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Easter bank holiday: The unexpected psychological impact of a long weekend

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
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A three (or four) day weekend is something most of us look forward to every time they come along but have you ever thought about all of the positive longterm effects they can have on your mental and physical health?

The days are getting longer, we’ve already been treated to a mini heatwave and you might have even started packing your winter jumpers away. It can only mean one thing: spring is here. The true marker of spring for many people in the UK, though, is the Easter bank holiday, a 4 day long weekend that falls on the first weekend of April this year.

This might be the second Easter bank holiday we’ve spent in lockdown, but this one brings the promise of freedom, as the UK’s laws have changed which means you can meet up to 6 people in an outdoor setting. So you can spend the weekend drinking in the park with friends, or perhaps you’re marking the occasion with your first BBQ of the year. And let’s not forget all the new books waiting to be read, films to be watched and Netflix series to be binged.

Whatever you decide to do there’s no denying that a long weekend allows professionals to enjoy more time away from work to sleep, relax and clear their minds. No small thing, especially when you consider the fact that a traditional two-day weekend does more harm than good.

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All hail the innovative UK companies that have adopted Sweden’s six-hour working day policy

That’s right: a study has suggested that a two-day weekend acts as more of a disruption to the circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock that directs sleep cycles) and can impair people’s moods and mental capacities upon returning to work. While people can make up for some of the sleep they missed during the week (whether it be by sleeping in or afternoon naps) two days of sleeping in is enough to adjust the circadian rhythm such that they have to jolt back into their regular rhythm when they wake up early on Monday morning.

When people get that extra day or two off to relax, though, they have more time to sleep, exercise, or work on their relationships.

The result? A clearer mind and a happier outlook during the week.

It is worth noting that a three-day weekend doesn’t just benefit employees: it also benefits bosses, too. In 2018, a company in New Zealand implemented an eight-week trial, which saw workers come in for just four days a week.

The results were overwhelmingly positive: before the trial commenced, just over half (54%) of staff felt they could effectively balance their work and home commitments. After the trial, this number jumped to 78% - and the plus points didn’t stop there. Staff stress levels decreased by 7% across the board as a result, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by 5% points. As an added plus, workers were even shown to have more creativity – and were noticeably more “helpful” and “engaged”, too.

In short, it seems that workers can complete their work satisfactorily, or even better in some aspects, during a four-day week – and enjoy greater work-life balance and reduced stress.

In the meantime, we recommend showing this article to your boss, pronto. And, if they fail to jump on the four-day working week bandwagon, might we suggest you consider working for one of these innovative UK companies (all of which have adopted Sweden’s six-hour working day policy) instead?

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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