POSTED: September 24 2019
Sunday Dread: just how big a problem is work anxiety?

Sunday Dread: just how big a problem is work anxiety?

From sleeping poorly to feeling irritable, anxiety is having an impact on the UK’s workforce. But why is this and what can be done to tackle it? Aviva, one of the UK’s largest insurers shares their insights.

We have heard of the term the ‘Sunday night blues’. But when does feeling anxious about starting the working week become a health and wellbeing problem and is it affecting UK workforces?

Most people have an idea of what the perfect Sunday should be, a time for taking it easy, de-stressing and spending time with family and friends. But too many people feel anxious about the impending challenges of the week ahead. Worry over work can have a significant impact on downtime and Sunday dread can ruin what should be the most relaxing of days.

To find out more and investigate the scale of the issue, Aviva has conducted a survey of 2,000 workers across varying industries in the UK.

The key findings from Aviva’s research are:

  • Almost 3 in 4 (72%) workers check their emails over the course of the weekend.
  • Over three quarters (78%) of UK employees spend time at the weekend dreading work.
  • 17% of UK workers spend over 6 hours thinking about work at the weekend.
  • Employees spend 2 hours 29 minutes a week doing work outside of their Monday to Friday hours, that’s 119 hours each year or 16 extra days at work.
  • It takes 1 hour 49 minutes to switch off at the end of the working week.
  • Almost half (47%) of UK workers would like to see an email ban implemented at the weekends. But over half (54%) of business owners do not want this to take effect.



In order to assess the impact on employee health, the Aviva survey also explored the lasting impact of work-induced anxiety. The findings show that workers simply aren’t getting the most from their time off, with the top four effects being feelings of tiredness, lack of sleep, increased irritability and depressive moods. It also affects social lives, with 1 in 6 feeling unable to meet up with friends at the weekend.

So what’s causing the worry?

Aviva’s data makes it clear that Sunday dread caused by work anxiety is a very real thing for employees.

But what’s causing this? The reasons can vary according to each individual’s circumstances, but a pattern does seem to emerge when we look at the answers from our respondents.

The biggest factor is the impending heavy workload for the week ahead, with just under half (42%) citing this as the reason behind their anxiety. Unsurprisingly this was most keenly felt by overworked middle managers (51%), while employees of bigger businesses (with 500+ staff) were also amongst those who felt the highest levels of anxiety over workload.

To combat Sunday dread and the associated anxiety it brings, 40% of UK workers would like to see the introduction of a 4-day week, something proposed by the Labour Party Conference. Also later starts on a Monday (31%) and free gym memberships (28%) to relieve stress would also be welcomed.


Stress and anxiety are the biggest causes of sick days in the UK. Josie Saville, Workplace Wellbeing Specialist from training providers 4and20million, shares five simple ways that employees can reduce work-based anxiety;

  • Plan ahead – At the end of the day, write out your tasks for tomorrow.
  • Biggest thing first – Make daunting tasks the first of the day.
  • Use your ‘out of office’ – Put your out of office alert on when you need uninterrupted time to complete tasks.
  • Have a shutdown ritual – Tell yourself work is finished for the day.
  • Utilise your brain – Downtime is vital to recharge.


You can see the full results of Aviva’s research including their insights from their own experience here.