Blue Monday: an opportunity to reset

Why attention must be paid to the stresses of setting up and running a business.

How was your Blue Monday? The third Monday of the month is apparently the most depressing day of the year (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere).

January certainly brings the challenge of a return to work after time off, combined with a tightened waistline and depleted wallet.

But a new year can also be an opportunity for positive change, both for businesses and for the wellbeing of staff.

At the start

A decision to give up a sizeable chunk of equity early on for investment from an investor or accelerator programme can leave founders with less control than they anticipated. This can happen before startups have really hit the ground running and evaluated whether the idea solves a true business issue.

When setting up a business, the decisions made within a few months of launching can be critical for long-term success. Starting from scratch and trying to build a viable product and solid customer base, on top of dealing with constant pressure around issues such as business valuations, is challenging.

According to the charity Mind, one in four of us will experience mental health problems even out of the startup space. For entrepreneurs juggling HR, finance, operations, marketing, sales and more between two or three founders, it can be difficult not to get pulled in to 60-hour working weeks. 

A recent survey by the Great British Entrepreneur awards found that 58 per cent of entrepreneurs suffer from mental health problems. Startup founders tend to want to make sure that everyone is happy; we feel like we have a responsibility not to let anyone down, while giving the impression that everything is fine (even when it’s not).

No matter the size of the business

Whether a business has five or 500 employees, employers should focus on improving and initiating mental health and wellbeing initiatives, and on building a support network within the company to identify warning signs of depression and burnout. This could include:

  • allowing employees to take mental health days to fall outside of their usual holiday allowance
  • allowing subsidies for gym discounts
  • adopting a flexible working policy to allow parents to pick up children from school
  • giving a discount for meditation apps such as Headspace
  • introducing weekly yoga sessions

For initiatives such as this to have a real influence, ideas should be encouraged and led by employees to determine what they think would be most appropriate, based on the nature of work and their lifestyles.

Having said that, the biggest influence we can all have is to support each other to continually develop and grow as people within an organisation – embracing differences, working through challenging times together, and allowing ourselves a break every now and then.

About the author

Charles Kerr works at StateZero Labs, where he runs the emerging technology podcast 22nd Century. He has varied experience across both the corporate and startup spheres, including building his own not-for-profit.

StateZero is the world's first solution-led blockchain lab for startups bridging the gap between humanity and tech, with wellness and mental health a core focus.

See also