Sunday Night Blues caused by weekend emails and blurred boundaries, study reveals
Emails at the weekend and unfinished tasks from the week before both contribute to the phenomenon known as the ‘Sunday Night Blues’, according to preliminary findings from a new study.
The research, conducted by the University of Exeter alongside Channel 4 and Investors in People, sets out to find what employers can do to ‘Banish the Sunday Night Blues’.
Researchers have uncovered trends indicating that the boundaries between home and work life have blurred since the pandemic, which has intensified the problem. And in interviews it was found that people who love their jobs also experience the blues, so they are not confined to people unhappy at work.
The University of Exeter is devising a toolkit, to be issued later this year, which will help employers ‘Banish The Sunday Night Blues’.
Initial findings are to be presented at an event on 14 March at the London Stock Exchange, hosted by Channel 4’s Anna Richardson.
They include advice for managers to check in with teams on Fridays, organising positive interactions on a Monday to give people something to look forward to, and for employees to complete their ‘to do’ lists on Fridays to help Banish the Sunday Night Blues.
By looking closely at employees’ experiences of the Sunday Night Blues and the factors that contribute to them, we are building a clearer picture of how organisations can tackle the problem.Professor Ilke Inceoglu, University of Exeter Business School
Survey results of 650 respondents show that people experience energy dips on Sunday evenings and an increase to their energy levels on Monday mornings, which researchers believe can contribute to experiencing the Sunday Night Blues.
Interviews with professionals from across the media industry have shown that triggers of the blues – or Sunday Scaries as they’ve also been dubbed – can include receiving emails over the weekend, unfinished work from the week before and self-imposed pressure to perform.
Ilke Inceoglu, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and HR Management at the University of Exeter Business School, said: “Our research has shown that the blurring of boundaries between home and work can make the experience of Sunday Night Blues worse. The erosion of boundaries is an issue we have all experienced since lockdown and is something that impacts our wellbeing.
“By looking closely at employees’ experiences of the Sunday Night Blues and the factors that contribute to them, we are building a clearer picture of how organisations can tackle the problem. Emerging from our research are positive steps that line managers, HR professionals and employees can all take.”
The preliminary findings of the ongoing study are based on qualitative interviews with employees who were asked about their experience of the Sunday Night Blues.
Self-reported energy was measured in a survey with 656 participants, recruited via the Prolific Academic platform and professional networks, who completed questions across three Sundays and Mondays.
Channel 4 People Director Kirstin Furber said: “Our study confirms that the Sunday Night Blues exist, and that they can negatively impact employee wellness and performance, and that’s something we should all be concerned about as employers. This is about supporting our people so they feel fresh and rested on a Monday morning, and ready to face the week ahead.”
While the full toolkit won’t be available until later this year, Channel 4 will be testing some of the research team’s recommendations with immediate effect.
Kirstin Furber said: “At Channel 4 we’ll be suggesting some fixes, which are based on the feedback we received during the study. For example we’ll suggest that managers speak to their teams to ask them what would help them be at their best on a Monday, whether that’s a Monday morning check in and/or a Friday ‘check out’ to reflect on the past week. Also, as a manager try not to send emails during the weekend.”
Paul Devoy, Chief Executive of Investors in People said: “We are extremely proud to be working closely with Channel 4 and the University of Exeter Business School on this research project.
“Every person at every level within an organisation, regardless of length of service, industry or working pattern, has experienced the Sunday night blues. I know I have! We must do more to identify the key causes and more importantly, the solutions to better support people and ultimately make work better.
“I am very excited about the next stage of this project, and hope that together with Channel 4 and the University of Exeter Business School, we are able to support as many organisations and individuals as possible to eliminate the Sunday night blues.”