According to a new U.K. survey from HR software provider Ciphr, half of all business leaders are well-acquainted with the notorious “Sunday scaries,” experiencing them multiple times throughout the year. Many of the senior managers surveys report dealing with this pre-workweek anxiety multiple times within the span of a month.
That might come as a surprise to some, considering work dread is a topic typically bandied about on TikTok (the think tank responsible for such labor-weary classics like “quiet quitting,” “bare minimum monday” and “rage applying”), but Gen X appears to be as uneasy about Monday morning as Gen Z.
What do older, established managers have to be so afraid about, though? Shouldn’t they relish the advent of another week?
Well, as the survey illuminates, there’s a lot on their mind: workload that’s carried over from the week prior, the whims of an unstable economy, nagging profitability concerns, coaxing quality and consistent work from the members of their team, pressure bearing down from their managers.
It’s extremely rare for a manager to not feel the “scaries” (only 8% of the 265 people polled claimed they’d never had the displeasure…and even that’s a little hard to believe), and the intensity/frequency of this anxiety increases relative to one’s business size. If you’re a senior executive at a company with over 1,000 employees, for instance, suppertime Sunday hits harder than if you work for a firm that’s a tenth of that force.
And while entry and mid-level employees advocate for taking it easier on Mondays, as a way to ease oneself into the rigors of the workweek, many higher-ups don’t have the luxury. They just have too much going on. They’re leading calls, making time for clients, crossing t’s.
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Surprisingly, working from home isn’t a respite from all the stress that this level of workflow brings — executives who stay home (or work for remote-first companies) may be dodging commutes and typing in joggers, but they’re twice as likely to suffer Sunday scaries on a regular basis.
It’s taken a couple years, but “cautionary WFH discourse” is ascendant as of late, with researchers tying lone-wolf-workweeks to urban loneliness, a loss in purpose and a downswing in “relatedness,” a psychological term defined as “the need to feel connected or have a sense of belonging or connection to other people.”
With a loss of Monday morning relatedness, we lose our casualness, too — water cooler chat is canned and trite, sure, but it’s real person-to-person interaction. When almost all of your weekly social interactions become inextricable from a professional agenda, where’s the room for levity or repose?
About 70% of the week is fueled by “fight or flight,” but the earlier you start checking emails on Sunday (to get ahead!) the higher that number creeps.
Obviously, it’s possible to find a lot of purpose in this sort of lifestyle. You may love your job, or working with your employees, or logging on from home each day. Plus, good stress exists, and it’s important to feel challenged and invigorated as we age and grow. But the Sunday scaries, as the name suggests, are more of an alarm bell, a prime example of “anticipatory anxiety.”
If you experience them on a consistent basis — and you’d know, regardless of how you choose to respond to a survey — make use of that knowledge. It’s trying to tell you something; not necessarily that you should leave your job (though that’s a possibility), but that it’s time to bake balance and reliability into your weeks.
Perhaps you’re someone who should hit the ground running on Monday morning; if you’re lucky enough to be on a hybrid schedule, then get up and get yourself to the office. Talk to people, check in with them, set an example.
Or maybe Monday morning is a chance for you to get up well before work, and do anything but work — a few weeks back, we spoke to David Trewern, CEO of Fliteboard. He told us he doesn’t schedule meetings before 10 a.m., and spends his mornings running, reading the paper or getting in the ocean. He then attacks the day feeling satisfied that he’s A) gifted himself some time and B) cleared his head along the way.
Don’t underestimate the power of embracing your Sunday, too. Whether you devote the day to chores, leisure or a combination of both, doing things in service of yourself will ultimately serve your productivity and energy during the actual workweek.
Deadlines are deadlines, and sometimes you simply don’t have the luxury of checking out, even over the weekend. But when you do, force yourself to lean into it. Put your phone and computer away. Get outside, no matter the weather. Buy ingredients and cook an early dinner. Watch HBO. Life’s too short to dread the start of every new workweek — let alone 50% of your weekend, too.