It’s curious that so soon after the enforced jollity of New Year’s Eve, we are subject to the enforced gloom of Blue Monday (16 January). So, no smiling, right?
According to Wikipedia, Blue Monday only became a thing in 2005, 22 years after the unrelated eponymous New Order song, amid some controversy involving academics at Cardiff. Its originator, Cliff Arnall, says the day was never supposed to be a downer but that he came up with the concept as a call for positivity – a day on which people make bold plans for their futures. The concept was used by a company called Sky Travel to promote holidays.
— Blue Monday (@blue_mondays) January 5, 2018
Arnall sought to work out the date on which this dark day fell by coming up with an equation based on weather likelihood, level of debt, time since Christmas, low motivational levels, the feeling that one needed to take action, sleep levels, stress, and time since the failure of New Year’s resolutions. (Arnall has also calculated the happiest days of the year in mid- to late-June, but we don’t hear about that.)
But others maintain this is all balderdash. Wikipedia says that neuroscientist Dean Burnett has described the work as “farcical”, with “nonsensical measurements”, and science writer Ben Goldacre says the calculations “fail even to make mathematical sense on their own terms”.
A lighthearted take on HR
Yet here we are, despite Arnall himself explaining Blue Monday should be day of positivity, we are told to brace ourselves.
For example, Pete Cooper, director of people partners and analytics at Personio, tells us: “This year, Blue Monday – notoriously the most ‘depressing’ day of the year – takes another dimension as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, adding to the return to work blues.”
He warns that where employees are not supported, motivation and productivity could be damaged – potentially resulting in people leaving, or “quiet quitting”. Blue Monday and quiet quitting – that’s quite the combination; perhaps we should, for good measure, chuck the great resignation and great unretirement into our smorgasbord of woes.
The bluest of Blue Mondays
For Noelle Murphy, senior HR insights editor, at XpertHR, this Blue Monday is “the bluest of all Blue Mondays”. She says: “The onset of the cost-of-living crisis with high inflation and wage growth that, although at a 30-year high, falls well short of inflation rates, was a defining factor of 2022 and with the UK set for a prolonged and deep recession, 2023 is set to be equally bleak. This January will be … the bluest of all Blue Mondays.”
Stacey Lowman, head of employee wellbeing at Claro Wellbeing, argues in an article called “Blue Monday is bad for business” (although it seems quite good for the PR and business psychology sectors), that companies must avoid tokenism and “wellbeing-washing” by making genuine efforts to support staff wellbeing across the whole year.
There’s a hint of nominative determinism in the air as Lowman writes: “Low mood and mental health struggles are not confined to a single day and with the post-Christmas lull and ongoing cost-of-living crisis, employers must be revisiting how to effectively support employees with mental, physical and financial wellbeing.” Does “revisit how” actually mean “give people a decent pay rise”?
At Personnel Today some of us have wondered whether or not giving people a pay rise at least in line with inflation, or even talking about it, might be a contributory factor here. It seems logical to conclude that nurses, say, wouldn’t feel Blue Monday so acutely if they felt valued enough to actually receive a real-terms pay increase, and didn’t have to resort to strike action.
This suggests Arnall is right to say Blue Monday should be a day of positivity: with a decent pay rise, many workers would find that Blue Mondays were actually Happy Mondays. Hallelujah!
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