We have unions to thank for the “invention” of the weekend in the U.S., and most of us look forward to the end of our work week so we can sleep in, make plans with friends and family, and catch up on our favorite tv shows. But would we enjoy that time away from work as much if we had no one to share it with? Research by Young and Lim finds that the structure of the standard work week influences our social and emotional life on a much deeper level than we realize.
In a study comparing the happiness of workers and the unemployed on weekends versus weekdays, Young and Lim find that not all time off is valued equally. Participants in their study did not simply value time off for time off’s sake – instead, the value of time off depends on the ability to coordinate it with others. While the unemployed are less happy overall, both workers and the unemployed see a significant rise in positive emotions and decrease in negative emotions on weekends as compared to weekdays. Further, compared to the employed, the unemployed experienced little to no benefit from their time off when the work week starts.
The results reinforce the argument that most unemployed people are not enjoying their time away from paid work in a way that would outweigh the downsides of being unemployed. This research also has potential implications for the happiness of those who work increasingly common “non-standard” work schedules, meaning they also miss out on time with their families and friends on weekends.