‘Blue Monday’ is a sham. The ‘formula’ to find the most depressing day of the year was invented by a travel company to get a press release in the papers at a time of year that many families might have been dreaming of summer holidays. It makes no mathematical sense and has been decried by proper scientists as bunkum.
Nonetheless, the tail end of January into the start of February is a rotten time for many people. The credit card bills will have come in, but wages have not. The weather’s dark and terrible, there’s no-one in the pub in the evening and the only Christmas trees you’ll be likely to see are dead sticks dumped in alleyways.
However, there are things that employers can do to help their staff find a way though the darkest month. ‘Wellbeing’ is a phrase that was barely heard outside of Californian therapy rooms just a few years ago, and certainly not in the motor trade at all, but things move on and some of the larger firms in the aftermarket have introduced programmes that take the physical, emotional and social aspects of their employees seriously.
One of these is motor factor giant LKQ Euro Car Parts. “It’s really important that we demonstrate to all of our colleagues that we take their wellbeing seriously and we want to do everything that we can to make sure that people are happy and healthy at work”, explained Donna Fearnley, Group HR Director at the company.
“We’ve done a huge amount of work around wellbeing as well as respect, dignity and creating a kind workplace,” she explained. “Where we have people that are off sick with either short term or long term absenteeism. From a commercial perspective, we need to look after people so they can look after our customers, but for me personally it’s that wider piece about creating a positive and inclusive workplace where people can feel safe psychologically”.
The firm launched an employee campaign called ‘Talk, Listen’ back in January 2020 where staff were encouraged to take wellbeing, both of themselves and of each other more seriously. Of course, the world turned upside down just a few weeks later, and only 60 percent of employees were using email regularly and in any case newsletter campaigns can only go so far.
A new approach was needed, so the firm started running workshops on the subject, backed up by posters, stickers and other in-your-face media familiar to ECP. The company also started to train ‘Mental Health First Aiders’. “It’s a really big campaign across LKQ Europe and branch managers have been really keen to get involved in the workshop, which can help them recognise the signs when someone can be struggling and understand how to have those conversations with people”.
While it is laudable that companies are starting to look out for employees, there are plenty of workers who will take the first quarter of a New Year to start making plans to change their own lives. This can come in different ways. For example, some will feel like they are stuck in a rut, while others will be looking to get more confidence . The one thing that unites most people is they have a desire to move things forward, but have no idea how to go about it.
That’s where ‘life coaching’ can come in. This is where an individual talks to a professional about their hopes and dreams versus the reality of the current day-to-day situation. The coach will then help draw up a plan for how to achieve those goals – and they don’t just have to be career based.Common topics include getting more active, eating well, self-care and improving work life balance.
Motor industry charity Ben has recently launched life coaching for people in the trade. Anyone interested just needs to fill in a self-referral form. The service is personalised and gives automotive people the opportunity to work with a qualified professional to identify the change they would like to see in their lives, set goals and maximise their potential
Rachel Clift, Health & Wellbeing Director at Ben, said: “The New Year is a time when many people re-evaluate their lives, focusing on making changes and achieving new goals. We know people sometimes feel stuck in life and whether they struggle with motivation, lack of confidence or not knowing how to achieve something, they can end up standing still and not doing anything about it. Life coaching helps people to push themselves outside of their comfort zones to help individuals become more aware of themselves and the change they wish to see in themselves to improve their quality of life. Our Life Coaches help people work out what they want in life and how to get there, giving them the encouragement they need to succeed.
“Living a life that doesn’t fulfil you can be demoralising. It can cause resentment, affect mood and deplete energy levels when people feel that their life doesn’t have direction or purpose. Life Coaching is a brilliant way of tapping into your inner potential, giving you the tools and strategies that you need to become the version of yourself that you want to be.
Understanding what ‘wellbeing’ is can help employees and employers alike get through the bluest of Mondays – and every other day.