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Improving mental health in the workplace… affordable, impactful, essential!

11 January 2024

At Pluxee UK, we aim to make life more joyful. With Blue Monday just around the corner, we’re encouraging employers to raise mental health awareness and prioritise mental wellbeing at work. Experts consider the third Monday in January the most mentally challenging day of the year. During this blog, we’ll explore the maths behind the day and how effectively supporting mental health in the workplace all year round, can keep the blues at bay.

The mental health maths behind Blue Monday

There are many awareness days throughout the year, and the dates are chosen based on historical events. That’s not the case with Blue Monday… there’s an actual formula behind this one.


Blue Monday equation


Wikipedia explains it here: Where W=weather, D=debt, d=monthly salary, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since the failure of new year's resolutions, M=low motivational levels, and Na=the feeling of a need to take action.


Whether mathematically correct or not, the formula reflects the elements that have a considerable impact on mental health at this time of year, as we explain below:


  • Mid-January weather is often wet and gloomy – a component of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

  • Debt… Brits spend, on average, an extra £750 at Christmas. Some may be in debt, or tightening their belts, reducing their disposable income during January.

  • With the excess spending over Christmas, the January pay slip may not go as far as usual.

  • Your employees will have had a break over Christmas and spent quality time with friends and family. The holiday season experience is different for all, but the formula reflects those who will be feeling low now that the festivities have ended.

  • Guided by our internal wellbeing gurus, we shy away from resolutions at Pluxee UK. Still, we understand that many make and break them soon after the clock strikes midnight, and there can be a sense of failure because of it.

  • Everything we’ve listed above can negatively impact your employees’ motivation levels, but as the Na element of the equation suggests, the desire to act and make positive change remains.

When we look at it this way, the elements all point to Blue Monday falling at an appropriate time, regardless of whether the formula is viable.


Reasons to prioritise mental health at work all year round

We can’t control the weather, but employers can help their people beat the blues by prioritising mental health at work all year round.


Taking care of the people who fuel your business…


Supporting your employees’ mental wellbeing is the right thing to do. Employees spend most of their waking hours working, and their commitment to your organisation’s success should be repaid by prioritising their wellbeing.


Mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, contributing up to 22.8% of the total burden, compared to 15.9% for cancer and 16.2% for cardiovascular disease (National Library of Medicine).


Beyond the ethical debate, we have four more reasons why you can’t afford not to support mental health in the workplace…


1. Absenteeism: 


The average rate of absenteeism per employee, per year has increased from 5.8 in 2019 to 7.8 in 2023 (CIPD). This increase pushes up your absenteeism costs, which, until recently, was approximately £500 per employee annually. 


39% of short-term absences (up to four weeks) are related to poor mental wellbeing, including clinical depression and anxiety, and stress is responsible for 26% (CIPD).


The numbers increase considerably when we look at long-term sickness absence (four weeks or over), with mental ill health being the top cause (63%).


The cost of mental health problems is equivalent to around 5% of the UK’s GDP, costing the UK economy at least £117.9 billion annually (Mental Health Foundation).


2. Presenteeism


The increase in employee absences could suggest that employees are prioritising their wellbeing and taking time off when they’re not at peak health.


This isn’t the case. 


Around three in four UK employees observe presenteeism (working physically or mentally unwell) among employees working at home and in the workplace (CIPD).   


Presenteeism is a productivity killer and can cost employers more than absenteeism, giving you another reason to explore ways to enhance mental health at work. Those absent from work will return to health more quickly than those who continue to work through an illness, as they’re giving their mind and body the rest they need to return to health.


3. Retention and recruitment


Have you taken our free Retention Risk Assessment yet? By answering three questions, we can tell you whether you’re at risk of high employee turnover.


Free Retention Risk Assessment


Employee retention is a hot topic, especially in January, when job applications peak. We surveyed over 1,000 UK employees to discover how many would seek a new role in 2024. We discuss the results in our blog - Retaining skills & reducing employee turnover in 2024 & beyond!


One question we asked our respondents was what they think HR should prioritise in 2024, and the second most popular reply was employee health and wellbeing.


Raising mental health awareness, improving mental health at work, and embedding an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) into your culture and benefits offering will empower your business to attract and retain top talent.


4. The perks of healthy employees


Mentally healthy or mentally resilient employees are a business asset, and investing in employee wellbeing is one of the best investments you can make! 


Every £1 spent on improving your employees’ mental wellbeing will yield a £5 return due to reduced absenteeism and presenteeism.


When you prioritise mental health at work, it can enhance all areas of your employees’ lives, creating resilience, balance and making life more joyful. That energy and optimism feed into their work, creativity, and loyalty towards you – their employer.


The vital role of EAP

If you take steps to support your employees’ mental wellbeing, enhancing resilience throughout the year, when we reach these pivotal dates, like Blue Monday, your people will have the internal and external resources they need to avoid being negatively impacted.


An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a vital resource for any business and an employee benefit that will yield a return. Our EAP is the perfect companion for tackling the elements that make Monday, 15th January, so blue.


Let’s pull apart a few elements of the equation…


  • Weather: The winter months are when Seasonal Affective Disorder is most prevalent. Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offers much more than a counselling service, providing your employees access to podcasts and exercise videos. Your employees can keep active from the comfort of their homes and use the bad weather as an excuse to enhance their wellbeing through guided meditation and relaxation techniques.

  • Debt: Our EAP contains a wealth of resources on coping with financial stress and includes videos from money and mindset coaches. Plus, advice on unexpected bills and parking tickets is just a call away!

Enhancing mental health awareness and prioritising mental health at work daily = more mentally resilient employees


Financial Wellbeing Guide


These preventative, resilience-boosting tools form part of our Employee Assistance Programme offering. Embed them into your employee benefits package and use them to enhance a culture of wellbeing.


Speed up access to mental wellbeing support…


1.75 million people were in contact with mental health services at the end of June 2023.


The NHS is under immense pressure in all areas of care, including mental health. It can take up to a week to get an appointment with your GP and even longer to start on the path to proper care.


Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) doesn’t replace NHS support. We have different packages available, and although employees can access a BACP-accredited counsellor 24/7, 365 days a year, care plans are created for a specific number of sessions.


Our EAP could get your employees on the path towards mental health support quicker than they could if they go through the NHS, but it shouldn't replace it in terms of continuing long-term care. Ill mental health is the cause of 63% of long-term absences, so the quicker you can get your employees onto a care path with a counsellor, the speedier their return to health and work will be.


Speedier access to care = money saved through reduced presenteeism and absenteeism.


EAP with Pluxee UK… affordable, impactful, essential!

We’ve seen a lot of content prioritising the importance of mental wellbeing every day, not just on the third Monday of the year. We completely agree – it should be a continuous business priority.


Still, when you pull apart the reasoning behind Blue Monday – weather, debt, finances – it makes sense that this specific date should get further attention.


Ready to continue the conversation?


Arrange a call with one of our employee engagement consultants to discover how our Employee Assistance Programme can help create mentally resilient employees who are ready and able to face life’s challenges.


EAP… opening up a world of opportunities for your business!





National Library of Medicine


Mental Health Foundation