Working on the weekends. It’s like cleaning out your kitchen cabinets or washing your favorite pair of jeans that you know are going to shrink. Rarely do people actually want to do it, but sometimes you just have to. There are obviously some jobs where this is just part of the gig — like doctors who are on call on a Saturday — but it’s become increasingly common for people who have regular Monday-Friday jobs to log on over the weekends. Studies have even reported that up to 70% of people work at least one weekend a month, and about 35% of employed Americans are working on any given weekend.
Why is this a problem? First off, the weekends are when we’re able to spend the most quality time with family and friends. Spending time with your loved ones is important for your social life, but it’s also important for your health. Time with family and friends helps you better deal with stress, can improve your memory, and improves overall cognitive functions. Also, the emotional support of surrounding yourself with people you love just makes you happier.
Weekends are also a necessary detox time for your brain and body. Sitting in a chair staring at a screen is not only bad for your body physically — there are numerous studies that prove sitting negatively impacts our health — but it puts heavy strain on your brain that you need time to clear out and recover from. That’s where a few hours of Netflix and 48 hours of non-working time comes in. Plus, productivity per hour drops drastically over 50 hours per week, so adding on that weekend work time might only give you a fraction of the productivity you’d experience doing that same hour of work on a weekday.
So, with all of this knowledge, how do we live in a world where people are expected to work on the weekends? The smartphone is one of the biggest contributing factors. iPhones make it all too easy to receive a Gmail push notification on a Sunday morning with an urgent request from your boss. Before smartphones, you’d have to actively search for work during after-hours or on the weekend, but now we don’t even have to look for it — it just flits across our screen.
Because of this increased connectivity, our supervisors and coworkers know that they have easy access to us. We’re also in the age of workplace texting — messaging bosses, coworkers, direct reports, which often encourages immediate responses and calls to action, i.e. “I’ll send that email right away” or “I’ll get back online not to take care of it.” According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Almost half of workers say they respond to texts within five minutes, according to a survey of 1,000 working adults in the U.S.” That means that within a few minutes of their boss or coworker texting, the individual has replied and taken action, regardless of whatever else they’re doing that day.
An overabundance of meetings during the week might also force someone, especially a VP or C-suite leader, to turn to the weekends as time to get their personal work done. Studies have shown that C-suite leaders can spend up to 72% of their time during the week in meetings, which only leaves a small fraction of time to get actual work done.
So what’s the solution? One huge step you can take to limit time spent working on the weekends is to simply turn off your push notifications. It can also help to set a precedent with your boss that you’ll check your email or Slack once or twice over the weekend to see if there’s anything extremely urgent, but reserve the rest of the weekend as a work-free zone.
Another great tip is to try eliminating 25% of the meetings from your calendar during the week so you can address your action items during weekdays, instead of on a Sunday morning. You could even ask for a rough outline of discussion items before each meeting to confirm if you actually need the meeting, or if you could just handle everything over email or a quick 5-minute sync instead. Time-blocking could also be useful when it comes to meeting scheduling and action items — by assigning specific times of the day to certain activities, you can limit meetings allowed during those times. Your brain (and weekend) will thank you.
Do you have any other tips or hacks that help you increase productivity during the week and limit weekend working? Let us know in the comments below.