Even employees who are perfectly capable of performing well can experience anxiety or dread the day before starting a new workweek.
Often described as the “Sunday Scaries,” you and the members of your organization are in good company if you experience the same thing. According to LinkedIn, almost 75% of working Americans experience the Sunday Scaries, meaning the majority of people experience stressful anticipation about their jobs.
As an HR leader, you are in a unique position to help your coworkers feel more at ease by supporting work-life wellness in your organization. Here’s everything you need to know about helping employees manage the Sunday Scaries at an institutional level.
Understanding the Causes of Sunday Scaries
First, let’s talk about the core triggers and stressors that are causing Sunday Scaries. Some people are naturally anxious and may always deal with some stress before the workweek starts. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t external stressors that make those feelings worse. Naturally anxious or not, all employees deserve to feel recharged and at peace on Monday. These are some of the common factors facilitating anxiety and dread in the workforce.
A toxic or stressful work environment can significantly contribute to the Sunday Scaries. If individuals feel undervalued, unsupported, or face conflict at work, they may dread returning to such an environment, leading to anxiety on Sundays. Organizational culture, management and communication styles, and many other factors can either prevent or cause Sunday Scaries in your workforce.
Having unrealistic expectations placed on oneself or feeling overwhelmed by the workload can also contribute to the Sunday Scaries. If individuals feel pressured to meet high expectations or constantly strive for unattainable goals, they may experience anxiety about the upcoming week.
Little Control Over Their Work Life
When individuals feel like they have limited autonomy, flexibility, or decision-making power in their work, they may feel trapped and anxious about facing another week of unfulfilling or monotonous tasks.
Prolonged periods of stress, excessive work demands, and neglecting self-care can result in burnout. Burnout can make individuals physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, leading to the Sunday Scaries as they anticipate another draining week without sufficient time to recharge.
If the weekend fails to provide individuals with the rest, relaxation, and enjoyment they need, they may feel like they just never have enough time off. Whether it's due to personal responsibilities, lack of leisure activities, or feeling disconnected from loved ones, an unfulfilling weekend can amplify the anxiety about returning to work.
The fear of facing the consequences of procrastination and dealing with unfinished work can cause anxiety as the weekend comes to an end, whether home or work-related. People often procrastinate their personal tasks because they feel like they just need rest on the weekend, not another to-do list like they have at work.
Associating Work with Stress
When work only equates to stress, we start living for the weekend, which only adds to the stress when the next week of work rolls around. Individuals may strongly associate work with stress, pressure, or negative experiences, such as overly challenging projects, difficult coworkers, or excessive workloads.
The Effects of Sunday Scaries on Employees
The Sunday Scaries can have several effects on individuals' mental health, morale, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and productivity, as well as potential consequences for employee retention and turnover. Here's a brief breakdown of these effects:
Impact on Mental Health, Morale, and Job Satisfaction
The Sunday Scaries significantly impact mental health by causing feelings of anxiety, stress, and even depression. If this stress becomes chronic, it can negatively affect overall well-being, such as impacting sleep, activity levels, and mental health. This makes individuals less enthusiastic about their work, unable to collaborate effectively, and experience feelings of resentment.
Effects on Employee Engagement and Productivity
Anxiety and stress can make it difficult for individuals to focus, concentrate, and effectively perform their tasks. They may also experience a lack of motivation and engagement, leading to decreased productivity levels and potentially compromising the quality of their work.
Potential Consequences for Employers
Employee retention and turnover can seriously suffer when employees constantly struggle with work anxiety, especially when it starts impacting them outside of the workplace. Dissatisfaction and disengagement can take a hit on loyalty, which only increases the risk of employees looking for another job.
Strategies for HR Managers to Address Sunday Scaries
So, what can HR do? Realistically, you can’t control the thoughts and feelings of your coworkers, but you can make work a safe and supportive environment. Some of the most effective ways to reduce the Sunday Scaries regarding work include:
- Promoting work-life wellness and flexible scheduling. Give employees as much autonomy as possible and offer competitive benefits like PTO. This gives people more control over all aspects of their lives and shows that your organization actually cares about the wellness of the workforce.
- Encouraging open communication and support systems. Create a culture that values open communication and transparency. HR managers can facilitate regular check-ins, team meetings, or send out surveys where employees can openly express their concerns or discuss work-related issues.
- Offering wellness initiatives and stress management programs. The health of employees is a huge indicator of happiness and success, and employees are starting to catch on — SHRM’s 2022 Employee Benefits Survey even found that 41% of employers now provide employee wellness resources. Helping your employees manage their stress is step one in reducing pre-work anxieties.
These tips are just the tip of the iceberg—let’s discuss more ways to implement wellness in the workplace to combat the Sunday Scaries.
Providing Resources and Support
Give your employees the knowledge, tools, and space to adopt stress management techniques. Try providing resources and information on self-care practices, healthy lifestyle choices, and time management. This could be offering counseling services or access to mental health resources through company benefits. You could also facilitate workshops or training on work-life wellness to teach people how to manage their stress and time in a work setting.
You can organize wellness initiatives that address physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This can include fitness challenges, yoga or meditation sessions, or resilience-building programs. Even better, collaborate with local fitness centers, therapists, or wellness experts to offer discounted or subsidized wellness services, such as gym memberships, mindfulness workshops, or nutrition consultations.
Creating a Positive Work Culture
It’s incredibly important to foster a supportive and inclusive environment, which all starts with company leaders. You influence how leadership treats all members of your organization, so shape the work environment so that employees feel comfortable approaching their managers or HR representatives with their anxieties and challenges, especially those related to the Sunday Scaries.
Creating recognition and appreciation programs is a good place to start, and you can encourage more team-building activities and social connections at work, too. Leveraging peer support is another tactic that works well. Consider implementing employee support systems such as mentorship programs or buddy systems, where experienced employees can provide guidance and support to newer or struggling colleagues.
Encouraging Self-Care and Stress Management
Giving employees better opportunities to take care of themselves is a pivotal change you can make at work. You can provide resources and tips for employees to manage stress, encourage work-life wellness and personal time on weekends, and offer flexibility and opportunities for relaxation in the workplace.
Don’t let that flexible work environment backfire, though. ‘Work from anywhere’ can easily slide into ‘working always.’ Remind employees often that they need to unplug and spend time fully away from work. At their best, remote and hybrid work environments provide more flexibility and control for employees to enjoy better work-life wellness. At their worst, remote access to work can make employees feel trapped by their work that is always there and calling their attention.
Try creating policies that help your coworkers fully check out and leave work at the door. Policies that prevent excessive workload and burnout include those that:
- Encouraging employees to take time off and use vacation time
- Setting fair and realistic deadlines
- Requiring regular breaks and rest periods
- Ensuring everyone has the proper training to reduce stress
Build a Supportive Workplace with Gympass
By encouraging employees to take care of themselves, providing them with the support they need to do so, and creating a healthy work environment, HR leadership can help employees manage Sunday Scaries and reduce the overall stress people are experiencing.
If you’re ready to offer support that will directly and positively impact your workforce, it’s time to curate an effective wellness program. With Gympass, you can give employees the opportunity to prioritize their health and wellness with access to all kinds of gyms and studios, mental wellbeing apps, and more.
Talk to a wellbeing specialist today to learn more about how to create the best wellness program for your organization.
- Burke, J. (2022, August 14). How To Ward Off the “Sunday Scaries” Before the New Week Begins. CNN. Retrieved June 22, 2023, from https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/14/health/sunday-anxiety-weekend-wellness-partner/index.html
- Dread Mondays? How to Combat the Sunday Scaries. Goloadup.com. Retrieved June 22, 2023, from https://goloadup.com/how-to-beat-sunday-scaries/
- SHRM. (2019, September 11). Designing and Managing Wellness Programs. SHRM. Retrieved June 22, 2023, from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/designingandmanagingwellnessprograms.aspx
- Sunday Scaries are on the Rise Among Working Professionals – Here’s How to Soothe Them. Linkedin. Retrieved June 22, 2023, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sunday-scaries-rise-among-working-professionals-heres-fisher/
- Sunday Scaries: The Anxiety of Facing Another Work Week. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-the-sunday-scaries-5094087
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.