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Sunday scaries caused by blurred work/life boundaries

The effects of 'Sunday night blues' have intensified for media professionals due to an increase in remote working, according to a new study.

The issue has worsened since the pandemic, with remote work softening the home/work boundaries, the research project, carried out by by Channel 4, University of Exeter and Investors in People, found. 

The survey of 650 media industry professionals found Sunday night blues were caused by triggers including receiving emails over the weekend, unfinished work from the week before and self-imposed pressure to perform.

The study was intended to investigate what factors contribute to this problem and the positive steps that employees, line managers and HR directors can take to combat it.

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Even people who love their jobs experienced the Sunday night blues, showing the issue is not confined to people unhappy at work. 

Matthew Phelan, co-founder of employee engagement tool The Happiness Index, said were small things that employees can do to help calm work-related anxieties.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Writing down your fears and categorising them in terms of seriousness can help bring some order to your feelings. Before I close down my laptop on a Friday I go through my diary and visualise the following week day by day. And on a Sunday night I have a little flick through my diary to reinforce how I want the week to go.”

However, he also says that if there are legitimate concerns which are negatively impacting employees’ wellbeing at work, such as bullying, they should make sure to discuss them.

The research recommended several measures that managers and HR could take, including offering support to their team and knowing where to refer them to mental health support. They also need to lead by example, setting clear boundaries and remaining mindful of their own work pressures.

Nicola Hemmings, head of workplace psychology at digital mental healthcare provider Koa Health, said work blues can be tackled head-on with new wellbeing habits

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “While Monday motivation may be beneficial for some, it’s equally important not to put too much pressure on yourself. Focus on what works for you and how you can best support your mental health during the week.”

Hemmings recommended using Monday to plan and prioritise tasks at work, as well as arranging positive interactions to look forward to. 

“This will reduce feelings of overwhelm and make your weekly to-do list more manageable,” she said. 

Hemmings said that consistent wellbeing habits is crucial in eliminating dread of returning to work after the weekend, and is particularly important as employees continue to face the pressures of the cost of living crisis and pending recession.

The research programme drew on a mixed method approach, including interviews, surveys and focus groups. 

The study builds on the Every Mind Matters report from 2022 which found more than two thirds of Britons suffer from feelings of anxiety and sleeplessness on a Sunday night.