Treating your weekend like a holiday: Tips for overworked Australians

Feeling overworked? Pretend you're on holiday on your weekends.

Feeling overworked? Pretend you're on holiday on your weekends. Photo: Getty

More and more Australians are not disengaging from the daily grind on their weekends, leading to a lowered mood among the nation’s workers, new research has shown.

Off the back of a study from a Californian university, Aussies are being urged to try treating their weekends more like holidays, in order to fully recharge and boost their happiness levels.

University of California Los Angeles School of Management researchers Colin West, Cassie Mogilner Holmes and Sanford E. DeVoe came to the not-so-surprising conclusion holidays improve health, boosts job performance and creativity.

It seems our grandparents were onto something – the Sunday drive, or simply making the most of your weekend, does wonders to our mindset and our mood on Monday morning.

The research

When considering Americans on average only take off 17 paid days of their allotted 23 paid days, the UCLA researchers came up with a hack: “Frame your weekend as a vacation,” they said.

The study formed two control groups: One was sent off into the weekend with the prompt to treat it like a regular weekend.

The other group was instructed: “To the extent possible, [to] think in ways and behave in ways as though you were on vacation.”

Participants prompted to treat the weekend like a holiday reported back to work on Monday happier (mean score 5.24) than the control group (mean score 4.83) out of a happiness scale ranging from one (not at all) to seven (a lot).

Spending weekends with each other, not doing chores, helps the Monday blues. Photo: Getty

How to turn your weekend into a holiday

Happier participants spent less time on housework and more time eating and spending time with loved ones.

The Sunday road trip or time at the beach certainly improved moods, but it was the holiday mindset that made all the difference.

“The benefits do not require taking additional time off from work, excessive spending for extravagant travel or the inclusion of particular activities,” the researchers said.

“Fully attainable to anyone, vacations involve a mental break that allows people to become more fully engaged in and absorbed by their time off, making that time more enjoyable.”


Take a dip this weekend and ditch the laundry basket. Photo: Getty

Turned on to work, inside and outside the office

While many people have a series of errands, chores and children’s sporting events to tend to on the weekend, the UCLA study begs the question, why aren’t we treating our weekends (or days off) like we used to?

Australian Catholic University’s Professor Sugumar Mariappanadar researches workplace guilt and a growing preparedness to compromise our health and wellbeing for our jobs.

In Germany and France, governments have legislated employees “right to disconnect” and have banned emails and phone communication after knock-off time, but Dr Mariappanadar told The New Daily Australians were not “psychologically disengaging” from work.

Dr Mariappanadar, who has written a book on the topic, Human Resource Management: Strategies, Practices and Challenges, said Australians had paid leave, but this didn’t ensure psychological disengagement.

“We’re slowly following the American model where you’re allowed to take leave, but you’re still asked to work,” Dr Mariappanadar said.

“You don’t know when a call is going to come in.”

 How do we psychologically disengage?

Before you say “wellness”, Michael Young, the director of the Melbourne meditation centre, warned against setting a “mindfulness weekend” to the “to-do” list.

The meditation practitioner, who has been teaching meditation and mindfulness for more than 15 years in Melbourne, said it was OK to be a “mediocre meditator” and just have a break on the weekend.

“It’s controversial, but I wouldn’t try to practise mindfulness [on the weekend]. Give yourself a treat, a break, do what you absolutely love doing.

“When you do what you love, you’re automatically mindful.”

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