in the workplace are a step in the right direction, but the reality is we all have a role to play in improving the wellbeing of the UK’s workforce. Tackling the ‘always on’ culture of constantly checking emails on smartphones and tablets out of office hours, for instance, is extremely important.

“Good, skilled managers know that they need to switch off and allow their employees to do the same. Helping employees strike the necessary work/life balance must be a priority for both employers and the Government in facing up to the challenge of improving workplace stress. Doing so will not only help improve the performance and happiness of the UK’s workforce, it will also be crucial in closing the country’s chronic productivity gap.”

5 Top tips to combat stress and improving the quality of working life

Improve the ability to manage change – 97% of managers’ report some degree of organisational change, yet just a fifth see a connection with improved decision-making. Focusing on behaviours and measuring the impacts of change are crucial in tackling this leading cause of stress.

Develop better line managers – Line managers have a critical role to play in driving employee engagement. More open, empowering management styles are connected with lower levels of stress, higher job satisfaction and greater personal productivity

Switch off – Avoiding digital presenteeism means giving colleagues the license to switch off. Colleagues can often be their own worst enemies, and while personal choice is key, options such as restricting remote access should be considered.

Empower your people – The most power drivers of job satisfaction are a personal sense of achievement. Where innovative, entrepreneurial and empowering management styles are found, more than 84% of managers are satisfied with their jobs.

Improve well-being - People are not assets to be driven to destruction, it is important to monitor metrics such as morale and illness to identify destructive habits.

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