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Banishing the Sunday night blues

PI: Professor Ilke Inceoglu, University of Exeter Business School

Partners: Channel 4, Investors in People, DigitLAB, Economic and Social Research Council, Motability Operations.

Research Team: Professor Ilke Inceoglu (lead), Leah Boundy, Jonathan Bird, Sam Stone, Jason Harkness, Professor Leroy White.

Banishing the Sunday Night Blues is an ongoing research programme – led by Professor Ilke Inceoglu, commissioned by Channel 4 and delivered in close partnership with Investors in People – to investigate the experience and impact of the Sunday Night Blues and develop a toolkit with guidance for employees, line managers and HR Directors to help banish the Sunday Night Blues.

“Sunday never feels like a day off. There's always too much preparation for the following week. Myself and most of my friends get the Sunday night dread. It's an awful feeling.”


Fluctuations in mood across the week have been researched in the past, but while some recent research shows that people experience the Sunday Night Blues – or the Sunday ‘Scaries’ – at the thought of going back to work on a Monday, findings on the Sunday Night Blues have not been conclusive.

The Banishing the Sunday Night Blues research programme sets out to examine individuals’ experience of the Sunday Night Blues, uncover the factors that contribute to it, and reveal the positive steps that employees, line managers and HR Directors can take to Banish the Sunday Night Blues. Initial findings of our research show that the Sunday Night Blues is an individual experience that calls for a multi-method approach to better understand it and to be able to develop tools to alleviate it.

Professor Ilke Inceoglu was first approached by Channel 4’s Kirstin Furber to investigate the Sunday Night Blues in more detail. Literature reviews revealed that very little research in management and organizational psychology is focused on the Sunday Night Blues. Following an initial preliminary study, Investors in People CEO Paul Devoy came on board to broaden the reach of this research and insight from themselves and their network. Channel 4 is renowned for its pioneering approach to staff wellbeing. It introduced the media industry’s first Menopause Policy in 2019, as well as the world’s first Pregnancy Loss Policy for all employees, plus it trialled free hormone and reproductive health testing last year.


  • Understand the experience of the Sunday Night Blues and how it impacts people’s work experience and work behaviours.
  • Develop a toolkit for organisations with guidance for employees, line managers and HR Directors to help banish the Sunday Night Blues, drawing on evidence from literature and our own research.
  • Consult with stakeholders – employees, line managers and HR Directors – to inform the toolkit’s development.


This research programme draws on a mixed method approach, including interviews, surveys and focus groups. To inform the toolkit’s development, we consult with stakeholders: employees, line managers and HR Directors.

Preliminary findings

Initial findings from interviews with employees show that the experience of the Sunday Night Blues can include a range of feelings and thoughts, such as preoccupation with the week ahead, dread, nervousness and feeling down. For some people these thoughts and feelings can affect sleep. The following quotes illustrate the occurrence of work-related thoughts on a Sunday:

“…just starting to feel stressed already, even though you’re not back in the workplace…”

It’s as if your mind starts to turn from what is generally either relaxation or enjoyment at the weekend into worries about everything you’ve got to do in the working week ahead.”

The experience of the Sunday Night Blues is not confined to people who are unhappy at work – people who enjoy their jobs experience it too.

Factors that contribute to the Sunday Night Blues include checking emails over the weekend, unfinished jobs left over from the week before and self-imposed expectations. It appears that since the COVID-19 pandemic, when many employees were forced to work from home, the boundaries between home and work life have become more blurred, making it difficult to switch off from work during weekends.

Having had an enjoyable weekend also seems to make the transition to from Sunday to Monday more salient:

“I find the transition hard when I’ve had a lovely but busy weekend as I’m tired then and often less organised for the week ahead.”

What steps can employees and managers take?

Initial findings from the interviews and focus groups point to several actions that employees and managers can take. These include planning activities for Sunday (eg physical exercise, socialising, having a plan for Sunday evening) or talking with someone (family, partner, friends). Some participants mentioned that they find working over the weekend helped them to feel less anxious, but that this typically increased pressure on nonwork life.

Managers can reshape Mondays and Fridays by considering meeting free Monday mornings and Friday afternoons to enable their teams to prepare for the week and finish tasks and to-list before the weekend starts. Other recommendations include offering support to the team, being approachable and knowing where team members can be referred to for mental health support if needed. Finally, managers need to be mindful of their own work pressures and well-being – having clear work nonwork boundaries for their own benefit and setting an example to their teams.

Banishing the Sunday Night Blues event

Professor Ilke Inceoglu presented the preliminary research findings and tips at the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday 14th March. This morning session was hosted by Investors in People and featured a panel discussion between Kirstin Furber Channel 4’s People Director, Investors in People CEO Paul Devoy, and Professor Ilke Inceoglu.


Professor Ilke Inceoglu is a Professor in Organisational Behaviour & HR and Director of the Exeter Centre for Leadership at the University of Exeter Business School, where she is also Director of the Exeter Centre for Leadership. Her research focuses on employee well-being and work behaviour, and has been published in leading journals such as Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology and Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.


Channel 4 exists to create change through entertainment. Publicly owned yet commercially funded, Channel 4 generates significant and sustainable cultural, economic and social impact across the UK – at no cost to the taxpayer.

The broadcaster’s distinctive remit is set by Parliament, and it has a role to represent unheard voices, challenge with purpose and reinvent entertainment. For 40 years, it has been a British success story, engaging generation after generation of young people.

Across its bases in London, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow, Channel 4 is turbocharging its efforts to find, nurture and develop talent across the UK. Through its training and development initiative 4Skills, Channel 4 is opening up opportunities in broadcasting, with a particular focus on disadvantaged young people, and addressing skills gaps across the Nations and Regions.


Investors in People have been making work better for organisations across the world since 1991. In that time, they’ve worked with over 11 million people and over 50,000 businesses. Because happy people are healthier people, and healthier people are more productive. Productive people are good for business, and in turn, society. See where they’re going with this? If you’d like more information about Investors in People, what they do and who they’re working with, visit


Limitations of findings: The research findings presented here are preliminary and not peer reviewed yet and therefore limited in their ability to provide definitive conclusions, as this research programme is still in progress.

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