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Work on Time-Off: Is it Good?

work on time-off

The current trend (which we already approached) is remote working. Remote working brings a flexible work schedule, with many employers having experienced how successful telecommuting can be for their organization or how work hours that differ from the normal 9-to-5 can be adopted without injury to productivity. And also means that some might work on time-off.

If your organization is dealing with hardships regarding recruitment, flexible work schedules may improve this vector, while also improving retention of your current talent. There may be room for a few cost savings, while productivity, engagement, and attendance improve.

All these points are great when weighing the pros and cons of flexible work schedules.

But there is a negative point that is very significant for us to ignore: work during time off. As more and more employees shift to flexible work schedules, they are also working during time off. 

How is working on vacations negative?

New research shows that working on weekends or holidays can have a significant impact on intrinsic motivation, leading to both lower employee satisfaction rates and lower quality work product. 

The recent global shift to remote work due to the Covid-19 crisis exacerbated the situation: as the formal boundaries that separate work from non-work become even more blurred, employees may feel conflicted about what time is — and isn’t — meant for working.

Being able to set our own schedules should empower us to coordinate our days to maximize productivity at work, which would suggest that people might actually be more motivated when they work on weekends and holidays.

However, research finds that the opposite is often true. Because spending weekends or holidays working undermines one of the most important factors: intrinsic motivation. 

What is intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is the act of doing something without any obvious external rewards.  Any activities that we find interesting, enjoyable, and meaningful, we feel intrinsically motivated to engage in them. So if we work during what we consider leisure time (usually holidays or weekends) we create an internal conflict between our personal time and our professional goals, which leads to enjoying our work less. Does working during time off affect intrinsic motivation? We found that yes; that on average, people who worked some weekend days felt less intrinsic motivation for work. 

What should you do if you have to work on time-off?

Unfortunately, in many roles, occasional work on weekends and holidays might be unavoidable. So, what can you do to stay motivated when you have to work on time-off? A little mental strategy of rewiring the way you’re thinking about that specific time while you’re working, should maintain our intrinsic motivation: re-labeling time as “work time.”

It’s way too simple and basic, but it works. Not forever or always, but when it’s truly necessary.

Why is intrinsic motivation so important?

Most people work because of extrinsic motivation (i.e., to receive a salary, support a family, health bills, vacations, etc.). Nevertheless, research by Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fishbach shows that without intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation is often insufficient to keep people content and doing their best work.

In summary: enjoy your time-off. It’s essential for you (and us as a company) to be in your best mood. To have accomplished all your personal tasks or goals during your time-off, which means that you have recharged your intrinsic motivation, which in turn will improve the quality and rate of your work! Understanding how to stay motivated has always been important, but as the pandemic forces many employees to work remotely and burdens them with additional demands on their time, these strategies will be particularly crucial to ensure you and your team stay as productive and engaged as possible.

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