Working on the weekend doesn't make you a workaholic -- but it could make you less stressed

The image of someone sitting at home on a sunny Saturday afternoon writing a project report does not seem to illustrate the phrase “work/life balance.”

More like “workaholic.”

But Laura Vanderkam wants to challenge that assumption, as well as the common fear that if you, too start working on the weekends, your work/life balance will disappear. Instead, she suggests that spending part of the weekend on professional tasks can reduce stress, bolster your career, and help facilitate work/life balance.

Vanderkam is the author of multiple books on time-management and productivity, including most recently, “I Know How She Does It,” in which she explains what she learned from asking high-earning women to keep time logs. She calls those time logs the “Mosaic Project,” and refers, somewhat poetically, to the 168 hours that make up your week as a mosaic.

“Weekends can be a helpful tool in terms of work/life balance,” Vanderkam said when she visited the Business Insider office in October.

“Some people think work should be work, home should be home, never the two should meet, and that’s fine,” she added. “But a lot of people realise that working a little bit on the weekends can buy you a more balanced life during the week.”

For example, she said, if you work a couple hours on Saturday mornings and Sunday nights, you might be able to leave an hour earlier every weekday. That means you could pick up your kids from school, or prepare dinner, or simply make it to a gym class.

Of course, Vanderkam said, “You don’t want to work on weekends just to work on weekends.”

Instead, she suggests using Saturday mornings to “think a little bit deeper” on a tough problem or project, because most people won’t be pinging you with emails and distracting you. You can use Sunday evenings to think about the week ahead.

Interestingly, most of the women who kept time logs didn’t work more than an hour total on the weekends. But at least one woman who did work a few extra hours on the weekend because she had to leave the office early during the week to pick up her kid from day care said it helped her feel less stressed.

“In the context of the whole mosaic,” Vanderkam writes, “sometimes working on the weekend is less stressful than not working on the weekend.”

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