Should you work while on vacation? Reframe Time-off to Work-time!
Clients tell me that they like working remotely part-time, but it also burdens them with additional demands on their time
Spending weekends or holidays working undermines one of the most important factors that determine whether we persist in our work: Intrinsic Motivation. We feel intrinsically motivated when we engage in activities that we find interesting, enjoyable, and meaningful. Research shows that working during leisure time creates internal conflict between pursuing personal and professional goals, leading us to enjoy our work less. Yet, we also uncovered a solution to this problem: reframing time off as “work time” can help us maintain intrinsic motivation for our work.
Similarly to how we think of Monday as the “start of the week”. When we engage in work during the time that we think of as leisure time, such as the weekend, we experience conflict between our expectations and reality, and as a result, we find our work less engaging and less meaningful.
One caveat to note is that intrinsic motivation isn’t the only kind of motivation that inspires people to work. People also work because of extrinsic motivation (i.e., to receive a salary, support a family, etc.). And while working during time off has a negative effect on intrinsic motivation to work, researchers found no evidence that it impacts people’s extrinsic motivation. While goal conflict associated with working on weekends or holidays undermines our capacity for finding work inherently meaningful, it doesn’t change the value of getting paid or having job security. Nevertheless, without intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation is often insufficient to keep us content and doing our work.
The takeaway is clear: Whether we enjoy the work we do is shaped not only by the type of activities we engage in but also by when we engage in these activities. If you have to work during time off, try to reframe it mentally as work time to help you maintain your motivation. Managers can also support their employees by encouraging them not to work during time off, as our data suggests that working during time off can undermine intrinsic motivation and thus reduce the effort that employees put into their 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.
HBR: Laura M. Giurge