Rest, Relax and Be Merry…At Work!

Topic(s): stress

Topic: Stress, Work-Life Balance
Publication: Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Article: Staying vigorous until work is over: The role of trait vigor, day-specific work experiences and recovery.
Blogger: Benjamin Granger

After a long hard day of work, many of us get back home only to do more work!  After all that, how many of us feel energized and vigorous and ready for another day of work?  (Depressing, isn’t it?)

Since all of us have numerous roles in life (e.g., employees, family members, etc.), the question above is a particularly important one.  After a long day of work, are we physically, emotionally and cognitively energized (vigorous) to tackle work and family issues?  For individuals who have to balance work and family roles, vigor can play a significant part in how well we perform in those roles.

Importantly, when one role (e.g., work) reduces vigor over time (the boss has been keeping me late), employees may not be well-equipped to deal with family issues after work (e.g., I just worked a 12 hour day, how can I be expected to fix dinner?). The opposite can also be true.  Positive experiences in one domain (e.g., I was able to enjoy my daughter’s basketball game last night) can actually help employees perform in other roles more effectively.

Given the importance of vigor for balancing work and family roles, Sonnentag and Niessen (2008) were interested in investigating several predictors of vigor at the end of a workday. The authors wanted to find out whether workload (e.g., amount of work on a specific day) and recovery time over
several preceding days (e.g., breaks at work, relaxing in the evening) related to employee vigor at the end of a workday.

Not surprisingly, Sonnentag and Niessen found that low workload during the day and positive experiences of recovery over the preceding days led to increased vigor at the end of a workday.  So basically, when our workload in a single day is above average and we don’t have the opportunity to relax and recover, then we are more likely to experience less vigor after the workday is done (Been there before!).

Moreover, Sonnentag and Niessen found that employees who are generally more vigorous and energetic (high trait vigor)benefitted from recovery experiences more effectively than those who aregenerally less vigorous (low trait vigor).

So how can we use this knowledge?  Employees can plan activities during their work breaks and off-time that lead to recovery (e.g., exercise, leisure time spent with family, etc.).  And although not always practical, organizations can attempt to keep time pressures and work hours within reason.  If employees are overworked and don’t have time to relax and recover, it is likely that their work will suffer as
well as their family life.

Sonnenag, S., & Niessen, C. (2008). Staying vigorous until work is over: The role of trait vigor, day-specific work experiences and recovery. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81, 435-458.