3 ways to help employees gallop past the ‘Sunday blues’

Person sat on floor in living room working

As the ‘Sunday blues’ may involve more than anxiety about the fast-approaching workweek, employers can help lift more than their employees’ spirits.

As lazy Sunday mornings drift toward the afternoon and (somehow) sprint like galloping gazelles into the evening hours, you may feel your heartbeat quicken or stomach sink.

It may be Monday morning stalking you on the horizon, waiting.

Whether an employee or employer, the experience may be familiar.

And although that experience, often described as the ‘Sunday blues’ or ‘Sunday dread,’ normally reflects our anxiety about the upcoming work week, it may be about more than our working lives. 

In our latest report, Mastering the Age of Ambiguity, four in five employees (79%) are worried about the increasing cost of living with one in three (34%) saying they are just getting by financially. Half (50%) say their current financial situation affects their mental health and 30% of those on lower incomes believe their debt levels are detrimental to their wellbeing.[1]Footnote 1

It’s not just the weight of Monday morning creeping up.

As the lines between work life, home responsibilities, and financial realities continue to blur in the age of ambiguity, the ‘Sunday blues’ may reflect employees’ anxieties about all aspects of their lives. Especially as the workweek, for many, may no longer follow the Monday to Friday pattern.

With three in four people (75%) experiencing additional stress from feeling their money doesn’t stretch as far, the thought of coming into work may have undercurrents of financial worry.[1]Footnote 1

And employees are increasingly looking to their employers for support, as concerns over debt and cost of living realities impact daily life. [1]Footnote 1 As the boundaries of our work and personal lives soften, and as an employer you think about your duty of care in these uncertain times, it’s worth recognising that individual wellbeing can directly impact the success of the business at large. The more you can lift some spirits, the more that spirit could raise the business. 

3 Steps to ease the ‘Sunday Blues’

Redefine what ‘Sunday Blues’ mean 

In the last decade, with the growth of digital technologies and the turmoil of global health and market realities, our working lives have evolved.

For the single parent who mentally calculates each family meal to the penny during their hour train journey into work, their 'Sunday blues' may feel like mental exhaustion as they consider their workload for the week. For the young university graduate, barely keeping up with rent payments and paying for groceries on his credit card, it may look like overwhelming anxiety as he decides whether to have a pint with his friends.

The point is that the ‘Sunday blues’ aren’t strictly about work.

Since the human brain is hyper-focused on getting and sorting information into ‘threat’ and ‘non-threat’ categories but doesn’t always get it right, our mind may trigger our threat response alarms when there isn’t a physical threat. [2]Footnote 2 Although we know it’s only the week ahead, our mind makes us feel like a gazelle on the tundra hunted by a lion.

The very thought of money problems alongside work challenges and day to day responsibilities may cause a range of physical reactions, like racing heartrates and an upset stomach. [3]Footnote 3 With 54% of people hiding the state of their wellbeing from their employer, because they don’t want it negatively impacting their career, it may be challenging for employers to know how to support them.[1]Footnote 1

This could be recognising that a quiet employee may be getting their bearings and needs a moment before a meeting or the single parent a moment to decompress.

“Maybe a few decades ago, these feelings were more prevalent on a Sunday evening,” says Debbie Bullock, Wellbeing Lead at Aviva. “But today, for many employees, work isn’t limited to particular hours or locations – and neither is their anxiety. As workers cope with financial pressures in many areas of life, they may look to their employer for guidance. This is an area that employers can add value to their employees’ life.”

Create a holistically safe space 

Reviewing your work culture may highlight some areas that could benefit from either direct policy changes or areas for senior management training. Employees who feel fragile with worry will not only struggle to give their best at work, but they will also need to know they are coming to work in a psychologically safe space – one where they don’t fear punishment, humiliation, or for their livelihoods if they ask or need help.[4]Footnote 4

To begin, you may consider the following questions:

  1. How safe do employees feel in discussing their financial wellbeing concerns with their line manager? If you’re not sure what the answer is, this may be a chance to encourage employees’ voices through anonymous surveys.
  2. What resources, information and education do we give our employees to help them cope in the current socioeconomic climate? Having an audit of official provisions (such as workplace benefits) and unofficial resources could help you find areas to amplify your support.
  3. How confident are managers in having discussions with individuals about financial or personal wellbeing? There may be an opportunity within your business to offer managers training on how to have delicate discussions, especially around team members’ financial health.
  4. In what ways do we lead by example? Whatever expectations are set at senior management level will reverberate to all other positions. Taking time to review how wellbeing is ingrained in your work culture from senior posts could help employees feel safer in how they discuss their concerns at work.

Creating safe spaces at work for wellbeing issues is vitally important to the health of your business.

Customise the support 

The needs of the single parent versus those of the university graduate will be unique – financially, physically, and mentally. From different life and career stages to different personalities and coping methods, your employees may need more customised support.

Using information from employee surveys could help inform how to train your leaders and decide which resources could be made more bespoke.

The point here is to offer education and support that’s appropriate to each individual’s needs.

To learn more about the key concerns affecting employees in a continually ambiguous landscape, download the Mastering the Age of Ambiguity report.

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