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14 reasons to disconnect at the weekend (according to science)


Work has a horrible habit of following us around, these days – and the most ambitious of us have the equally bad habit of encouraging it. The ubiquity of the smart phone causes many of us to check emails on the commute home, at the dinner table, last thing at night and in bed each morning. Laptops and cloud storage mean that overtime can easily be done on the move. Online pundits repeatedly remind us that networking is everything, meaning that a casual party or a Saturday afternoon in a downtown café can soon bring out the work bore in us. Even if you love your work, it’s important to remind yourself now and again that you’re more than a walking résumé.

These are just a few impressions of how work can interfere with your private life. But look into the science of today’s workaholic culture and there’s plenty of hard evidence that taking work home with you is a bad idea. If you’ve had trouble forcing yourself to take proper time off in the past, now is a good moment to consider some well-researched practical reasons for taking it easy – and some serious solutions to help you do so.

Extra working days mean extra stress

For a start, working weekends means added stress. Studies have shown that levels of the stress hormone cortisol are higher when you get up to a workday compared to a day of rest. To keep stress under control, you need to take those two (or more) days of rest and relaxation at the weekend. That means making rules that both you and your employers must keep to. For example, keep a separate work phone, and let them know that it will be switched off at the weekends. Keep it in a drawer, and you won’t feel so tempted to check in.

But the best way to avoid temptation at the weekend is to fill that hole with something else. If you make full, exciting plans for your days off, you are less likely to reach for your laptop. Make plans in advance with people that you care for, and you are less likely to change your mind about going out. Do activities that will stretch the physical and mental muscles that don’t get a workout while you’re sitting at work. Go for a walk, a swim; watch a movie, take a writing course. Find an activity you truly enjoy and make space for it.

Relaxing is good for business

If you find the very thought of taking time off actually stresses you out, science has an answer for that too: overworking is bad for business. The stress, low morale and illness caused by overwork costs American business over $300bn each year, through absenteeism and reduced productivity.

Take a short, voluntary break and you’re less likely to hit a serious bad patch later on. Studies have also shown that employees who take proper breaks get better performance ratings from their bosses. If you work from home, it can be difficult to separate business and leisure so make sure to keep a separate work zone, whether that’s a separate room or a desk where you can hide away your laptop and documents out of sight.

A new infographic from NetCredit collects some of this evidence and more into a single resource that you might want to share with your overworking colleagues. Below you’ll find fourteen scientifically verified reasons to leave work at work, along with a series of methods on how to do so. Take back your weekends and evenings, and you’ll find your mind, body and soul will prosper – and good results at work will follow.

14 reasons to disconnect at the weekend (according to science)

About Marilyn Vinchy

Marilyn Vinchy is a freelance writer and HR specialist. She works for several marketing and public relations agencies, supporting their content teams. She writes about leadership, careers and personal development, and has a knack for productivity and time management techniques. You’ll find her on Twitter here, and you can also visit her blog.

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