By Andy Wilkins, chief executive at Gwent Hospitals Contributory Fund (GHCF)

As the temperatures turn colder and Christmas becomes a distant memory, it’s easy to see how many people can succumb to the January blues. January is often considered the month that people find most depressing due to a number of factors, whether it be the cold weather, mounting credit card debt or the reality of getting back to work after the Christmas break.

Experts have even calculated the most depressing day of the year which falls on the third Monday in January and has been coined ‘blue Monday’ by the media. It appears the doom and gloom will not disappear over night. Many media commentators have predicted an even tougher economic climate for 2012, which will certainly add to people’s woes as the year progresses.

Employers are faced with the difficult position of motivating their staff for the year ahead, amid unfettered economic uncertainty. In addition to this challenging climate, businesses also face increased levels of sickness absence.

A study on sickness absence shows that most sick leave taken by workers occurs in January. In fact, nearly 5% of the total employee population took sick leave on the 3rd and 4th of January last year. While much of this sickness absence may be due to genuine seasonal sickness, other reasons can relate to over-indulgence over the Christmas period and in some cases, workers simply cannot face returning to the office.

Sickness absence can be especially disruptive for smaller companies and result in reduced productivity levels with present staff members feeling over-burdened with an additional workload. As employers are fully aware, during these tough times, a motivated workforce is crucial in remaining resilient and prepared for the economic recovery.

The situation is not entirely hopeless however and there are practical steps employers can take to promote health and wellbeing in the workplace and help their staff beat the January blues.

Studies show that employees regard health packages as one of the most attractive benefits. Employers that invest in health cash plans for their employees are able to demonstrate that their staffs’ wellbeing is paramount. There are many business benefits related to protecting staff in this way, including improving motivation, staff retention and boosting productivity.

Health incentives don’t need to present a huge cost to employers and it can be argued that they are one of the most important investments when it comes to combating the negative impact sickness absence can have in the workplace.

Andy Wilkins is the chief executive of GHCF, a health cash plan provider. GHCF offers tailored health packages to business customers. Corporate benefits include dental and optical cover, money towards hospital visits and complementary therapies. Visit http://www.ghcf.co.uk

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