Thursday, January 23, 2020
Blue Monday (the name given to the third Monday in January every year) got me thinking, mainly because I wasn’t feeling that blue. The trouble was, no matter how buoyant I felt, it was inescapable that this was a cold, dark, depressing start to another week for many people. #BlueMonday was trending on social media platforms, meaning a lot of conversations, online and in person, would have started:
“You know this is the most depressing day of the year, don’t you?”
As I started to feel… blue… I imagined the extreme affect such a flippantly named day could have on someone suffering mental illness or with genuine problems. What would promises that it’s going to be the most depressing day of the year do to someone who has 360-plus other bad days ahead of them before the next Blue Monday? With Christmas credit card bills looming, the sun still barely making an appearance before most people get to work, and the ice thick on windscreens, all this doom and gloom wasn’t helping anybody.
Imagine the impact this had on people’s personal and professional lives on Monday 20th January this year and all the Blue Mondays before that. Even the most positive individual, who loves their job, might have been guilty of slumping their shoulders and joining the masses in a state of anguish. It’s hardly the mindset for someone about to teach a class of students, give a seminar, or motivate a sales team at the start of another busy week.
It caused me to wonder about the power of perception and our approach to Mondays, and other days of the week, generally. The alarm clock sounds the same as any other day, the kettle takes as long to boil, and the coffee tastes just as good. Yet, somehow, to most people, the first day of the week feels a little bit worse even than Tuesday and a whole lot different to Saturday. It’s a deeply engrained mindset that started when we were at school and continues into adult life, especially for those who work during the week rather than in shift patterns or at weekends.
Studies suggest that productivity on Mondays and, for the opposite reason, Fridays is hindered by our approach to days of the week. We’ve all put off making a call on a Monday morning because we fear someone isn’t yet in full working mode, while just as many of us have put off that Friday call having already drifted into the weekend. In between, the other days of the week all have their own peculiarities. Tuesday is said to be the best for distributing newsletters because recipients are at their most attentive, for example, while Wednesday is Hump Day (the halfway point) and Thursday is Friday Jr. Friday itself is usually reserved for offsite lunches, dressing down, and early finishes.
There are two approaches a business can take to ensure this obsession with days of the week doesn’t get in the way of productivity. The first is to try to create an environment that always feels energised and positive, whether it be Blue Monday or Black Friday. The other is to embrace the ebb and flow of a working week and plan accordingly. Really, a company should try to do both. Here are examples of both strategies:
1. Today is a gift
Of course, it depends greatly on the type of business—machines work just as hard on a Monday morning as they do on, say, a Thursday—but a healthy culture will drastically reduce the downtime a people-powered business experiences at low points in the week. Making sure a team is motivated, challenged, rewarded and respected will ensure individuals don’t spend Monday morning slumped at their desks, at the wheel, or over their tools. The week won’t feel like a slog and they’ll also be less inclined to take their foot off the pedal as the weekend approaches. Managers can strategically place meetings or announcements to even out throughput.
2. Go with the flow
The other tactic is to accept that a workforce, customers, suppliers, etc. are going to naturally take a while to warm up at the start of a week and fade away after lunch on Fridays. With that reality in mind, a business can make sure it hones its focus on certain activities at particular times in the week. For example, can important duties that don’t require people to take calls be completed first thing on a Monday and can pulling people offsite for meetings be left until Friday? Is there a way to capitalise as individuals are more prepared to travel or spend evenings away from home between Tuesday and Thursday?
As an aside, it’s worth keeping an eye on those who appear to be especially low at certain times of the week and hyperactive others. There might be a way to lessen these extremes. If work itself is what’s getting them down, a change of duty might be required or it may be best for both parties if they look elsewhere for opportunities. It is important not to overlook this because of the impact it can have on other team members. If someone has the answers to colleagues’ questions, they’ve got to be approachable at 8am on a Monday and 5pm on a Friday. Being intimidated by someone can lead to not asking for help or guessing the answers to questions. This will eventually cause problems.
There is a caveat to that, however: while most longtime employees at a company will have much in common, it’s necessary to embrace all personalities, provided they work for the team. Within that truism, there’s scope for flexibility. If someone is exceptional at their job but arrives after a hectic school run or travels many miles on a busy motorway, it’s unreasonable to expect them to be at the top of their game as soon as they walk through the door. With this in mind, watch out for toxic employees that might use circumstances to their advantage and deliberately approach colleagues when their patience is at its shortest.
As is often the case, it’s good advice to be yourself and let others be themselves.
Trade show organisers are aware of the way we approach a working week, which is why most exhibitions aren’t staged on Fridays and others are tailored to the working hours of the demographic that attends.
The Subsea Expo in Aberdeen, for example, takes place on Tuesday 11th to Thursday 13th February, allowing people to travel on Monday and Friday. The last day is likely to be the quietest as is customary at most, if not all, trade fairs. I’ll be in attendance with Steve Walker, managing director at JD Neuhaus UK Ltd. (JDN), as we continue to distribute their Mini Next Gen air hoists, which are suited to the offshore and subsea sectors.
“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” — Bil Keane
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd