The Power of a ‘Bare Minimum Monday’ To Alleviate Your Sunday Scaries
But a new tool in the anti-burnout toolbox has emerged that takes the pressure off the first day of the week and alleviates the 'Sunday scaries,' or the forboding feeling of returning to work. Enter: Bare minimum Monday, the concept of creating a soft landing pad for yourself at work post weekend to preserve your mental health and avoid burnout.
What is a bare minimum Monday?
Coined on TikTok and proliferated by Gen-Z workers, the phrase refers to starting the week slowly by putting in the bare minimum amount of effort to get through the first day back after the weekend. This means accomplishing only the very essential tasks needed for the day (rather than hitting the ground running) as a means of preserving your energy and preventing running out of gas before Friday.
Keren Wasserman, organizational development program manager at mental health benefits company Lyra Health, says this is actually a good practice because it lets workers prioritize balancing their own well-being with their workloads.
"It's important to put the caveat that it isn’t about trying to get out of work; it’s about making work better."—Jennifer Moss, author of The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It
And putting in the bare minimum doesn’t necessarily mean not doing anything, or even necessarily being unproductive (rest is in fact productive and necessary for our overall health). This practice gives employees the power to decide for themselves the best way to utilize their time. “It’s not that you’re not doing anything,” says Jennifer Moss, author of The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It, says. “It's important to put the caveat that it isn’t about trying to get out of work; it’s about making work better.”
This idea also hits back directly at some of the detrimental practices that can emerge at work, like toxic productivity or the idea that one needs to be productive at all times. “I don’t think it’s a matter of can I allow my to-do list to slip or not, but it’s more about what strategic activities can I plan at certain times of the week so I can accomplish my to-do list in the most efficient way possible that’s supportive of my mental health and well-being,” Wasserman says.
Why is bare minimum Monday needed?
Workplace burnout is rampant among American workers. The World Health Organization (WHO) even recognizes workplace burnout and pinpoints three tell-tale signs someone is experiencing it: feeling depleted and exhausted; cynicism about one’s job and increased mental distance from it; and reduced professional efficacy.
Many studies have found that burnout and the factors that contribute to it, like high job stress and unmanageable workloads, contribute to both physical and mental health issues, and make workers less productive. You can't pour from an empty cup, as they say.
Lyra Health's 2023 State of Workforce Mental Health Report, which surveyed 2,500 employees and more than 250 employee benefits leaders in the U.S. over a period of three months, found that the employees reported feeling "increasingly stressed and burned out."
According to Wasserman, this practice aligns with organizational development best practices, which allow employees to have some control over their own time to balance their tasks and well-being. “Really what this is saying is ‘how can we create a work experience that allows people to ease into their week so that they can strategically prioritize their to-do list to give them some brain space to do more deep work at the beginning of the week before hitting the ground running instead of getting pulled into a state of overwhelm where they're not able to perform at their best,” she says.
For too long, Wasserman adds, the onus on preventing burnout has been on individual workers. “Companies and managers have an opportunity with this concept of a bare minimum Monday to help their employees manage their workloads and prevent burnout,” she says.
Plus, according to Moss, it’s worth trying out any new methods that could prevent burnout among workers. “The only way we’re going to get [workplace burnout] under control is by looking at different strategies to attack these problems because what we’ve been doing so far is not working,” she says.
She also adds that uproar over the names of recent work trends that have to do with employees setting boundaries around work and disengaging from toxic productivity—bare minimum Monday, quiet quitting, rage applying—are unproductive and pull focus from the very real issues in the workplace that these behaviors push back against.
How to plan a bare minimum Monday
To give yourself the best possible set up for the rest of the week, Moss and Wasserman suggest taking some time to pinpoint which tasks are most essential to set you up for the week. Prioritize the most pressing and time-sensitive tasks first, and then use the rest of the day to orient yourself for the week ahead.
Each person’s bare minimum Monday will look different, depending on their specific role. For some, the best way to ease into the week may be getting admin-related tasks out of the way, or scheduling meetings. For others, the day may be a heads-down working day. Or, it may look like networking calls or coffees with coworkers to touch base about ideas—look at your workload, and figure out how your first day back would best be spent.
Moss even practices this herself: she likes to leave her Mondays clear of meetings, except for a call with her business manager, to allow her to ramp up and prepare for the rest of the week.
However you choose to layout your bare minimum Monday, the point is always the same: Structure it in a way that keeps the Sunday scaries at bay.
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