Wendy Swash: How do you help employees beat the January blues?

January is a good time for reflecting on achievements and lessons learned, as well as goal setting. However, it can be a tough month to get motivated, with Blue Monday, which falls on Monday 16 January, this year, reportedly one of the most depressing days of the year. At Moneypenny, I believe one of the things we do best is to be kind, show compassion and really listen to our people. It is important to be approachable and to make everyone feel looked after and understood, and to make time to actively listen and connect. I, therefore, recommend that a key focus for employers this month, but also, importantly throughout the whole year, is to help people to stay positive in mind, body, and spirit and to have fun. To borrow that much used adage: Beating the blues is for life, not just January.

People make a company, so it is ever more critical that employers look after them, not just because it makes good business sense, but because it is always the right thing to do. Happy people equals happy customersequals happy business. To keep on top of this, regular check-ins are essential, so why not schedule more frequent one-to-ones with employees?

We introduced regular chats to ensure we can help people be the best that they can be. People need to know that their employer is hearing and understanding them, and it is more than what they say; as tone of voice too can be the indicator that someone is struggling. I also think employers should have a policy that their people know the door is always open if they would like to talk. That means we must create a safe environment in which people can be heard, with a culture which values the individual as a person, not as a number or a role and where they can really connect.

There are some simple steps that any business can pick up. The key is in sticking with it, then they will not have to focus on beating the January blues:  they will be focused on beating any blues, any time. It will become part of their DNA. Here are some ideas that work well at  Moneypenny: the main point is to be kind and positive and to connect with people. Small acts of kindness have a big impact on employee wellbeing and it is the little things that can make a difference such as sending out chocolate brownies or small gifts with a handwritten note to all employees, remembering anniversaries and birthdays, and much more. Our senior management team often hand-deliver flowers to employees, and this year for Christmas all our employees received everything they needed for themselves and their families for their Christmas meal, including turkeys, vegetables and all the trimmings.

Make it physical: it is well known that exercise can improve mental wellbeing, and can also help to foster a great team spirit. While gyms may be hard to get to some times, organisations can organise lunchtime activities or classes to help get everyone moving. We have a gym onsite and also have an activity cupboard complete with bicycles, paddle-boards, and outdoor games for example, which are free for our people to use and enjoy.

Employers could consider introducing a meditation app to help people with mindfulness, or a wellbeing group on Workplace or Teams. At Moneypenny, we offer the Calm app to our people and we also offer a helpline for employees to call if they need any advice on any issues, both large and small, such as family, stress, money, domestic issues etc.

Lastly, have some fun. Why should company jollies be restricted to Christmas? They say that couples that play together, stay together, and I think this can apply to work teams too, so schedule some non-work related social activities to keep everyone going through the cold, dark winter months, such as cooking challenges and quiz nights.

Wendy Swash is chief operating officer at Moneypenny