“It’s a dramatic mental shift to imagine a week where free time matters as much as work, one that upends our deeply held, work-first values.”
Katrina Onstad’s The Weekend Effect explores the Western, work-first mindset that causes so many to sacrifice their free time and sanity in order to keep up with the ever-changing, increasingly demanding workforce. Onstad challenges the notion that employees should be constantly available, checking their work e-mails and work phones on the weekends and sacrificing their personal time to meet the demands of jobs with seemingly never ending amounts of things to do.
The Weekend Effect was a refreshing read for me, if only because I witness the occurrences that Onstad mentions all too often in my own life. Who’s complaining that they’ve skipped lunch, a choice they’ve made to catch up on their workload? Which relative or friend is responding to an urgent e-mail or phone call in the middle of a party or holiday dinner? Hell, I consciously try to make sure that I don’t fall into such traps on a daily basis, and I’ve still found myself cutting lunch short on the rare busy day. When you really sit down and think about how often such events take place, you (hopefully) realize how awful and ridiculous it is that work takes up over half of our lives in modern society. As Onstad puts it, people are no longer working so that they can live – they’re merely living to work. This book was worth reading, if only for the satisfaction of having someone else repeat these thoughts and denounce this culture.
The research that went into The Weekend Effect is evident in Onstad’s writing, and I appreciate that she gives specific numbers when making arguments. All too often non-fiction books like this wind up stating observations and opinions, which may be true, but provide little evidence to back them up. The Weekend Effect offers statistics and studies to strengthen its points (and provides a list of sources at the back in case you’d like to continue studying the subject).
History also plays a role in The Weekend Effect, and Onstad delves into the details of the labor movement and explains how human beings wound up with a 40 hour work week in the first place. While I knew most of this information already, I think it was a great choice to include it. For anyone reading about this topic for the first time, this book holds a lot of valuable information.
My main complaint in regards to The Weekend Effect is that the writing can be a bit dry at times. Add in the fact that certain parts of the book didn’t resonate with me at all, and I found myself skimming more than reading through large chunks of it. This might be due to personal preference for certain topics, though. For example, I’m not a very religious person. I zoned out for the entirety of the discussion that pertained to the Sabbath and how people enjoy their weekends less because they don’t observe religious days. That’s just not my jam, but it could be someone else’s.
There were also a number of suggestions that I found questionable, and I think Onstad would have benefited from looking into different personality types. I was a bit put off by the suggestion that going to church, volunteering, or playing sports are the only valuable ways to make your weekend feel worthwhile. Meanwhile, she puts down the idea that entertainment or a relaxing day at home could make one feel refreshed. Considering I had one of those days yesterday, and feel completely on top of my game today, I’m going to have to politely disagree.
All in all, The Weekend Effect was an interesting read. I gave it a 3 out of 5 stars. I learned a few new things and received confirmation on a topic I feel pretty passionately about, but I wasn’t blown away. I’d still suggest it as a starting point if you’re interested in this discussion!
Has anyone else read this? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.