Ant Donaldson: How do you help employees beat the January blues?

Ant Donaldson: January blues

The January blues can hit people any year. After all the fun of the festive season, the realisation that there are two more cold, dark months of winter to go, as well as counting the days to January pay day, can make it a bleak month at the best of times. And, of course, there are people for whom Christmas is a hard time of year anyway, for all sorts of reasons.

Yet this year runs the risk of being much harder for so many colleagues at all levels. We are all feeling the effect of the cost-of-living crisis, and there is so much gloomy news about, from the winter of discontent to the climate emergency, the impact of NHS waiting lists, the war in Ukraine, and even the World Cup being over, this January may feel especially harsh.

So what can those of us who work in reward do to help?

Financial wellbeing resources, from discounts and salary advances, to budgeting tools and low-cost loans, can make a massive positive difference, helping people bridge the gap to that next pay cheque. Indeed, January may actually be a better time to give colleagues vouchers, thanking them for their work over the past year, than in the run-up to Christmas.

Physical wellbeing offerings can encourage people to get outside and enjoy what little sunlight may be available, helping improve their mood, as well as burning off those excess calories. Team challenges, from daily steps and mindfulness to dry January and weight loss, will not break the bank and can generate some much-needed team spirit.

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And a good quality employee assistance programme (EAP), covering everything from debt advice to mental health counselling, can underpin all of that and really help those needing deeper support, often including family members. Reminding everyone about the EAP, including line managers, or putting one in place for the first time, is a simple but effective, and cost-effective, way to provide support, alongside encouraging openness and having a sympathetic ear to help identify people who are struggling.

Ant Donaldson is reward manager, benefits at Wolseley