How employees spend their time off-the-clock can truly make a difference in well-being both at home and at work. Sabine Sonnentag performed a research study examining the recovery time of employees and how that time affected their work engagement and proactive work behaviors the following day. Work engagement was defined as a persistent, positive affective motivational state of fulfillment, and was divided into the components of vigor, dedication, and absorption. Proactive behavior was described as taking initiative in improving circumstances or creating new ones. In the study, Sonnentag had employees complete surveys about their levels of fatigue, their levels of work engagement, and their levels of proactive behavior throughout the day. She found that positive recovery time after work hours led to higher feelings of work engagement the following day, and higher levels of work engagement led to more proactive work behaviors. Studies like these highlight how important the non-work life of employees may be to work life.
Many employers may not know what to do with knowledge like this. A lot of people have the illusion that work and home are completely different spheres that don’t overlap. Our home life and quality of time at home can affect how we go into work; reciprocally, how we leave work can affect how we act when we come home. A lot of this relationship may be beyond the control of employers because the life of an employee at home is very personal and up to the individual. Employers, however can make efforts to encourage time for workers to relax at the end of the day and participate in enjoyable activities so they have time to recover from stress at work. Taking work home may hurt employees more than it helps the company. If employees get the break and rest they need when they go home, their productivity the next day may significantly outweigh what they could have gotten done at home.
Employees shouldn’t worry so much about needing days off or vacations, because taking your evenings to relax and detach from work can be equally or more beneficial and long-lasting. Simply not thinking about work can be a successful (possibly the most successful) technique for improving recovery time. Also, engaging in enjoyable activities or hobbies after work can help individuals to unwind. Volunteering, for example, can help to make individuals feel a sense of fulfillment or involvement that can’t be met at work. Gaining happiness and positive affect from activities outside of work can help us to carry over a positive mindset to the workplace so we enjoy work more and generally do a better job.
The main objective for any recovery time is to feel rested and de-stressed. Many organizational researchers discuss the idea of replenishing cognitive, physical, and emotional resources in order to cope with job demands. When we don’t have the right amount of resources to meet demands of the workplace, this is when employees get stressed. So if employees can have that time to recover and gain resources to cope with job demands, their performance and happiness at work will be improved. Taking simple measures to truly make non-work time more separate from work life can have positive effects on employees and their performance. It may not be easy for some employees to escape their work life, but every bit of recovery time and gain of resources can improve an individual’s well-being and help them be a happier and healthier worker.