Your Shitty Weekend is Ruining Your Productivity

Having a shitty weekend hurts your productivity come Monday morning.

Two professors, Charlotte Fritz and Sabine Sonnentag, collected surveys from emergency service workers before, during, and after the weekend to try and analyze the effects of what happened over the weekend on their work performance, as well as their health.

They looked at three things: socializing on the weekend, taking time to think positively about work, and non-work hassles. Non-work hassles basically means problems that don’t have anything to do with work-life, like fighting with family or getting a flat tire.

Here are a few findings that probably just confirm things you already believed:

  • People who were more social over the weekend said they felt better after the weekend than those who didn’t socialize.
  • People who reflected positively about their jobs over the weekend reported lower levels of exhaustion after the weekend.
  • People who had more non-work hassles during the weekend felt worse after the weekend than those who had less stress during their weekends, and they self-reported lower performance on the job after they went back to work.

Now, here are two points that are a little more unusual, though not completely unexpected:

  • Workers reported their task performance higher on Monday than on Tuesday.
  • People who had a lot of non-work hassles during the weekend reported lower performance in their tasks after the weekend. In other words, having a shitty weekend actually made their work suffer.

Grains of Salt

The paper has a few other interesting correlations, but it’s also fraught with problems. First, the sample size is really low, just 87 people. Second, the respondents were overwhelmingly male, more than 95 percent! Third, all the data comes from self-reporting, which I rarely trust when talking about productivity. I want to know whether these emergency service workers responded faster, or took more emergencies per hour, after a refreshing weekend. I don’t really care if they believe they were better at their jobs. 

Finally, emergency service work is a unique profession, and this group only got two days off back-to-back once a month. So they don’t get regular weekends off the way most nine-to-five workers do. Who knows how much having regular respite changes the game.

Emergency service personnel also physically can’t do work on the weekends, whereas a knowledge worker might try to answer a few emails, or a teacher might grade papers. I would imagine that any study of the effect of weekends on other kids of workers would need to account for whether and how much work the employees did on their theoretical time off. 

What Can We Do About It?

Probably the biggest take-away from this study is confirmation that weekends can refresh and recharge employees. Socializing and thinking about why you like your job over the weekend could result in a more productive Monday. 

If you’re in that camp, keep doing what you’re doing. Keep an active social life. And when you’re making small talk with your friends or family about your job while socializing, try to mention the value you find in your work, rather than vent and complain about your job.

If your social life sucks, however, or you’ve had a stroke of bad luck that caused some problems and stressful situations during your time off, then the weekend might actually have an adverse effect on the productivity of your Monday. 

In that case, I’d recommend getting busy work, or “work about work” done on Mondays and Tuesday and saving your more important tasks for later in the week. That way, you’ll be getting necessary tasks done when you’re at your least productive, but you’ll be doing the things that require less focus and skill.

Reference

Fritz, C., & Sonnentag, S. (2005). Recovery, health, and job performance: Effects of weekend experiences. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 187–199. doi:10.1037/1076-8998.10.3.187

Photo by Jasperdo, CC.

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