How often do you find yourself working on the weekends? If you buckle down more often than you can say, you are likely to develop depression and associated risk disorders.
Weekends are the Holy Grail for most working people. These are the two days that allow you to legitimately put your feet up, catch up on rest and leisure and family. Even the Bible sanctions the day of Sabbath as the rest day.
But not all employment follows this traditional Monday to Friday 40-hour workweek formula. Many jobs spillover into your rest time and some people spend their weekends trying to finish a time-bound project, catching up on tasks or putting in those extra hours to stay ahead of the game in demanding corporate jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employed people in the US worked an average of 5.4 hours on a weekend day.
Working on the Weekends in the New Normal
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employed people in the US worked an average of 5.4 hours on a weekend day. Additionally, the new technological revolution has shifted the way people are working. With remote access and flexible timing on offer, people agree to be available at all odd hours.
Add to this the new smart devices that insidiously intrude into the me-time. It makes one available, and on-call 24/7, the work etiquette has yet not been fully developed and formalized to limit one’s availability for work any time each time.
When work intrudes on the time traditionally considered to be days off from work, it does have an adverse effect.
Anxiety and Social Isolation
Working on weekends impacts on family time. The weekends are off for children and your spouse, and these are the days that family outings, socializing and other such get-togethers are planned, and non-participation or cancellation is bound to upset everyone. Disgruntled attitudes affect you and your mood too.
Even people who are not married will be missing out on all the socializing that friends and family indulge in on weekends. Social isolation is a big fallout of working on weekends.
When a person is available 24/7 there is a feeling of never being off the hook or relaxing. One becomes a slave to the next message or email. There are surveys that say that on average, more than 75 per cent of workers in the US are available for work on weekends via emails, messages and phones.
Anxiety and panic attacks are the fallout of such an existence. A study co-authored by William Becker, a Virginia Tech associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business, “Killing me softly: electronic communications monitoring and employee and significant-other well-being,” says that work expectations result in anxiety, which adversely affects the health of employees and their families.
The employee does not need to be physically present at work to put in more hours. The mere expectation of availability adds to the anxiety of awaited tasks. When they ( the messages) come or if they come leads to dissatisfaction both ways.
Organizations that tend to propagate the culture of flexitime and work from home disguise the psychological impact of availability at odd hours as a benefit. Flexitime and work from home often end up intruding on home life with no actual accounting of the exact hours put in. Additionally, the pressure is on of being away from the work culture and presumably getting a great bargain.
Research by the Hans Böckler Foundation examined men and women with children on flexible working schedules. Men, in particular, work longer hours when working flexibly. Working from home, it turns out, is characterized by early starts and late finishes.
Associated Health Risks
Along with the psychological impact, physical health is also at risk. Anxiety often leads to hypertension and ulcers. Depression is another risk. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health says that depression was common among people who worked on weekends.
Stress, anxiety and depression and overall tiredness lead to less productivity. It can get into a vicious cycle of low output, leading to more stress and anxiety.
Health experts opine that work that cannot be handled at the workplace and is overwhelming and needs to be taken home adds to the feeling of inadequacy and illness. If one keeps on working and does not take any time off then there is no time to recuperate and rejuvenate to do the task better.
Seeing the intrusion of technology in work life and as an experiment, many countries have introduced reduced working hours per week and have found that productivity has, in fact, increased.
Other ways that work stress can be dealt with is by having policies in place that clearly state the expectations to monitor communications outside working hours or to set an off-hour window to monitor communications on off days.
Finally, the onus lies on the individual to set boundaries and demarcate work and family and me time. All work and no play definitely leads to a very dull and unhealthy Jack.