The importance of leaving work at work

- Mindfulness

by Gisele Navarro

Infographic 7 science-backed ways to make your weekend feel longer
Enlarge to view infographic

Whether you love your job or not, you need to leave it behind at home-time.

Evenings and weekends are a precious resource for even the chirpiest of workaholics. If you truly love your job, learning to go home without looking back can empower you to excel. And if you’re not so keen on your place of work, weekending properly can help you adjust your expectations, your stress levels, and your ability to change things for the better.

The creative workplace

One of the most astonishing stats about getting a full and fulfilling weekend is that it can boost your creativity by 50%. Such was the result when a band of human guinea pigs were sent out on a 4-day hike with zero connectivity, anyway!

Creativity in the workplace makes you more employable – or more valuable to your present boss. The vast majority believe that accessing that pent-up creativity is essential for economic growth. Relaxing and/or playing at the weekend will help you to see things from a fresh perspective and shake up your way of doing things.

And if that hiking weekend sounds a bit extreme to you, take heart: even a long Sunday on the sofa (with your work phone switched off) can be more than justified. Once you hit the 55-hour/week point, you productivity levels out at zero anyway. There’s literally no point in working on.

So even forgetting about the general health and well-being benefits of having a decent weekend, doing it properly (and ensuring your colleagues do to) will have a major effect on the spirit and productivity of your workplace.

Recharging your health

About those health benefits: they can save your life. If you have the kind of weekday routine whereby there’s never a spare moment to exercise, a good session on the weekend can reduce your chance of dying from cardiovascular disease by 40%, cancer by 18%. Even if you’re still not hitting your recommended weekly quota.

And we’ve all heard about those Swedish nurses who slashed their sick leave and stress levels after reducing their work hours. Everybody benefitted when they worked shorter days.

You may be planning to power through your weekends until vacation time. But there’s plenty of evidence that your mental health is better tended for by taking breaks little and often. In other words, weekends not vacations. A culture of stress-prevention, not stress-recovery.

How to supersize your weekend

Of course, not everybody is in a position to take a three-day weekend, or even to ignore their emails while away from the office.

But even if you can’t make your weekends longer than they are, you can get similar results by making them feel longer.

Creativity breeds creativity. So the first step to making your weekend feel longer is to adjust your attitude towards it. Look at your weekend as an opportunity and not an escape. Sure, enjoy your hard-earned sofa time. But deep down you know that sofa time just leaves you thinking, ‘where did the weekend go?’

Instead, try being spontaneous. When someone invites you to try something and your instinct is ‘no,’ pause and think: maybe..? The black magic (science) behind this is that our memories form in greater detail when we encounter new experiences. More memories per minute feels like more minutes when you look back at the spontaneous behavior you demonstrated at the weekend.

For example, you might agree to go with a friend to learn something new, at a class or a festival or a skill-swap. Your brain works harder to process new information and leaves you with the feeling that a lot more time has passed.

Slowing down

These creative solutions all work by speeding up your brain to fit more in. But if you’re more inclined to recline, slowing down also works. A weekend of approaching everything in a mindful state can be just as packed with detail as one in which you learn to rock-climb!

Slow down when you eat, travel, or consume art (in a gallery or on your TV). Think about what you hear, smell, feel.

You might try listening to your favorite record. Listening to familiar music can have the effect of closing down your pre-frontal cortex. This induces a Zen-like, meditative state. When was the last time you listened – really listened – to an album from end to end? Take special note of which instruments you hear, the effects, the way the melodies and rhythms weave through each other.

If all else fails, do as those human guinea pigs did and head for the hills. Checking your phone or device makes you feel hurried, even if you don’t sense it consciously. Leaving it all behind is a great way to realign yourself with natural time, rather than the ever-ticking clock of internet time.

If this sounds like it could work for you and your team, try sharing this new visual guide to having a full weekend so that they remember to switch off on Friday evening – especially if they can’t get enough of your thriving workplace!

See the full infographic here.

Photo: Mike Giles (Unsplash)

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