An open book and a glass of water sit on a wooden table overlooking a tranquil lake surrounded by mountains and greenery. The scene, much like effective leadership coaching, is calm and serene, with soft sunlight casting shadows on the table and water.

“Hello, it’s me. Your Executive Coach. Please stop working during the weekends.”

In today’s hustle culture and fast-paced corporate environment, the pressure on executives and leaders to excel is ever-present. However, there’s a persistent misconception that working over the weekend enhances productivity and success. Today I’ll shed light on the adverse effects of weekend work on executive performance, drawing insights from research studies and industry experts.

Impact on Mental Health

Several studies have found a direct correlation between prolonged work hours, including weekends, and increased stress levels. The American Psychological Association (APA) highlights the negative impact of chronic stress on decision-making capabilities (“Stress in America,” APA, 2021). This chronic stress contributes to burnout, ultimately diminishing overall executive performance. This is exactly why I’ve been talking about rest and self-care so much lately.

Four Scrabble tiles spelling "REST" lie on a soft, white, textured background. The letters are green, and the tiles are arranged neatly in a horizontal line—a subtle reminder that development as a leader often begins with rest and reflection.Reduced Work-Life Balance

Executives often find it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. There’s even a notion that work-life balance is a myth, impossible to attain. However, I would argue that the notion of work-life balance as a perfectly calibrated distribution of time and energy between work and home is the wrong approach. Instead, executives should strive for an aggregate work-life balance. Sometimes your work will take more time and energy and sometimes your personal life will take more of your time and energy. It’s not always 1:1, but if, in the aggregate, over a period of time, you’ve given to both parts in a relatively equal fashion, you will have achieved a measure of balance. A study published in the “Journal of Applied Psychology” emphasizes the importance of work-life balance in enhancing job satisfaction and overall well-being (Clark, 2017). Working over the weekend exacerbates this imbalance, leading to strained personal relationships and decreased job satisfaction.

Decreased Cognitive Function

Extended work hours, especially over weekends, contribute to cognitive fatigue. A study by Lim and Dinges (2010) found that inadequate rest impairs cognitive functions such as problem-solving and decision-making. This can have long-term repercussions on the organization’s ability to adapt and innovate. We need rest. Our brains need rest. If you want to perform at your best, you need to make your weekends restful and take that time to recuperate so you actually can hit the ground running (and thinking) on Monday morning.

Impact on Employee Engagement

Executives serve as role models within an organization, influencing workplace culture. A report by Gallup on employee engagement (2020) suggests that executive behavior significantly influences employee satisfaction and engagement. Constant weekend work may set unrealistic expectations, fostering a culture of overwork and negatively impacting overall employee engagement. I can’t tell you how many clients tell me that they have told their team members, “Don’t work over the weekend.” And yet, my clients are doing it. When you’re the boss and you’re working every weekend, your team will get the message, “Do as I do, not as I say,” loudly and clearly. You absolutely must set an example and stop doing what you don’t want your team to do.

Impaired Long-Term Productivity

While working over the weekend may yield short-term gains, research suggests that sustained periods of overwork result in decreased long-term productivity. A study by Demerouti et al. (2012) found that executives who prioritize rest and recovery contribute more effectively to an organization’s success over the long term. This just makes good sense. Think about it: you’re working all week. You’re working all weekend. There’s no time for rest. You’re exhausted and burned out, and your brain isn’t even functioning at peak levels. Of course your long-term productivity will be impacted. If you want to be a rockstar, you have to rest.

The prevailing notion that working over the weekend is beneficial for executives warrants serious reconsideration. The research consistently highlights the detrimental effects on mental health, work-life balance, cognitive function, employee engagement, and long-term productivity. It’s like I tell my executive coaching clients nearly every single day: Prioritize deep self-care. Embrace a holistic approach to your life. And know that rest has an intrinsic value in sustaining peak performance.

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