Why working through the weekend works

Every Friday, I will inevitably receive a ‘Happy Friday!’ greeting from an overly excitable colleague or client; or, if it’s a Wednesday, I’ll get at least one ‘Happy Hump Day!’ (which just sounds gross, sorry). But the worst of all of these is the ‘ugh, it’s Monday’ comment.

I really don’t understand the disappointment felt when Sunday night comes to an end. Similarly, Fridays don’t really mean ‘countdown till wine-o’clock’ for me, it is simply another part of my week; and being a grown-up, I can technically have a glass of wine any time I like.

Busy, and happy to spread the load across the weekend. Photo: iStock

Busy, and happy to spread the load across the weekend. Photo: iStock

Do I feel anxious about Mondays? Never. Do I feel overly excited about Friday 5pm? Nope.

The reason is that my work and home life have blurred into one. I don’t feel the need to have a clear separation between the two, and while my work doesn’t define who I am, it is definitely a very inclusive part of my life (regardless of the day of the week).

It seems a shame that emotions and mood can be determined simply by what day it is, especially as each new day is inevitable and out of our control.

Staying connected 24/7

In a 24/7 connected world, it is misguided of us to manically draw the line between work and pleasure. When once one would rise and check the business papers for an update on the news that broke overnight, now we can check using our phones at 2am while getting a glass of water in the middle of the night.

Almost everything we need to know is at our fingertips at a moment’s notice. But with that overabundance of information (and misinformation), comes a new set of responsibilities. Most professional roles and industries have an expectation that their workers don’t switch off at 5pm, and the onus is on the individual to manage this using clear communication with their employer (or employees).

Working as the online publisher for opinion site The Big Smoke, I wouldn’t think twice about responding to an email at 7am on a Sunday. Instead of it stressing me out on a weekend, it does the opposite; I feel less anxious about coming into the office on Monday.

The best approach to work, and to life in general, is to take it in bite-sized chunks, while referring back to the big picture. This means I don’t have the luxury of ‘switching off’ on the weekend, and nor do I want to. It also gives me the flexibility to work in a way that is conducive to nurturing other important areas of my life -  family, friends and hobbies.

Because I don’t have strict parameters around work and life, it means I can take that hour-long call from a friend who’s having a crisis at 2pm on a Tuesday, because I know that the time I’ve spent with her will be made up working later that evening.

Blurred lines

If you have a fixation on these boundaries and an attitude of ‘No I won’t answer a work call, it’s 6pm’, it will only cause you extra stress and pressure over the coming weeks, because you can bet that there will be  a competitor who will happily take five minutes out of their dinner to answer a quick question.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a risk I am not willing to take. It is not viable to assume that in a global marketplace your clients are going to fit in with what you deem to be reasonable hours.

For many professionals, completely switching off is the only way they can feel completely in the moment and if that’s what works, then fantastic. However, there always needs to be some level of connectivity to ensure things aren’t missed.

The concept of the end of the work-free weekend isn’t about turning people into workaholics. It’s about removing the angst that comes with battling to remove all facets of work from your social time, which inevitably builds up the to-do list and results in an unhealthy dislike for Mondays. 

At the end of the day, clients and competitors don’t disappear just because you want to spend the weekend in the Blue Mountains. So look at your career differently and don’t be misguided into taking a technology detox. Instead, continue working on the smaller tasks so that when you return from your break, your duties are manageable.

Take control back

If you Google work/life balance, there are a range of self-help articles available, but the common thread between all of these is that the searcher has lost an element of control and needs direction. Get control back by stepping out of the constant internal conflict to compartmentalise your social, family and work time – and embrace them all as parts of your messy, illustrious, productive and sometimes confusing life – whether it’s Monday or Friday.  

I’m not suggesting we all turn into robots. But we do need to become professionals who can discern, focus and include their work organically as part of the bigger picture of their lives. 

Alexandra Tselios is a business consultant and publisher of opinion site The Big Smoke. Alexandra has a diverse background in corporate, public and creative fields.

SMH

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