What are the Sunday scaries?
The Sunday scaries are characterized by a sense of impending doom at the thought of a new work week. Similar to anxiety, they are a form of anticipatory stress that may affect employees both in and out of the office.
The phenomenon can result in several symptoms — headaches, nausea, irritability and trouble sleeping. While not a clinically recognized condition, a growing number of modern professionals claim to suffer from the Sunday scaries at the end of the weekend. Like many stressors, they may contribute to burnout and other productivity impairments.
What causes the Sunday scaries?
The end of the weekend is the surface-level cause of the Sunday scaries. But not everyone dreads returning to the workplace. For many, the condition stems from a complex blend of factors that interfere with an employee’s mental well-being.
If a person feels overwhelmed by their workload, the thought of tackling their long to-do list on Monday can be physically painful. For employees who are already burned out, the end of the weekend puts an end to their recovery time. A feeling that the weekend wasn’t well-spent can heighten this frustration.
Sometimes, the Sunday scaries are triggered by a specific task, such as a major deadline or unfinished tasks from the previous week. In these cases, the condition may be limited to weeks with a particularly high workload and may go away once the deadlines have passed.
The Sunday scaries may also signal a deeper problem in the workplace. Tension with another employee and unhealthy working environments can both facilitate the condition. Imposter syndrome and self-doubt are other contributing factors.
Why the Sunday scaries matter for employers
The Sunday scaries affect the individual but their influence can bleed into the workplace, creating immediate issues for employers.
Sunday anxiety doesn’t magically disappear on Monday. Employees who come to work stressed tend to be less productive overall. They often have trouble focusing and engaging with others.
From an employer’s perspective, this has several negative consequences. Lack of focus leads to missed deadlines and lower-quality work. Loss of engagement can affect the entire team’s mood and may create tension among employees. Left unchecked, the Sunday scaries can infect an entire workspace, lowering both productivity and job satisfaction.
Spotting the Sunday scaries
Knowing how the Sunday scaries manifest in employees is the first step in beating them. While the condition may look different for everyone, recognizing the common symptoms can help you spot it among your team.
Frequent signs of the Sunday scaries include:
- Missing deadlines
- Forgetting to complete tasks or attend meetings
- A sudden drop in communication
- Loss of engagement and enthusiasm
- Expressing sadness about the end of the weekend
How to help employees beat the Sunday scaries
Employees with Sunday anxiety often start their week off on the wrong foot. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help. Here are some strategies you can use to combat — and prevent — the Sunday scaries.
Locate common triggers
In some cases, the Sunday scaries have a specific, identifiable cause, such as a weekly Monday morning meeting. To find a solution, you must first help employees pinpoint the source.For example, is a weekly report with a Monday deadline creating a sense of doom every Sunday? Consider changing the due date to Tuesday. Or, move the 8am meeting to 1pm.
As an employer, you often have the power to make changes like these. While they seem minor, they can make a big difference to an employee.
When work picks up, it can be hard for some employees to manage their time effectively. Tight deadlines and urgent last-minute tasks can turn the average day into a frantic race against the clock. Prioritizing tasks properly prevents employees from devoting too much time to minor tasks and frees them up to focus on the projects that matter.
Try sitting down with struggling employees to prioritize their to-do lists. You may be able to provide insight into a project’s importance or even delegate some tasks elsewhere. This can help them avoid the sense of guilt that often comes with prioritizing one activity at the expense of another.
Promote better work-life balance
It’s tempting for employees to work after hours, especially during busier times. But failing to separate work and personal time can have negative consequences. Building a healthy work-life balance can prevent the two worlds from blending together.
Encourage employees to stay logged off once the workday is over and avoid contacting them outside of working hours. That way, they’ll enjoy a mental break from professional life during the week and won’t feel pressured to relax over the weekend.
Check in with employees
In a competitive professional world, signs of struggle are often misperceived as incompetence. For this reason, employees often hide their fight with the Sunday scaries.Conducting regular check-ins can help you identify employees who need extra support. Try scheduling weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member to assess their satisfaction.
Regular check-ins also have the benefit of strengthening relationships, as employees come to view you as a supporter and confidant. This makes them more likely to approach you for help rather than letting issues combine into a case of chronic Sunday anxiety.
Make the most of Friday
To prevent the Sunday scaries, you may need to turn to Friday. Encourage your team to set aside time at the end of the week to prepare for Monday’s tasks.
Consider designating an hour or two each Friday for planning the next week’s activities. This can eliminate the anxiety that stems from a lack of preparedness or a front-loaded work week. It also gives employees a chance to assess their to-do lists and get organized so they aren’t painfully surprised on Monday morning.You can also consider encouraging meeting-less “focus” Fridays where employees can get work done before Monday.
Establish a purpose
Without a clear purpose, employees often struggle to find the motivation or enthusiasm to succeed at work. When this happens, the start of a new week can become a source of dread. To fight the Sunday scaries, help employees rediscover their sense of purpose. To do this, highlight your company’s core values and work to develop a healthy sense of community.
Goal-setting can also be an effective way to motivate employees on a personal level. Try sitting down with employees to develop realistic goals and monitor their progress with regular check-ins. With something to work for, the start of the week is more likely to be marked with purpose rather than stress.
Sunday scaries vs Monday Blues
Both terms generally refer to feelings of anxiety or dread related to the upcoming workweek, which can make it easy to confuse both or assume that they are the same. However, the Monday Blues are different in a few ways.
The most obvious difference is that the Monday Blues occur on Mondays, generally in the morning. Some common factors that lead to the Monday blues include:
- Not being engaged or enthused about the job
- Feeling overwhelmed at work
- Simply not wanting the weekend to end
Just like with the Sunday scaries, the Monday blues can impact your team’s productivity and satisfaction at work. Beating the blues can be as simple as ensuring that you encourage a healthy work/life balance, but other options include finishing up Monday morning work on Friday afternoon and avoiding non-essential meetings on Mondays.
Bring fun to Mondays
Bringing a little bit of magic to each Monday can make the end of the weekend less painful for your employees. Consider having lunch catered every Monday or treating your employees to coffee to start the week off right.
Not all Monday enhancements need to be elaborate. Simply keeping Monday morning free of meetings can help employees get a head start on their to-do list and just might eliminate the Sunday scaries epidemic in your office.