Back to the office? How to beat the January blues

January 6, 20210

As we head back to work, HR practitioners need to step up to help struggling staff.

Indeed 2020 has been a challenging year for HR practitioners, with many quoting it “worst year of their career’.

With the festive break, it offered some respite for the overwhelmed despite spending Christmas remotely or far away from family.

What is January Blues?

Deemed as “post-Holiday blues”, it is a condition that manifests after the December holidays-making someone feel increasingly low in the first months of the year. While it’s rare to be diagnosed outright, the condition has been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and depression.

What causes the January Blues?

Research from the American Psychological Association found that 38% of people reported increased stress levels over the holiday season – mainly due to lack of time, lack of money, and the pressures of family gatherings.

There is also the normal anxiety over returning to work, lapsed deadlines, and upcoming responsibilities which prey on minds during the festive break.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has left many people struggling with mental health issues –loneliness and exhaustion have become the norm for most HR leaders working beyond their contracted hours.

This can affect and trouble their psychological well-being in the year ahead.

What are the symptoms?

The January Blues present in different ways to different people – however, there are some staple symptoms that seem concurrent including;

  • Low mood
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Nausea

These feelings can affect anyone in the organization – from the CEO to the intern – and not much evidence linking January Blues to salary, workload, or job title.

The January Blues has many secondary symptoms too – including absenteeism, substance abuse, and declining physical health – all of which have the propensity to spiral if left unchecked.

In addition to that, January is the most popular month of the year to move jobs.

In fact, a report from Instant Offices found that most employees are likely to hand in their resignation on January 31st – a direct result of the January Blues.

To hold onto your top talent, there is a need to put in some preventative measures.

How can HR leaders help employees?

There are three simple steps that you can present to your employees – and even follow yourself if need be – to guide them through this difficult time:

  1. Open-up communication

Send a communication to employees reminding them about the confidential support services offered by your organization.

Also, be frank and advise that if people need assistance as the new year begins there are resources available.  This helps to destigmatize mental health issues.

  1. Stay away from unrealistic New Year’s Resolutions

Studies have shown that 80% of New Year Resolutions fail by February – making people feel guilty and unproductive. These failures were because their resolutions were unrealistic or simply not specific enough.

To help your team, advise them to make resolutions that are achievable even if it’s minor.

  1. Remember what you are grateful for

Before the first team meeting in 2021 (virtual or otherwise) let everyone know that you will be asking them to share one success or good news story from 2020.

While it has been a difficult year, there have been good points and things worth remembering and being grateful for. By starting 2021 on this note of positivity, it sets an upbeat tone as we enter a new year with new possibilities.

Mental health hotlines

If you feel like you are struggling with mental health issues at this time, HRD has collected some helpful resources and hotlines to offer support.

  • National Care Hotline 1800-202-6868
  • Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline 6389-2222
  • Samaritans of Singapore 1800-221-4444
  • Silver Ribbon Singapore 6385-3714

For more information on job availabilities or HR matters, please contact +65 6334 4328 or email at


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