In today’s society, work is becoming a seven-day-a-week proposition. Mobile technology is blurring the lines between work and leisure. Working on weekends has become the new normal. People are compelled to spend their off time working in order to stay on top of their work, catch up on items from the previous week or get a head start on the next week’s tasks.
Business Insider Executive Editor Joe Weisenthal recently wrote an article about this inability an alarming amount of people have to unplug. He believes that two days of weekend is too much for many people:
“It seems that totally disconnecting for two days is too excruciating for a lot of people, so that by Sunday morning they’re eager to start getting back into the swing of things.”
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 35 percent of employed Americans work at least one day on the weekend.
Decades of research continue to support the notion that the current 40-hour workweek is indeed, the sweet spot. It further shows that working overtime and weekends can lead to serious negative effects on health (mental and physical), relationships, and overall productivity. Over time, working long hours can increase your risk of depression, heart attack, and heart disease.
Some people are more susceptible to working weekends than others
Why is it that some people have no problem unplugging on weekends and return to work Monday morning disturbingly bright, chipper and well rested? While others drag in from a weekend of working looking, tired, haggard and sometimes physically ill?
Research suggests that your ability to unplug is tied to your personality–specifically your tendency towards optimistic or pessimistic thinking.
Jennifer Ragsdale, a psychologist at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, conducted a study to examine the three-way interactions between weekend activities (low-effort and work-related) and both positive trait affectivity or PA (positive outlook, cheerfulness and enthusiasm) and negative trait affectivity–NA (Anger, disgust, fear and frustration) on the ability for people to recover from work week stressors. The study found that– generally speaking, positive affectivity (and negative affectivity) greatly influence one’s opinions and decisions and dictates how they respond to and handle stress. A brain with a tendency towards NA will struggle with the ability to detach, relax and experience a sense of mastery.
People with a higher NA tend to be more easily overwhelmed, prone to anxiety and are unable to relieve stress at work. They have the tendency to work on weekends and – even worse – while on vacation. Scores of individuals are under the false illusion that if they work at home, on nights and weekends, they can reduce stress at work and stay ahead of the curve. Studies show that the opposite is actually true. For people with higher NA more work equates to more stress and more negative thoughts and feelings.
Learning how to relieve stress at work is key to taking a break
First, try to identify your primary stressors. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work? Is the work labor intensive and time sensitive? If so, working on time management and learning how to allocate your time during each day may be key to accomplishing your tasks in a timely manner while still preserving your free time. Attacking your primary stressors by having a plan and being proactive can assist in counteracting your brain’s natural NA tendencies.
Another major key in ending the cycle of never ending work is to understand that you are more productive when you take periodic breaks. Research is definitively on this point. Your brain needs to completely disengage from work related activity periodically. It will reduce your stress and make you better in all areas of your life.