I recently saw this quote by Bill Marklein:
Culture is how employees’ hearts and stomachs feel about Monday morning on Sunday night.
I love that. It’s so true. I really believe that, if your company had a strong and healthy culture, the “Sunday Scaries,” which this quote defines well, would not even be a consideration.
Let’s talk about that, about Sunday Scaries. What are they? Why do they happen? What can employees do to overcome this dread? As an employer, how can you ensure employees don’t have those feelings? How is culture involved? And more.
What are Sunday Scaries?
The phrase “Sunday Scaries” describes that feeling of anxiety or dread that some people experience on Sunday evenings in anticipation of the upcoming workweek. Sadly, I know this feeling well. You probably do, too: sadness, worry, fear, anxiety, stress, burnout, and more. That feeling in the pit of your stomach. That feeling of dread. Yup. We’ve all been there.
Those feelings are often triggered by a variety of factors (in your work life and your personal life), including an overwhelming or unsustainable workload, a difficult boss or colleague, a lack of fairness, an otherwise stressful work environment, lack of work-life balance, missing your family or fear of mission out on milestone events, or a feeling of being unfulfilled or unsatisfied with one’s job.
IS IT JUST AN EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT ISSUE?
Years ago, I wrote about how employee engagement occurs when there’s some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (mission, purpose, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment – then we have employee engagement.
I think engagement is a factor in the Sunday Scaries.
When employees feel engaged, they’re more likely to approach their work with a positive attitude and feel a sense of ownership, purpose, and meaning. That helps alleviate the Sunday Scaries and promotes a more positive outlook toward the week ahead.
When employees are disengaged, they experience feelings of dread or anxiety about returning to work not just on Monday but every day. That’s especially true if employees feel that their work is unfulfilling or meaningless, or if they lack opportunities for growth and development.
Disengaged employees might feel demoralized and unappreciated, and that can contribute to feelings of anxiety and dread about being at work any day.
WHAT CAN EMPLOYEES DO?
Getting to the root cause of the anxiety and taking steps to manage stress and improve work-life balance can help alleviate the Sunday scaries and promote a more optimistic outlook towards the upcoming week.
Some of things employees can do to ward off the Sunday Scaries include:
- Make a plan: Plan ahead and visualize your week. I always like to look at my calendar for the week, make a to-do list and prioritize the items on it, prepare for upcoming meetings and deadlines, and just try to organize myself for the week ahead.
- Set boundaries: How will you maintain work-life balance? What rules will you set for yourself around when to unplug or step away from work email, other communications, and your work requirements in general? How will you carve out time for yourself? How about schedule yourself on your calendar? Make the time to truly unplug and step away. Take time off. You get vacation; use it.
- Practice self-care: I have always said that my morning workout is my sanity; without it, my day just feels off. Make the time – take the time – to engage in activities that promote relaxation and well-being, whether it’s working out, yoga, meditation, or just reading a book. Do the things you know reduce your stress, thereby promoting a more positive outlook toward the upcoming work week.
- Reframe your thinking: Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the week ahead, try reframing your mindset and focus on the positive aspects of your work. Take the time to outline the areas where you want to grow and develop professionally. Make the time during the week to pursue those.
- Talk to your manager: Of course, you can talk to someone outside of work to help alleviate stress, as well, but it’s great to go to the source. Talk about what’s on your plate; provide feedback for your manager; discuss those growth and development opportunities. Work together.
HOW CAN EMPLOYERS HELP?
What about employers? How do they impact your Sunday Scaries? What can owners, founders, leaders, and managers do? (By the way, they are not immune to Sunday Scaries. According to a study done by Ciphr, nearly half of all leaders report dreading going to work on Monday. Female leaders are more likely to report Sunday Scaries.)
They must create and facilitate a positive and supportive environment that includes:
- Prioritizing work-life balance: Offer flexible work arrangements and encouraging employees to take time off when needed. Family first. Self first. Priorities should be reset.
- Building and maintaining a healthy, positive workplace culture: Define your core values. Define the associated behaviors. Build and maintain the ideal workplace culture that includes a people-first mentality, open communication, collaboration, and mutual respect for and among employees. Leaders must truly care.
- Providing growth opportunities: Offer career pathing and development, training programs, and mentorship opportunities that help employees grow and make them feel valued and appreciated. They’ll want to come in, do the work, and get ahead. Set the course.
- Address the sources of workplace stress: Identify the sources of workplace stress and work together with employees to mitigate and/or eliminate those sources, which could include workload, unclear expectations, lack of tools and support, and inadequate training or resources.
- Open the lines of communication: Make sure you’re taking the time to meet with employees 1:1 on a regular basis to discuss their needs, expectations, future plans, and how things are going. Think about doing stay interviews. You may be providing feedback, but give them the opportunity to the do same. And communicate openly, honestly, and candidly about the business, the mission and vision, and current state. Don’t pretend like everything is fine when it’s not.
I share some learnings from one of those times when I had the Sunday Scaries in this post. I think you will probably be able to relate.
WHAT’S CULTURE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
In case you don’t know by now, culture is everything when it comes to the success of your business. As I say: “Fix the culture, fix the outcomes.” Sunday Scaries are outcomes. (Perhaps quiet quitting is related here, too.) They are outcomes of having a culture that doesn’t work for your employees. Somewhere, it went sideways. And it’s toxic, not healthy. Working for a toxic organization is certainly a big factor when it comes to feeling that anxiety on Sunday afternoon!
If you’ve got a toxic or negative culture in your organization, it will create a stressful and demoralizing work environment that contributes to feelings of anxiety and dread about returning to work on Monday.
If yours is a culture of overworking and putting in the hours, employees feel pressured to work long hours and neglect their personal lives, leading to regret and exhaustion – ultimately, burnout. If your workplace lacks clear communication from leaders, employees feel anxious, uncertain, and unsupported in their roles, leading to feelings of stress and insecurity.
On the other hand, in a positive and supportive culture, there’s a more positive outlook toward the upcoming workweek. Working for leaders who value work-life balance, promote open communication and collaboration, and foster a sense of community and belonging among employees, creates a more positive and fulfilling work environment. And that’s an environment that feels welcoming for all employees.
Make sure you build, maintain, and sustain a healthy and positive culture that puts people first. What does that look like? Well, certainly a customer-centric culture fits that bill!
A salary increase makes you happy once a year. A healthy workplace keeps you happy throughout the year. ~ Unknown
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.
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