The first few weeks of the year are when the office mood is at its glummest.
Blue Monday, a concept created in 2005 (albeit by a holiday company trying to get people to book), and billed as “the most depressing day of the year” falls soon.
No one agrees if it’s the second or third Monday in January, but the theory is sound. Christmas is over, we’re feeling the after-effects, bank accounts are low, and – crucially – it can seem as though there’s little to look forward to.
So it’s baffling that people choose to amplify their state of tranquil gloom by making everything worse. And yet they do.
Here’s what you can watch out for around the office. Whether you choose to view this as “friends who need your support” or “people to hide from in the stationery cupboard” is, of course, entirely a matter for you.
A few years ago, I arranged to see an old mate in mid-January.
It’s already the darkest, coldest, most miserable month, with only the cosy flicker of Burns’ Night in the last week to keep you going. So the idea of steak and a bottle of a decent red halfway through seemed perfect. “Oh, I’m not drinking,” he said. “I’m doing Dry January.”
At the time, this wasn’t really a thing, and he was the last person you’d expect to do it – although thinking about it, that may have been why.
So we went out, ate steak, and I drank three large glasses of excellent Malbec while he drank mocktails and looked sad.
I want to say I vowed right then never to take part in Dry January or “Dryathlon” (although that sounds like a synthetic fabric), but it wouldn’t be true. That vow came a year later, when I went to a late-January birthday party. Two thirds of the guests were clutching glasses of fizzy water and looking resentful, and the party went with all the swing of a trip to the morgue.
This year I will be doing Ginuary. I’m sure the concept is self-explanatory.
Making both ends meat
Now we have Veganuary. Record numbers of people have signed up to abstain from meat and dairy for a month. Personally, I’m in favour, as my butcher tends to run out of the bacon I like by the time I arrive on Saturdays – you see? I’ve started the vegan-baiting already. It’s like a reflex.
There’s an old joke format dating back to the war that goes “How do you know when a chap’s a fighter pilot?” “Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.” This is sometimes applied to vegans in general, which is unfair. But you can guarantee that anyone giving up their favourite foods for a month will harp on about it.
We saw last year that it’s important not to mock people for deeply cherished food beliefs, so you mustn’t. Instead, mock them in February when their deeply cherished beliefs turn out to involve bacon.
It’s gym life, but not as we know it
Regulars know to avoid their gym like a plague pit in January, when it’s full of new people having inductions, falling over, and getting in the way.
It’s okay, they won’t be there long. You may have colleagues who want to explain their new fitness regimes, though. It’s a great opportunity to tell hair-raising stories of improbable injuries caused by machine malfunctions: “...on the plus side, now he can get both ankles behind his head”.
The key thing this month is to show a bit of compassion while your coworkers battle through whatever self-inflicted misery they’ve chosen to undergo – they’ll thank you for it when they come to their senses.
In the meantime, enjoy the fact that your post-work Friday round will be very cheap. Cheers.