To embrace ‘bare minimum Mondays’ or not

Creativity isn’t bounded by the days or times we work, but are companies being short changed by those taking it easy at the start of the week? Andrew Mawson asks

Andrew Mawson, managing director of Advanced Workplace Associates

I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with Mondays. Everything feels hard, my brain feels slow, and it seems to take till Wednesday to wind my engines up to full throttle. So, I was interested when I heard TikTok creator Marisa Jo Mayes talk about ‘bare minimum Mondays’; espousing the idea of cutting yourself some slack on Mondays to avoid the dread and pressure that many people feel when returning to work following the weekend.

In practice, this means doing the lower-impact, lower-intellect tasks on a Monday and doing the tougher stuff on other days in the week – things like doing staff appraisals, strategic planning, client pitches and project meetings. According to Mayes, Mondays should be reserved for the grinding mundane stuff.  

The Monday morning fog – where does it come from?

But what’s so different about Mondays? Why do we feel the fog and why might we have negative feelings on a Sunday night? Maybe it’s what we do on a weekend that sets us up for a foggy Monday. 

At the weekend we’re more likely to stay up late or lie in in the morning, changing our weekly pattern. There is an assumption that having a lie in on Saturday and Sunday allows us to catch up on missed sleep. However, this can impact our circadian rhythm, leading to that unfavourable Monday morning jet lag feeling. The Sleep journal, published in 2013, found that weekend sleep extension can shift the timing of our circadian rhythms and advertently make it more difficult to fall asleep and wake up at the usual times during the week. While it may be tempting to catch up on sleep at the weekend, one way to make Mondays more bearable can start with good bedtimes at the weekend. 

Additionally, we tend to be more social beings at the weekend, with pub attendance at its highest at 53 per cent on Friday-Saturday, compared to just 25 per cent on Wednesday-Thursday. Drinking alcohol increases by 1.9 units at the weekend for the average adult in the UK, reaching 10 units of average consumption according to the ONS. As a result of this weekend fun, we are more likely to enter Monday with lower levels of hydration in the body, potentially affecting our cognition. These may be contributors to the Monday morning slog. 

Is hybrid working the real bare Monday way?

Post pandemic, most ‘office’ workers are working at home on Monday. Our internal research found that average attendance in offices on Mondays is 25 per cent, compared to the mid-week high of 45 per cent on a Wednesday. This begs the question of whether people attending the office less on a Monday are subconsciously creating their own bare minimum day? It certainly looks like it. 

At home, they can have a more relaxed morning, and start work feeling refreshed by eliminating the additional load associated with getting up early, getting ready and commuting into a city on crowded public transport. So maybe organisations should just recognise that Monday is a slow-burn day and schedule all the high-impact, high-intellect meetings and work for later in the week. 

Alternatively, if the root cause lies in what people do at the weekend, perhaps companies should encourage people to keep to their patterns of living during the weekend as close to their mid-week patterns as possible. You could argue, controversially, that organisations are paying the same money for people on a Monday as they are for other days of the week and are being ‘short changed’ as people are working below their normal levels. 

As we enter the knowledge era with roles becoming less transactional, the times we work matter less than the output we create. With this game-changing notion, who cares about start and end times? Creativity isn’t bounded by the hours of the day or times of the week. But managing in this new era is a serious departure from the old ‘Taylorist’ world and leaders will need to learn some new tricks pretty quickly as they and their teams reinvent the way they work to deliver great outcomes. 

The new game is about getting the best brains on your team, keeping them interested and creating an environment in which they flourish – when they do the work isn’t important. That’s a tough pill to swallow if you judge people by how much time they are in your eyeshot.

Andrew Mawson is managing director of Advanced Workplace Associates