WTHE HEN Boomtown Rats, an Irish band, released “I Don't Like Mondays” in 1979, the song became an instant hit. The inspiration behind this was the Cleveland Elementary School shooting in San Diego that year. The 16-year-old attacker cited not liking Mondays as the main reason he fired 36 shots, killing two adults and injuring eight children and a police officer. However, that’s not why the song resonated with millions of people around the world; most of them are probably unaware of its tragic origins. What many recognize very well is the difficulty of mustering the energy necessary to get up on Monday morning to face the week ahead.
Many bosses say starting the week in person at the office creates good energy. Many employees disagree. An article published in 2021 by the Journal of Applied Psychologyfound that people tend to be more rude on Mondays and become more courteous as the week goes on.
A 2015 article by Yun Tae Hwang and Amy Kang published in the Australian Medical Journal goes so far as to diagnose a new disease, Mondayitis. The authors define it as “a systemic illness presenting with a nonspecific constellation of symptoms including fatigue, lethargy or asthenia, dysthymia, irritability, dizziness, photophobia, dry mouth, myalgia, and headache in the absence of another focal disease or systemic”. .
These symptoms usually appear on the first working day after a period of time off work, which may be a weekend or longer vacation. They can cause patients to call in sick, decide to work from home, or, if they come into the office, appear detached and unavailable. So much for good energy.
Mondayitis appears to be contagious and infects other days of the week. Some Americans now complain of “Sunday scares,” when the pre-Monday fear sets in as the weekend draws to a close. Both of these conditions can be made worse by a weekend hangover, a looming deadline, or painful memories (high school double science first thing in the morning?). They are likely to be particularly acute among nearly half of American workers who, according to a 2022 survey by UKGA HOUR-software company, hate their job.
Yet the sudden shift from non-work to work affects everyone, not just those who despise what they do for a living. The covid-19 pandemic has caused many people to re-evaluate their work-life balance. A London lawyer who spends his weekends working on cases likes to launch into his formal working week with an elegant breakfast at Delaunay and lunch at Inner Temple Hall. A broader movement promotes the idea of a four-day work week, a permutation of which would make Monday part of the weekend (although this could lead to an outbreak of Tuesdayitis). In a less ambitious and more realistic way, a social media campaign for “bare minimum Mondays” advocates for a smooth start to the week.
All of this reflects a deep human instinct of complacency and procrastination; There's a reason why “Thank God It's Monday” isn't on many bumper stickers or T-shirts. However, on this first day of the week, employees must not allow themselves to be carried away by apathy, weariness and the desire for things to be different. As Robert Frost advised in his poem “A Servant to Servants,” “the best way out is always through.”
The previous 60 hours were probably spent with people who have nothing to do with your work. You may have prepared – or simply enjoyed – a meal more elaborate than a in the office sandwich. Maybe you went for a walk in the park or just laid in bed. Either way, you've almost certainly cleared your head. Unless you ended the weekend with a splurge, that means the next morning could be your most productive time of the week.
For a banker, Monday is the day to cross items off your to-do list. Your columnist, a Bartleby guest, feels sharp and invigorated on Monday mornings (i.e. when editorial meetings are held at The Economist, plan and discuss the issue for the coming week). The first shower, coffee, and post-weekend commute don't have to feel like hiking with a backpack full of rocks. Rather, they can be imbued with a renewed sense of purpose and, as such, act as a tonic. It's Friday afternoon that Bartleby feels exhausted and can't wait to go home – until Monday morning, when she's revived and full of spirits, she's ready to do it all again. ■
Read more from Bartleby, our management and work columnist:
Generative AI generates difficult choices for managers (November 27)
How not to motivate your employees (November 20)
The curse of the poorly conducted meeting (November 13)
Also: How Bartleby Column got its name