It is a persistent myth which seeks to explain the dreary feeling at returning to work on a dark mid-January morning.
But the so-called ‘Blue Monday’ effect is being taken seriously by leading employers across the country who are rolling out special incentives in an attempt to bolster the mood of their workforce and improve productivity.
For the past decade, the phenomenon has identified the third Monday of January as the most depressing day of the calendar year, a time when the festivities of Christmas seem distant, New Year’s resolutions have been broken and bank balances are precarious.
The term was coined in 2005 by holiday company, Sky Travel. As part of a marketing campaign, it issued a press release which included a supposed scientific equation to back up its claims, making reference to variables such as ‘weather’, ‘time since Christmas’ and ‘motivational levels’.
The formula, however, has since been roundly debunked, according to Dr Dean Burnett, a tutor at Cardiff University’s division of psychological medicine and clinical neurosciences.
“There are so many reasons to believe it’s nonsense,” he said.
“Firstly, the equation wasn’t the result of some psychological study by a reputable lab, but conducted by a travel company, who then fished around for a psychologist to put his name to it, to make it seem credible.
“It combines things that have no quantifiable way of being combined. Debt level, time since Christmas, weather, motivation – the equation combines all these things, but that’s not possible.”
Even so, it would seem several major companies are making efforts to guard against lulls in the mood of their employees. At BP, for example, staff will be invited to take part in the Bright Blue Monday initiative, where they will be offered discounts on healthy food, promotional gym memberships, and invitations to take part in the firm’s annual fitness challenge.
Richard Heron, BP’s vice-president for health and its chief medical officer, said the company was “using one of the darkest days to consider opportunities for change” across the organisation. Workers at the London headquarters of Japanese banking group, Nomura, meanwhile, will be offered nutritional advice and healthy dishes in the canteen.
Ian Edwards, the bank’s health and wellbeing programme director, explained: “We call it Blue Monday for mental resilience.”