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  • Writer's pictureSubha

Have You Been Working Weekends Too? You’re Not Alone

Sometimes, it is hard to believe that we went from the luxury of contemplating four-day workweeks to working during all times of the day. While some of it can be attributed to pandemic-induced lockdowns forcing us indoors, we must ask ourselves- is the hustle culture so deeply encoded into us that we must be seen as busy, no matter what?

Several colleagues and friends have recently come to us with one report- I have been asked to work on a Saturday and it is assumed that I will. Do bear in mind that this isn’t an exceptional case, but instead a simple overflow of the typical week into the weekend. And if this feels very anecdotal, look no further than a September 2020 article from the Harvard Business School.

Nearly 10% of all emails this past year were sent beyond office hours, mainly because what are office hours even anymore, but also because of how we tend to react to situations beyond our control.

It is human nature to look at a problem we cannot solve and then gnaw instead on the ones that we can. Since March 2020, that problem for us, the one that’s easy to tackle, has been work. After all, work pays us money and does not expect us to get too personal.

And yet, a year into the pandemic, that’s taking a toll on us all. More people reported feeling burnt out this year than they have in the past decade put together. Jumping from one Zoom call to another is finally showing us what we’re actually capable of, and it doesn’t help that we now have to cancel weekends as well.

This is a problem for those in full-time jobs and in business.

In a job, we follow the precedent set, and in that context, when our colleagues show up, we have no choice but to do so. This circle of discomfort only ever expands, but it also means that everyone else only follows what others already do.

In this context, leaders and managers have a unique opportunity today.

How leaders can help set healthy work boundaries

We saw a post from Thrive on Instagram, and it says,

“You’re not working from home. You’re working from home in the middle of a pandemic. Remember that.”

In 2021, we finally understand what this means. Gone are the days of banana bread and Dalgona coffee, replaced by clear and powerful dread for the health of our loved ones. These are the circumstances we are working in.

As a team leader, it is possible to

● Set a precedent of not working on weekends until the circumstances genuinely demand it.

● Define what circumstances actually demand it- for example, a missed deadline may warrant the odd working Saturday, but weekends are not the problem if several deadlines are being missed.

● Decide what kind of work can be taken up, optionally, on a Saturday- attending a workshop to learn something new may not be as stressful as pulling long hours to catch up with work.

● Make it normal for people to do things outside of work over the weekend, and discuss it openly in team meetings and Slack channels.

Should businesspeople be working weekends?

The answer to this question is a little blurry, mainly because we have glorified the hustle. Businesses, we believe, must be built by pouring all of our time and energy into just one endeavour.

We believe that this is the wrong message to take away from founder success stories. When a founder says, “I worked long days and nights to make this happen”, they aren’t attributing their success to their sacrificed weekends. What they’re saying instead is that they have been so inspired to solve a problem that they just didn’t feel the need to take any time off.

Sacrificing our weekends to achieve the same outcome is a bit like waking up at 5 AM because all successful people supposedly do- it messes up the cause and the consequence.

The simple answer to the question above is this - work weekends if you want to, and not out of pressure, or because you feel compelled to do so.

The many benefits of downtime

To understand where our hustle culture stems from, we need to take a trip down memory lane to the industrial era. When machines were first introduced, the people operating them needed to work 12-hour shifts to operate them at all times of day and night.

Today, in the knowledge economy, putting the brain to work all day does not yield the same results. Research shows that scheduled downtime helps us get excited about life, gives us a chance to broaden our horizons, and lets us appreciate the circumstances that support us in our daily life.

Many creative professionals report that after taking a vacation or after a long weekend where they get to switch off completely, they often come back to work with renewed enthusiasm.

Yet another reason to normalise not working weekends, we think.

So the next time we pick up the phone to message a colleague over the weekend, let us be mindful of the fact that we are entering their personal space. How would they feel if we showed up uninvited to their home? Messaging them while they’re not working is the virtual equivalent of showing up unannounced.

If you still must get in touch with them, a message along the lines of, “Something at work has come up, and I’m sorry I have to reach out. Can we speak for a moment? If that’s not convenient, let us do this first thing on Monday” really helps. It removes the pressure to reply from the transaction and lets people know that their time is of immense value.

How are you managing your time and energy and those of people you work with?

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