Fridays are always considered one of the best days of the week, (cheers to the weekend, people!) but especially during summertime. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, many companies offer employees “Summer Fridays,” which can take on a variety of formats: half-days every week, one full day off every other week, or some similar layout. Regardless, the perk makes working in the summertime much more enjoyable for people who are lucky enough to have this option.
But with Labor Day come and gone, we’re already missing Summer Fridays before we’ve even shaken all of the sand out of our hair. While the pressure to get everything off of our plates before Friday came around was stressful sometimes, Summer Fridays provided a much-needed resting period to round out the workweek. And aside from more freedom to take weekend trips, we mainly love Summer Fridays because they give us the chance to nurture our work-life balance.
As normal hours resume, it can be easy to slide back into your old workaholic ways so fast that you feel burnt out before spooky season even arrives. To avoid this instant work fatigue, we talked to mental health experts who gave us tips for returning to a full work week without overworking ourselves.
1. Redefine your routine.
With a new season right around the corner comes the opportunity to create a new routine—and for many of us, routines have been all over the place during the summer of quarantine. Take advantage of this change of pace and redefine your new normal by thinking about what you really want to get out of your workweek.
Career coach Mona Green posed this question to HelloGiggles: “What would happen if you treated going back to a ‘normal’ work schedule as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and actually define what that means for you?” Green recommends thinking hard about what you want to accomplish each workweek and then take small steps to make that happen. This could mean taking some of your cherished Summer Fridays habits like going for a walk in the morning or buying a coffee in the afternoon, and incorporating them into your fall schedule.
“You may not have a choice as to how many hours you have to work, but you definitely have a say over how you’re going to do it and whether you are relating to it from a place of limitation or choice,” Green tells HelloGiggles.
2. Set boundaries.
Just because your Friday calendar setting no longer reads “OOO,” you still shouldn’t be available to others 24/7. “Diminished boundaries in all areas of life, especially work, can lead to feelings of demoralization, burnout, and apathy,” psychiatrist Dr. Leela R. Magavi tells HelloGiggles. “Burnout and work stress can adversely affect individuals’ sleep, energy and concentration levels, self-esteem, and ability to partake in meaningful activities independently and with loved ones.”
To avoid falling into this trap as normal work hours resume, set boundaries for your day-to-day work schedule. These boundaries can be anything that makes you feel comfortable and productive: not working in the bedroom, having a cut-off time for answering emails (Dr. Magavi recommends setting an alarm), or even having an uncomfortable but necessary conversation with your coworker about respecting your work hours.
“Remember, healthy boundaries don’t keep people out, they show them the door by which they can access you in a way that works for you too,” Green explains.
Enforce these boundaries with yourself by using your time off the clock wisely—whether it’s by exercising, reading, relaxing, or cooking—anything that takes your mind off of work to be present in those moments. If you’re having trouble turning off your work brain, Dr. Magavi suggests turning to others to hold you accountable. “Schedule a phone date or an activity with a loved one to create more accountability and avoid working endlessly into the depths of the night,” she says.
3. Decide which habits rejuvenate you.
Everyone uses Summer Fridays differently—to travel, to run errands, or to simply recharge. As we transition into fall, think about what you enjoyed most about your Summer Fridays, and see how you can tweak those habits to fit into your full work week.
“First, you have to identify why those habits were successful in making you feel rejuvenated,” Green explains. “Was it because you had a chance to breathe? Was it because your body had an opportunity to move? Take inventory first, and then see what you can do.”
For me, I loved getting the chance to sleep in on Summer Fridays. So, I’m deciding to ditch my morning workouts on Friday mornings in the fall and let myself sleep until I sign online for the day. It won’t be as satisfying as forgoing setting an alarm like I did during Summer Fridays, but it’s an end-of-the-week treat and an adjustment that my body will likely thank me for making.
4. Treat yourself every day.
Switching from four and a half or four-day weeks to full five-day work weeks is going to come with challenges, so give yourself something to look forward to each day. Whether it’s a long walk after you close your computer for the night, a happy hour with friends, or something as simple as ten minutes to meditate during lunch, these small rewards can go a long way in terms of motivating you to continue working hard.
“We only crave time off when we feel unrested or like we aren’t having enough fun in our lives,” Green explains. “In order to mitigate this, it’s a good idea to see where we can incorporate these elements every day of the week—not just on weekends.”
Overall, remember that your mental and physical health should come before your professional goals, so be easy on yourself as you adjust to your fall work routine.