The Role of Recovery for Your Mood at Work

Work recovery and mood at work

Research Paper: Recovery Practices and Work

How individuals show up for work plays a big role in the culture of an organisation. 

Employees mood at work can have an affect on the functioning of the team, as well as their own productivity and performance. They might not realise it, but a big part of their work mood the next day is related to how they unwind -their recovery practices.

A recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology aimed to fill the gap in the literature regarding the relationship between evening recovery experiences, mood trajectories, and the duration of mood benefits during the workday. By examining different recovery activities, the study provides valuable insights into the dynamics of recovery and its impact on employees’ wellbeing in the workplace.

The findings revealed that individuals who reported having better evening recovery experiences showed positive outcomes the next day at work. Specifically, they exhibited higher levels of alertness, calmness, and overall better mood. Further, the study showed that mastery experiences (for example, learning a new skill or honing skills of an existing hobby – anything we find intellectually challenging and requires us to use our skills and talents) were directly related to start-of-work calmness.

It also showed sleep quality played a role in predicting pleasantness, while relaxation, mastery experiences, and control had direct effects on mood states. This suggests that how we unwind and recharge after work can have a significant impact on our well-being and performance during the following workday.

On the flip side, the study showed that employees with low evening recovery experiences and lack of sleep/poor sleep quality experienced a weaker decline in positive mood during the workday.

The implications of this are interesting for workplace wellbeing.

The study highlighted that the benefits of recovery experiences, such as psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery experiences gradually subside during the workday. Similar to vacation fade-out, where the effects of vacation on wellbeing diminish upon returning to work, daily recovery practices are essential to sustain wellbeing and mood.

Therefore, employees should engage in at-work recovery such as breaks also when starting the day with higher favourable mood states than usual. In that way, high levels of wakefulness resulting from high evening recovery experiences and a good sleep quality might last longer during the day. 

Organisations should provide employees with sufficient autonomy to schedule their tasks on a daily basis in accordance with their mood patterns. For example, on days characterised by a high morning wakefulness or calmness, employees should be able to schedule tasks that need a lot of concentration and energy at the beginning of work.

A workplace wellbeing program that takes a holistic approach should encourage employees to engage in relaxation (such as yoga nidra or non-sleep-deep-rest) because relaxation is, beyond good sleep habits, important for next day’s start-of-work mood.

Citation: Arnold, M., & Sonnentag, S. Time matters: The role of recovery for daily mood trajectories at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1111/joop.12445 (accessible here)

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