Working in off-hours is not necessarily beneficial for the 21st-century workforce

This is driven by upward counterfactual thoughts for how time could have been spent.


Standard work time is (Monday-Friday, 9-to-5) represents a workweek of five eight-hour days comprising 40 hours in total. Nowadays, this traditional work week has been replaced in many cases- people increasingly work during non-standard work time (i.e., weekends; holidays).

A new study found a drawback of working during non-standard work time. The study by Cornell University suggests that working during non-standard work time harms intrinsic motivation. Such a nontraditional schedule and checking in at all day hours, night and weekends, is not necessarily beneficial for the 21st-century workforce.

Kaitlin Woolley ’12, associate professor of marketing in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, said, “Even if you’re still working 40 hours a week, you’re working during the time that you’ve mentally encoded as time off, or as time that should be for a vacation, and that can make you feel suddenly that your work is less enjoyable.”

Scientists wanted to determine the effect of working and studying (among college students) during nontraditional hours on job satisfaction and motivation.

In one review, the scientists approached Cornell students contemplating a campus library on President’s Day. They reminded half the members that they were studying during a federal holiday; the other half didn’t get this update. They then, at that point, estimated understudies’ intrinsic motivation for their schoolwork – asking them how enjoyable, engaging, interesting, and fun they found their materials to be. Students who were reminded the day was a federal holiday reported that their work was 15% less enjoyable.

In another study, scientists determined the workers’ perception of work enjoyment after reminding them of a federal holiday (MLK Day). They found that work was 9% less enjoyable on holiday Monday than a typical Monday, despite engaging in similar work-related activities on both days.

In the third review, members were surveyed on a Tuesday, with no reminder that it was an ordinary workday, then again on Saturday. A few members were reminded that it was a Saturday, a “weekend day,” while others were no update. Both groups detailed reported lower levels of work satisfaction on the weekend day, although the effect was stronger in the reminder group.

Sciendiscrepancy has to do with the idea of “collective time off” – having free time when friends and family are also off.

Woolley said“The real benefit of time off on the weekend or holidays is that it’s not just that I have time off, but my family and friends have time off, too. And so one thing that we suggest for managers is, can you create a ‘weekend shift’ so people feel like they’re in it together with other people?”

“The idea of “work-life balance” – setting boundaries between work and “play” times – has been a priority for many employers and employees recently. It can be hard for workers who feel pressured to achieve to commit to striking that balance.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Laura M.Giurge et al. Working during non-standard work time undermines intrinsic motivation. DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2022.104134
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