It is Mathias Fischedick's job to accelerate the careers of others. And it is not uncommon for the coach to recommend to executives what many of them had known as taboo until then: to work on strategically important projects for their career in their free time. Many top managers, in his experience, would mainly use the working day in the office to deal with the concerns of their employees and customers. However, if you are always available during the day and deal with many short-term appointments, you often don't get to tackle tasks that require full concentration and creativity.

This article comes from the "WirtschaftsWoche".

And so many managers, mostly without mentioning it to others, prefer to sit down at their desk early in the morning or at the weekend - and are then both more productive and more relaxed. If you close your laptop after a few hours of work in the late evening or on Saturday morning, you may have accumulated a few unpaid overtime - but your head is actually free. Overall, according to Coach Fischedick, these people often have more energy and feel more balanced because they work more but still have fewer worries with them.

Freedom gained

Such statements are astonishing, as they contradict what public opinion has given in recent years. The right work-life balance is one of the paradigms of today's work culture. When managers work in their spare time, this is seen as a sign of overwork and overload, the symptom of an economic world that has accelerated to excess. The British organizational psychologist Ian Hesketh from the University of Manchester coined the term "leaveism" for it. Because they have to be available at all times, people work "on leave", i.e. after work, on vacation, on weekends.

But the corona crisis at the latest has shown that these almost taboo behavior patterns are still the rule - probably even more than ever before. Every third German switched to the home office and stated on the record that he would work more rather than less there. And many didn't think that was a bad thing, probably because they were used to blurring the boundaries between job and leisure. This impression is confirmed not only by coaches like Fischedick, but also by recent scientific findings. Leisure time work is not necessarily detrimental to productivity or mental balance - as long as you choose it yourself.

Of course, if employees regularly take work with them in their free time because they fear for their jobs otherwise and because their bosses burden them with too much work, then that is a problem. "The additional working time can also mean relief and a gain in quality of life for some people," says Coach Fischedick. Less stress from work after work? Obviously, this doesn't just apply to managers. Organizational and work psychologists working with Oliver Weigelt from the University of Rostock had employees keep a diary of their working hours and their stress level. A total of 83 employees between the ages of 21 and 65 from different industries noted their unfinished business at the end of the working week over a period of three months. At the beginning of the week, they stated whether they had used their free time over the weekend to work - and how this affected their stress level. Result: Most people have a harder time switching off at the weekend if they have not managed to complete all of the important tasks during the week. Weigelt states: If these people manage to get ahead with unfinished tasks through work after work or on the weekend, they could enjoy the remaining free time even more and start the new week relaxed

Just not too ambitious

"It becomes dangerous when someone no longer organizes things of their own free will, but because the person has the feeling that they have to over-fulfill tasks under pressure from others," warns business psychologist Svenja Hofert. Highly performance-oriented people are particularly prone to this. "Then there is no end to it, after all, you can always take on more tasks or do things even more perfectly." At some point there will be no more free time.

Whether you succeed in drawing healthy boundaries between work and leisure is also a matter of type - and a question of priorities, says Coach Fischedick. "I have to know what is important to me - and organize myself so that all of these things have a place in my everyday life." For example, his freedom is particularly important to him. "That's why I like to organize my working day flexibly." And that can also mean that on some days he still works late in the evening or even postpones a few working hours to the weekend. Let someone else tell you when to work and when not? That, says Fischedick, would be even more exhausting.