Weekend Work: Why do we do it?

Many of us are weekend workers.

Whether it’s prepping something for the next week or simply playing catch up on last week’s tasks, all too often our work follows us home.

This is often an annoyance to our friends and family, and even ourselves. However, there are a couple reasons why some people are more likely to take their work home on the weekends or work during their leisure time.

We may gripe about having to work on the weekends. But, some research indicates that one of the primary reasons people work during leisure time has to do with the pleasure of being productive. Feeling productive provides us with a ‘high’ and a sense of making a difference. It also gives a feeling of accomplishment and a greater satisfaction with life in general.

Another driving force behind weekend work is the desire to increase one’s income. One specific study evaluated the desire to earn in the form of chocolate.

  • This study divided its participants into two different groups. One group earned candy by listening to a high pitched noise less times, while the second group earned candy for listening to the noise more frequently.
  • Participants could hear the noise and get as much chocolate as they wanted within 5 minutes. They could then eat the chocolate for the next 5 minutes and anything leftover after that would need to be returned.
  • The study found that both groups attempted to earn as much as possible, no matter what their pay rate, desire or capacity was.
  • Earning desire was not based on how much participants wanted or needed, but boiled down to how much work could be withstood or performed.

So what’s wrong with working too much and over the weekend? 

One of the consequences is a decline in our cognitive resources, which help us manage our behavior, desire and emotions. This causes fatigue and reduces our self-regulatory capacity, which in turn leads us to:

  • Focus more on primary duties and ignore non-essential tasks at work, which are often important for compliance, safety and productivity/cost savings.
  • Compromise our moral compass and increase the likelihood of being dishonest & cheating.
  • Make more mistakes.

It’s important to recognize that our cognitive resources, our think-tanks, really need to be charged every once in a while. Like a battery, they become depleted and separating out dedicated leisure time, and dedicated work time is important in leading a balanced, productive life and career.

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