People Often Work Weekends for the 'Productivity High'

Why would anyone work on the weekend? Turns out some people get a productivity high.

Some people like to take time from relaxing on the weekend to work. It sounds unthinkable, I know. Why would anyone work on the weekend? Well, researchers Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats found that some people get a high from being productive.


Gino writes for the Harvard Business Review that she began the study by asking a group of 500 employed individuals to reminisce and write about a time when they felt either “productive at work, very busy, unproductive, or not busy at all.” Gino focused on the participants that wrote about a productive time. She found that those people “reported feeling at their best and happy with life — more so than in any other condition. It is by feeling productive, these data suggest, that we believe we are making some sort of a difference in the world.”

Of course, this study doesn't mean people should drop their weekend plans to work. Staats headed up a separate study that shows, while some people may get pleasure out of their work, they still need to take a break — lest they want the quality of their work to suffer.

Staats, along with a group of colleagues, used three years of data that comprised of 4,157 caregivers from 35 hospitals in the United States. The team zeroed in on data concerning hand-washing rates throughout a 12-hour shift. At the beginning of that shift, caregivers tended to follow the hand-washing regulations, but as their shift went on, the rates went down by an average of 8.7 percent.

The researchers add:

“The decline in compliance was magnified on days when a caregiver’s work was more intense (e.g., when he or she saw more patients). Just as the repeated exercise of muscles leads to physical fatigue, repeated use of cognitive resources produces a decline in an individual’s self-regulatory capacity.”

So, while working on the weekend might feel nice, don't let it take up your entire time to recoup. One study suggests that after 49 hours of work in a week, productivity begins a sharp decline. Juliet Schor, a sociologist and economist at Boston College, goes further. She thinks that fewer hours in the workweek would allow people more time to meet their needs in a way to break away from market dependency:

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