EMEA CEO of MediaCom, Josh Krichefski, believes that the cynical origins of 'Blue Monday' can be reimagined to encourage a more honest and responsible attitude to mental health in the workplace.
Thanks to a combination of cold, dark evenings, a return to work and the post-Christmas blues, the third Monday of January – Blue Monday – has come to be known as the most depressing day of the year.
The cynics among us will be quick to dismiss it. They have good reason: the moniker ‘Blue Monday’ was initially coined in 2005 by the now-defunct Sky Travel as part of its bid to promote holiday sales.
But things have changed in the last 15 years. Mental health is now at the top of the agenda, especially in the workplace. So, while we might baulk at the idea of depression being used as a means of selling package holidays, Blue Monday can still serve as a useful conversation starter; a chance to encourage discussions around mental health, destigmatising serious topics such as depression and anxiety.
And for business leaders, Blue Monday can still offer valuable a lesson.
Good leadership is open and honest
The traditional view of a successful business leader is someone cool under pressure, someone with a clear vision of their industry and their organisation’s goals, someone who can act independently to drive their agenda forward.
These virtues still hold true today, but they are no longer applied to the role of ‘lone figurehead’ – a business is a team sport.
Gone are the days of stoicism. Good leaders should be approachable; demonstrating respect, empathy, and authenticity. It’s a change that I try to champion myself every day. For example, before every meeting I will genuinely ask people how they are. And if they ask me the same, I will tell them how I really am.
I’m not asking to find out if their workload is manageable. I am asking to find out if they are actually feeling OK.
A catalyst for change
The important thing is to open up about mental health.
Sadly, it’s a topic many will shy away from, worried it will jeopardise their professional reputation; 48% of people experience mental health issues but only half actually talked to their employer about it.
The first step in breaking this stigma is for leaders to share their ownexperiences with wellbeing at work. Employees dedicate a huge portion of their lives to working in our businesses.
We owe it to them to act.
I urge business leaders to create change within their own workplaces. Learn from the Blue Monday campaign, and tell your team that it’s OK to not be OK.