Long weekends promote stress recovery
The campaign for adding another employee holiday in February is based largely on the suggestion that individuals need a break in mid-winter and that their productivity or well-being will be enhanced by providing some extra time off. To our knowledge, this suggestion has not yet been directly tested.
What We Did
Patrick Horsman (a M.Sc. student in I/O Psychology) and I asked 30 volunteers to participate in a study. All of the volunteers were employed full-time and we asked them to complete questionnaires over two weekends – a regular two day weekend and a long (3 day weekend). On each weekend we asked them to complete measures of well-being and stress recovery on Friday (i.e., before the long weekend) and one day following their return to work (i.e., on a regular weekend individuals completed the questionnaire on Tuesday; on a long weekend they completed it on Wednesday).
What We Found
We found that individuals reported more stress recovery on long weekends than they did on a regular two day weekend. In fact, on average participants did not report any increase in recovery over the 2 day weekend. In contrast, on a long weekend participants were better able to detach themselves from the work environment and to recover from work stress. Not surprisingly, participants reported more positive job attitudes following a long weekend than they did following a regular weekend.
What it Means
Our data support the notion that a long weekend is good for the mental health of employees. Over long weekends, individuals are better able to detach from, and recover from, their work situation. In contrast, almost no recovery happened on a regular two day weekend – we believe this is because weekends are frequently spent doing necessary chores and errands rather than relaxing.
Although one has to be careful about reaching broad conclusions based on one study – our data support the positive health effects of a long weekend. Based on these findings, we suggest that both employees and organizations would benefit from adding another long weekend to create a mid-winter break for employees.
For more information regarding this study, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.