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Do you have a case of the Sunday Scaries?

Workplace creep has turned Sunday night into the new Monday morning. What can you do to ensure work doesn’t ruin your weekend?

It’s Sunday night. Are you relaxing at home, enjoying a peaceful evening with family or friends, or are you checking your work email, responding to a note your manager just sent or stressing out over a project you left hanging on Friday?

If you’re in the latter group, you are very much not alone. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Sunday night is the new Monday morning, and workers are miserable.”

The article cites “workplace creep” as the primary issue — chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

Staffing firm Robert Half conducted a recent survey that supports these findings:

  • Thirty-nine percent of U.S. workers reported having the “Sunday Scaries” — anxiety felt Sunday night before the start of the work week.
  • Forty-four percent cited heavy workloads/project deadlines as the primary cause of anxiety, followed by having a challenging relationship with their manager (18 percent) and not liking their job duties (17 percent).

A 2018 survey by LinkedIn delved even deeper, finding that 80 percent of professionals experience stress and anxiety on Sunday nights, and younger workers are especially affected. Ninety-four percent of Generation Z workers and 91 percent of millennials feel the Sunday Scaries, compared to 72 percent of Generation X professionals and 69 percent of baby boomers.

The LinkedIn survey looked at more than 1,000 full-time, part-time, and self-employed adults across the U.S. and found Sundays are particularly stressful for workers for a variety of reasons:

  • Sixty percent of professionals blame worrying about their workload;
  • Forty-four percent say it’s because of balancing professional and personal tasks; and
  • Thirty-nine percent fixate on projects they didn’t finish the week before that pile up.

It’s not a one-time feeling either. More than one in three professionals said they feel the Sunday Scaries every week.

It’s easy to see how the situation snowballs. A manager wants to get a jump on the week, so she sends out a few emails to members of her team on Sunday evening. Seeing they’ve got a new message from their supervisor, the team members feel compelled to respond right away, lest they look like they’re not as committed to the job. The cycle can be hard to break.

“Business is moving faster than ever, and many workers in Madison are feeling the strain of pressing deadlines, heavy workloads, and even some tension in their personal lives,” says Sasha Truckenbrod, branch manager of Robert Half in Madison.

“Between keeping up with rising business demands, meeting their manager’s expectations, and dealing with co-worker drama, people are feeling overworked, stressed, and burned out. When an employee is caught in a cycle of excessive stress, overexertion, constant feelings of anxiety, or other negative emotions, it’s likely to impact their productivity and overall well-being.”

So, what should workers do if they feel anxious on Sundays about work?

“If you’re experiencing burnout or workplace anxiety on a regular basis, don’t suffer in silence,” advises Truckenbrod. “Many companies provide internal resources where you can seek help. Check with your HR department to see if they offer counseling or other services. It’s also important to sit down with your manager and talk through what’s on your plate.”

Truckenbrod offers a few tips on how to manage work-related anxiety:

  • Protect your time. Rather than bringing work home with you, prioritize projects and schedule periods throughout the week to focus on key assignments. If you feel you need time to catch up, consider going in early on weekday mornings so you have time to check projects off your list.
  • Take a break. Step away from your desk, go for a walk, or grab a snack. If you can’t get outside, look away from the computer and focus on a non-work-related activity for a few minutes.
  • Unplug on the weekend. When possible, use your weekend to its fullest potential by unplugging from the office. This helps you come back to work recharged and with fresh perspective. This can be as simple as turning off your work email notifications on your smartphone on Friday afternoon and not turning them back on again until Monday morning.
  • Ask for help. If you’re working as hard as you can and still feel buried, talk to your manager. Seek advice on meeting expectations and discuss possible solutions to alleviate the pressure you’re feeling, such as adjusting deadlines or delegating. Your manager can’t help you if he or she is not aware of the problem.

The onus isn’t just on workers, however. Managers bear the brunt of the blame if they aren’t emphasizing the importance of disconnecting from the office during off hours.

“First and foremost, managers should set an example by not sending work emails over the weekend,” notes Truckenbrod. “It’s key for employers to make a conscious effort to establish a healthy work-life balance. This way, the team will follow the lead of their manager.”

Truckenbrod suggests managers should regularly meet with staff members individually to get a sense of their workload and help them prioritize responsibilities. Managers should also encourage their team to participate in wellness offerings at their company and make sure to participate themselves, as well.

“You may want to consider organizing some team stress-relief activities like group yoga,” says Truckenbrod. “It also helps to keep the mood light around the office — laughter builds camaraderie and can improve employee satisfaction. Finally, there’s no substitute for a good vacation, so be sure to encourage your staff to take time off. Employees who take their vacation time are often happier and more productive.”

Stressed out employees can have detrimental effects on the department or company, including decreased morale and productivity and increased turnover, explains Truckenbrod. Employee well-being has a significant impact on the performance and sustainability of organizations by affecting costs related to illness and health care, absenteeism, turnover, and motivation/effort.

“Happier employees are less likely to get sick and if they do get ill, they recover quicker,” Truckenbrod says. “They also make more tangible contributions to their organization, which can impact and improve the bottom line. Offering work-life balance options to employees is not only good for retaining your top performers, it’s flat-out good for business.”

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