Well, its that time of year…. Christmas is over for another year; finances were stretched for most to provide a perfect family break…but did we go too far in this pursue of perfection?

January is on record for being the longest, toughest month for finances, mental health and bouncing back from the much-needed break we took. All of these factors, together with the fact that many of us pick up colds and flu around this period, effect even the most resilient amongst us, and its naive to think we can all return to work refreshed and upbeat. Post holiday blues can hit hard after the tree and tinsel have been put away and as employers we have a sense of duty and obligation to check on our employees emotional well-being.

Sickness absence in the workplace

Anxiety, depression and stress are now the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK and an estimated 70 million working days are lost every year because of mental ill-health. Between 4-10 percent of the UK population are likely to suffer from depression in their life-time and one-in-four people in the UK will suffer with a mental health problem in any year. In a survey in Scotland in 2013, 9 percent of the adult population displayed two or more symptoms of anxiety and depression – often relating to being over stretched financially – sometimes where people have racked up large debts.

The personal cost of mental ill health can be grave but the economic cost to the country is huge, estimated at some £70-100 billion a year and accounting for 4.5% of GDP in the UK. This makes mental well-being a central concern for all workers and their employers too.

As an employer how can we help?

Checking in on our employees is of course a given, but Centric HR can offer assistance and support through our Occupational Health Services who can provide an employee assistance programme through 24/7 telephone support and assistance for any personal issue from financial debt and personal anxiety to bereavement and domestic abuse. These affordable programmes also offer private and confidential counselling to get through a tough period.

Employers may be tempted to offer a short term solution of offering pay day advances. Whilst this is a quick fix, this does not necessarily resolve the issue in the long term for employees. Employers should also be mindful of the pitfalls on offering interest free loans to employees – Centric HR can provide advice to employers in this area.

Its not just our employees who feel the burden of January blues, self-employed and business owners, especially those who provide non-necessity services or products where customers choose to not buy these when they are tightening their financial belts in January. Business owners can also feel immense financial pressure themselves when business is quiet and they still have to pay overheads and employees and may need equal support from colleagues and their networks to get through this tough month.

A supportive work culture and the correct environment can combat and mitigate against poor mental health. It’s the small things that employers do and how they act towards their employees that can really make a difference and ensure that employees feel they are in a safe environment.

For more information or support on any areas of HR you can contact us here.