Have Your Weekends Disappeared?

If you’ve lost your weekends to work projects begging to be finished and annoying pop-up employer emails, you’re not alone. According to ActivTrak’s survey of 134,260 employees who worked for 900 separate organizations, employees work an average of 6.6 hours, almost a full work day, each weekend, https://www.activtrak.com/resources/reports/2023-state-of-the-workplace/. If this fits you, consider these questions:

Has your job taken over too much of your life?

What do you need to do to recover your weekend?

The vanishing weekend

For many employees, weekends dwindled in exchange for a flexible work/life balance. You want to attend exercise classes at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Go for it. You drop your kids off at nine a.m. and pick them up at three p.m.? No problem, use your weekend to check up on work you left undone during your shortened work days. You’d rather shop at Costco on Wednesdays than on Saturday? Why not, that saves you time in long checkout lines and avoid contact with large numbers of shoppers.  

You haven’t “lost” your weekends; they’ve become “found time” to finish work that spilled over from the week. You may have even learned to enjoy handling some handling some work over the weekend, in exchange for less hectic Monday mornings.

For other employees, work has long invaded the weekend, as job cuts heaped more work onto fewer employees and employers demanded more from those intent on holding onto their jobs in a shaky economy. Even before the pandemic, a survey reported that seven out of ten employees worked one weekend a month, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/work-invades-the-american-weekend-new-survey-reveals-almost-seven-in-10-put-in-a-full-workday-at-least-one-weekend-a-month-300445805.html.

Another two-thirds of the employees surveyed reported their employers expected them to work an average of nine hours each weekend. Additionally, 74 percent of respondents between 25 and 44 noted they “couldn’t stop thinking about their work” on weekends. And while technology that enables many employees to work when and where they choose, it comes with a price tag—notifications that grab our attention even when we’re “off” work.

Taking back your weekend

            If you work more than you want on the weekends, you’ve lived the negative consequences. Perhaps you’ve turned down social events, camping trips or weekends at the cabin. Likely Monday morning hits before you’ve fully recharged from the prior workweek.

            If so, these five strategies can help you regain your weekends.

            Set boundaries. When you worked in the office, you physically left your worksite at the end of the week. You began unwinding during your commute home. If you now lack these boundaries, create similar boundaries. If you have a work laptop or cell phone, turn them off Friday evening. If you think of an idea, write it down but don’t act on it. Instead, stow it in a file folder marked “open Monday.”

            Schedule. Plan weekend events that matter, so you won’t feel tempted to use your weekend for unfinished projects.

            Avoid triggering others. If you log on to your computer and see an employer or coworker email that catches your interest, feel free to draft a response, but don’t hit send. Instead, save your response in your “draft” folder, so your response won’t trigger continued weekend communications.

            Clean up your act. If you’ve gotten sloppy, knowing you can use your weekend to finish projects you procrastinate on during the workweek, clean up your act. Fully leverage your Monday to Friday work time, so your productivity exceeds your boss’s expectations.

            Check expectations. Many managers that work throughout the weekend send employees ideas and questions as they arise in the manager’s mind. If you’re an employee, you may feel duty-bound to respond to every email. If you ask your manager if s/he expects this from you, you may learn your manager simply wants to get those thoughts off their desk and into your inbox and feels okay with a Monday response.

            Have you lost your weekends? They’re waiting for you. Invite them back.

(c) 2023 Lynne Curry

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One thought on “Have Your Weekends Disappeared?

  1. Practical suggestions! Particularly the one about getting your act together and not leaving so much for the weekend. I’m afraid I see this as people who insist on the work-lief balance argument to go to all of their kids’ events, go shopping, etc. during working hours who also then complain about having no weekend because of all the accumulated un-worked hours they have from the regular week, THAT THEY CHOSE NOT TO WORK. You can’t have it both ways. You are lucky if you have a job where you can work flexible hours, because many to most workers do not. And it would be good, too, to remember that when dealing with wait-staff, customer service reps, healthcare workers and others who are among the very large group who do not have this flexibility in their work day and are supposed to be cheerful about it.

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