ArticlePDF Available

Exhaustion and Lack of Psychological Detachment From Work During Off-Job Time: Moderator Effects of Time Pressure and Leisure Experiences

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Lack of psychological detachment from work during off-job time contributes to the increase in employee exhaustion over time. This study examines the reverse causal path from exhaustion to lack of psychological detachment, suggesting that this reverse process may operate within a relatively short time frame. Specifically, we examine if exhaustion predicts a decrease in psychological detachment from work during off-job time within several weeks. We propose that time pressure at work intensifies and that pleasurable leisure experiences reduce this association between exhaustion and the decrease in psychological detachment. We tested our hypotheses in a short-term prospective study (time lag: 4 weeks) with a sample of 109 employees. Ordinary least square regression analysis indicates that exhaustion predicted a decrease in psychological detachment from work over the course of 4 weeks. This decrease was particularly strong for employees working under time pressure and for employees who did not engage in pleasurable leisure experiences. Our findings suggest that exhausted employees find detachment from work increasingly difficult and therefore might suffer from insufficient recovery-although they need it most. The situation is particularly severe when exhausted employees face high time pressure and a lack of pleasurable leisure experiences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
Content may be subject to copyright.
Exhaustion and lack of psychological detachment from work during off-job time:
Moderator effects of time pressure and leisure experiences
Sabine Sonnentag
University of Mannheim
Hillevi Arbeus
University of Konstanz
Christopher Mahn
University of Konstanz
Charlotte Fritz
Portland State University
Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19, 206-216
doi: 10.1037/a0035760
Address for Correspondence:
Sabine Sonnentag
Department of Psychology
School of Social Sciences
University of Mannheim
Schloss Ehrenhof Ost
D-68131 Mannheim
Phone: +49 621 181 2118
Fax: +49 621 181 2119
Email: sonnentag@uni-mannheim.de
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 2
!
Abstract
Lack of psychological detachment from work during off-job time contributes to the increase
in employee exhaustion over time. This study examines the reverse causal path from
exhaustion to lack of psychological detachment, suggesting that this reverse process may
operate within a relatively short time frame. Specifically, we examine if exhaustion predicts a
decrease in psychological detachment from work during off-job time within several weeks.
We propose that time pressure at work intensifies and that positive leisure experiences reduce
this association between exhaustion and the decrease in psychological detachment. We tested
our hypotheses in a short-term prospective study (time lag: 4 weeks) with a sample of 109
employees. Ordinary least square regression analysis indicates that exhaustion predicted a
decrease in psychological detachment from work over the course of four weeks. This decrease
was particularly strong for employees working under time pressure and for employees who
did not engage in pleasurable leisure experiences. Our findings suggest that exhausted
employees find detachment from work increasingly difficult and therefore might suffer from
insufficient recovery – although they need it most. The situation is particularly severe when
exhausted employees face high time pressure and a lack of pleasurable leisure experiences.
Keywords: exhaustion, psychological detachment, time pressure, leisure, longitudinal
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 3
!
Exhaustion and lack of psychological detachment from work during off-job time:
Moderator effects of time pressure and leisure experiences
Research has demonstrated that not only job stressors but also experiences during off-
job time impact on employee health and well-being (Amstad, Meier, Fasel, Elfering, &
Semmer, 2011; Hecht & Boies, 2009). Employees who are able to unwind and recover from
job stress during off-job hours enjoy a better health and well-being than employees who are
less able to do so (Demerouti, Bakker, Geurts, & Taris, 2009; Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007).
Psychological detachment from work during off-job time (i.e., temporary mental
disengagement from one’s job; Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005) has been identified as one
particularly important recovery experience. Therefore, it is important to better understand the
antecedents of psychological detachment from work during off-job time.
Cross-sectional studies have shown that lack of psychological detachment from work
during off-job time is related to increased levels of burnout, particularly emotional exhaustion
(Fritz, Yankelevich, Zarubin, & Barger, 2010; Siltaloppi, Kinnunen, & Feldt, 2009).
Moreover, prospective research has demonstrated that a lack of psychological detachment
predicts an increase in exhaustion over time (Söderström, Jeding, Ekstedt, Perski, & Akerstedt,
2012; Sonnentag, Binnewies, & Mojza, 2010), suggesting that a lack of psychological
detachment might be one of the causal precursors of exhaustion.
However, an opposite causal path might be possible as well. Specifically, employees
experiencing exhaustion might find it increasingly difficult to psychologically detach from
work during off-job time, for instance because they remain mentally occupied with stressful
job-related matters during off-job hours. This impact of exhaustion on psychological
detachment might be particularly strong under specific conditions, for instance when job
demands (e.g., time pressure) are high and when leisure time does not provide sufficient
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 4
!
opportunities for recovery. In this study, we examine this reversed causal path from
exhaustion to poor psychological detachment and explore possible moderators of this process.
Our study makes several contributions to the literature. First, it adds to past research
on employee burnout. Specifically, we propose that exhaustion might not only be regarded as
a consequence of unfavorable working conditions and lack of recovery from work (Crawford,
LePine, & Rich, 2010; Sonnentag et al., 2010). It can also be seen as a state that stimulates
harmful action and thinking patterns that subsequently trigger further depletion processes.
Thus, from a Conversation-of-Resources perspective (Hobfoll, 1998), exhaustion can be seen
as a crucial part of a loss cycle: exhaustion as a state of drained resources might lead to
further resource depletion, which over time might increase exhaustion even further.
Second, our study contributes to the growing number of studies on recovery from
work. While these earlier studies have demonstrated the benefits of recovery (and particularly
of psychological detachment from work; Sonnentag et al., 2010; von Thiele Schwarz, 2011),
the antecedents of beneficial recovery experiences have received less research attention so far.
Thus, still little is known about the individual predictors of psychological detachment. Our
study shows that an individual’s level of exhaustion may make psychological detachment
from work during off-job time increasingly difficult and thereby may prevent an effective
recovery process.
Finally, our study points to possible moderators of the relationship between high
exhaustion and decreased psychological detachment. It specifies situations in which
exhausted employees might be especially at risk of not detaching from work during off-job
time. By identifying such moderators our study identifies possible entry points for
interventions that may help employees who suffer from exhaustion to find ways to mentally
disengage from work while being at home.
It has been argued that the choice of time lags is a particularly challenging issue in
prospective research (Mitchell & James, 2001). Previous studies in occupational health
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 5
!
psychology mostly incorporated time lags of several months or more (Sonnentag & Frese,
2012) or followed a daily-survey design with time lags of a few hours within one day
(Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005; Ten Brummelhuis & Bakker, 2012). However, studies examining
time lags of several weeks are relatively rare (e.g., Totterdell, Wood, & Wall, 2006). With our
study, we aim at addressing this paucity of research and chose a time lag of four weeks. A
time lag of four weeks will be particularly suitable to examine the relationship between
exhaustion and change in psychological detachment, for several reasons. First, it is long
enough to capture changes in a person’s experiences that go beyond short-term day-to-day
fluctuations, but is still short enough to reflect relatively small changes in affect and behavior
– as an expression of employees’ effort to deal with the demands at work (Zaheer, Albert, &
Zaheer, 1999). Shorter time-lags may fall short in reliably detecting changes in psychological
detachment because these changes may be masked by day-to-day fluctuations and because for
a limited time, exhausted employees may try to counteract detachment difficulties by
recuperation efforts during the weekend. Over time, however, this effort will not be sufficient
to uphold a healthy “cycle of work and rest” (Zijlstra & Rook, 2008, p. 62) and detachment
levels will decrease. Second, during time lags that are substantially longer than four weeks,
exhausted employees may try to initiate more enduring changes to their situation (LeBlanc,
Hox, Schaufeli, Taris, & Peeters, 2007), might find some temporary relief during vacations
(Westman & Eden, 1996), or might mentally withdraw from their jobs (Bakker, Demerouti,
Verbeke, 2004). Finally, a four-week time lag is advantageous for more practical reasons
because re-occurring monthly obligations and other events in employees’ work and private
lives can be held constant. Taken together, we expect that this time interval reflects the time
during which exhausted employees find it more and more difficult to mentally disengage from
job-related issues during off-job time - before they ultimately may decide to develop turnover
intentions and behavioral signs of withdrawal from their jobs (Taris, Le Blanc, Schaufeli, &
Schreurs, 2005).
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 6
!
Exhaustion as a predictor of poor psychological detachment
Exhaustion has been described as the core component of burnout. It is experienced as
„being overextended and depleted of one’s emotional and physical resources“ (Maslach,
Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001, p. 399). Exhaustion results from the prolonged exposure to high
job demands (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007) and can manifest itself in the emotional, physical,
and cognitive domain (Demerouti, Mostert, & Bakker, 2010). As a component of burnout,
exhaustion results from chronic depletion processes (Shirom, 2003) and is relatively stable
over longer periods of time. For instance, Hall, Dollard, Tuckey, Winefield, and Thompson
(2010) reported a stability of r = .69 over the course of 12 months.
We propose that exhaustion predicts a decrease in psychological detachment from work
over time. Etzion, Eden, and Lapidot (1998) have introduced the concept of psychological
detachment in research on respites and recovery. Psychological detachment refers to
temporary mental disengagement from one’s job during off-job hours. It implies refraining
from job-related thoughts and worries during leisure time. Psychological detachment may be
achieved by refraining from job-related activities (Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005), and by
engaging in activities that require mental presence and that encourage a high involvement in
the activity (Feuerhahn, Sonnentag, & Woll, 2014; Hahn, Binnewies, & Haun, 2012).
Research has shown that psychological detachment from work may change within a few
weeks, for instance when deliberately addressed in an intervention program (Hahn, Binnewies,
Sonnentag, & Mojza, 2011), demonstrating its malleability within a relatively short period of
time.
Traditionally, research has conceptualized a lack of psychological detachment from
work – along with related constructs such as rumination and worry – as a predictor of poor
health and well-being (Sonnentag et al., 2010; Verkuil, Brosschot, Meerman, & Thayer, 2010).
Exhaustion has been mainly seen as a result of enduring stressful working conditions and lack
of resources (Crawford et al., 2010; Demerouti et al., 2001; Halbesleben, 2006). However, the
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 7
!
assumption that exhaustion is a predictor of a person’s future thoughts and behaviors has
received less research attention within occupational health psychology. In our study, we
examine this “reverse process” and propose that exhaustion can predict a decrease in
psychological detachment over time.
Exhaustion might lead to a decrease in psychological detachment for several reasons.
First, exhaustion implies a depletion of one’s energetic resources; it is experienced as a lack
of energy and is closely related to feelings of fatigue (Maslach et al., 2001; Shirom, 2003).
When employees are exhausted they feel increasingly overwhelmed by the demands of their
jobs and think that they are unable to meet these demands with the energetic resources they
have available. Therefore, for employees high in exhaustion, job demands are not any longer
challenges they may embrace, but become a source of stress and worry. Second, studies have
shown that exhausted employees report cognitive weariness (Melamed, Ugarten, Shirom,
Kahana, Lerman, & Froom, 1999) and more failures with respect to perception, memory, and
action (van der Linden, Keijsers, Eling, & van Schaijk, 2005; Schmidt, Neubach & Heuer,
2007) resulting in a tendency to show poor job performance (Taris, 2006). These performance
deficits may increase over time because exhausted employees will become less and less able
to invest extra effort in order to compensate for these deficits. As a result, exhausted
employees may increasingly ruminate about their work or try to complete work-related tasks
after hours. For example, they may think more and more about mistakes they have made or
about possible issues that may arise in the future. Third, research has shown that exhaustion is
associated with self-control deficits (Bolton, Harvey, Grawitch, & Barber, 2012; Diestel &
Schmidt, 2011). These self-control deficits imply that exhausted employees are less capable to
actively regulate their thoughts and emotions. For instance, exhausted employees have
problems in directing their attention (van der Linden et al., 2005) what makes it difficult for
them to leave thoughts about their work behind during off-job time. Initially, exhausted
employees might try to counteract such self-control problems by investing extra effort, what
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 8
!
in turn further depletes their self-control capacity. As a consequence psychological
detachment from work will further decrease.
Taken together, findings on exhaustion, depletion of energetic resources, and
associated performance problems imply that, over time, exhausted employees will become
less able to mentally detach from work during off-job time. In addition, because their self-
control is impaired they will become less successful in influencing their thoughts during
leisure time.
Thus, while in a process that unfolds over years, exhaustion may lead to
disengagement from the demands of work (Lee & Ashforth, 1996), within shorter time
periods, exhausted employees might still want to remain engaged, but in fact will be less able
to mentally detach from work during off-job time. Therefore, we propose the following
hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1. Exhaustion predicts a decrease in psychological detachment from work
during off-job time over several weeks.
Time Pressure and Pleasurable Leisure Experiences as Moderators
We propose that both work-related and leisure-related factors might impact on the
relationship between exhaustion and decreased psychological detachment. Specifically, time
pressure at work may intensify the relationship between exhaustion and decreased
psychological detachment, whereas pleasurable leisure experiences may reduce it.
Time pressure is a wide-spread job stressor and refers to the experience of having too
much to do in too little time (Major, Klein, Ehrhart, 2002). Research has shown that
employees who work under high time pressure and face high workload find it more difficult
to mentally detach from work during off-job time (Siltaloppi et al, 2009; Sonnentag, Kuttler,
& Fritz, 2010). One explanation for this finding is that time pressure goes along with high
activation (Baer & Oldham, 2006), i.e., an intense physiological and psychological
stimulation, and may persist after the end of the working day, even when the actual time
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 9
!
pressure is over. This high level of activation makes it difficult to unwind and to forget about
work during off-job time (Brosschot, Pieper, & Thayer, 2005). Importantly, time pressure
might not only directly impair psychological detachment from work but might also be a
moderator in the relationship between exhaustion and low psychological detachment.
Specifically, time pressure may intensify the relationship between exhaustion and decreased
detachment. Above we have argued that exhausted employees feel that their energetic
resources are not sufficient to deal with the demands of their jobs. This experience should be
particularly strong when workload is high and when employees face time pressure. When
exhausted employees face time pressure, their fear that they will not be able to meet the
demands of their jobs will increase and they will worry even more about work during off-job
time, resulting in a particularly strong decrease in psychological detachment. Thus, we
propose that high time pressure intensifies the relationship between exhaustion and decreased
psychological detachment. However, when time pressure is low, work demands appear to be
more easily manageable and employees will disconnect from work more easily and will think
less about work during off-job time. In this situation, the relationship between exhaustion and
decrease in psychological detachment should be weaker.
Thus, we propose the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 2. Time pressure moderates the relationship between exhaustion and
decrease in psychological detachment from work during off-job time. At high levels of time
pressure the relationship between exhaustion and decrease in psychological detachment is
stronger than at low levels of time pressure.
Pleasurable experiences during off-job time may impact on the relationship between
exhaustion and decreased psychological detachment. Specifically, we propose that
pleasurable leisure experiences have the potential to buffer the relationship between
exhaustion and decrease in psychological detachment. Pleasurable leisure experiences refer to
the individual perception that the way one spends time off the job is a pleasurable and positive
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 10
!
one (cf., Sonnentag & Zijlstra, 2006). This perception originates from engaging in activities
that one enjoys doing and that are associated with positive affective states. Empirically, it has
been shown that pleasure during off-job time predicts a decrease in fatigue and an increase in
vigor (van Hooff, Geurts, Beckers, & Kompier, 2011).
We propose that pleasurable leisure experiences are important for exhausted
employees in that they may help them mentally disengage from work during off-job time. We
have argued that exhaustion is related to a decrease in psychological detachment from work;
exhausted employees find it increasingly difficult to mentally detach from work because work
becomes less manageable for them and because self-control deficits make it increasingly
difficult to stop thinking about work. However, when exhausted employees have pleasurable
experiences during leisure time they may be more successful in psychologically detaching
from work. Pleasurable leisure experiences are by definition experiences with positive
valence that may result from enjoyable activities. Pursuing an enjoyable activity may make it
more likely to get immersed and absorbed in it, which in turn will result in higher levels of
psychological detachment from work (Hahn et al., 2012). Moreover, pleasurable leisure
experiences are associated with positive affective states (Sonnentag & Zijlstra, 2006). Positive
affective states help to restore depleted self-control resources (Tice, Baumeister, Shmueli, &
Muravan, 2007). Thus, being in a positive affective state during leisure time will help
exhausted employees to disentangle themselves from unwanted thoughts during off-job time,
thereby increasing psychological detachment from work.
However, when employees do not engage in pleasurable leisure experiences,
exhaustion will be associated with a decrease in psychological detachment from work during
off-job hours. Exhausted employees will be left with their thoughts originating from the
overwhelming work situation. Building on these arguments, we propose Hypothesis 3:
Hypothesis 3. Pleasurable leisure experiences moderate the relationship between
exhaustion and decrease in psychological detachment from work during off-job time. At high
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 11
!
levels of pleasurable leisure experiences the negative relationship between emotional
exhaustion and psychological detachment is weaker than at low levels of pleasurable leisure
experiences.
Method
Sample
We recruited study participants employed in a broad range of jobs and working at least
20 hours per week. We recruited potential participants in a variety of organizations mostly in
Southwest Germany. Specifically, we approached local organizations, either via the their
human resource department or via contact persons, and introduced the study at the phone or in
face-to-face meetings. After organizations expressed interest in study participation, we
informed them about the details of data collection. Specifically, we had prepared a one-page
description of the study that could be provided to potential participants, explaining the study
procedure, inclusion criteria, and assuring confidentiality of all responses.
We asked participants to respond to two surveys administered four weeks apart. We
distributed 229 surveys. A total of 161 persons completed the first survey (response rate: 70.3
percent), and a total of 121 persons completed the second survey. On both surveys,
participants reported a self-generated code that allowed us to match the Time 1 and Time 2
surveys from 109 participants, for an effective retention rate of 67.7 percent. We tested if
persons who participated only at Time 1 differed systematically from those participating at
both measurement occasions. These two groups of participants did not differ on any of our
study variables.
Our final sample included 109 employees (60.6 percent women). Mean age was 35.9
years (SD = 9.2). Average professional experience was 14.2 years (SD = 10.2), tenure on the
specific job was 6.8 years (SD = 6.5). Our sample was fairly well educated with 46.2 percent
having completed 2 to 3 years of professional training, 14.2 percent had advanced
professional training, and 34.0 percent had a university degree; a minority in our sample (5.7
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 12
!
percent) had no formal professional training. Participants came from a broad range of
occupational backgrounds, including mainly administrative (34.9 percent), technical (15.6
percent), and managerial (11.9 percent) jobs. About one third (37.6 percent) of the sample had
children.
Measures
Table 1 shows the means, standard deviation, and zero-order correlations between
study variables. All items were in German.
Psychological detachment. We assessed our core outcome variable at Time 2 with
four items of the Recovery Experience Questionnaire (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007). A sample
item is “During non-work time, I forget about work.” Participants responded to the items on a
5-point Likert scale (1 = I fully disagree; 5 = I fully agree). Cronbach’s alpha was .88.
Exhaustion. At Time 1 we measured exhaustion with 7 exhaustion items from the Oldenburg
Burnout Inventory (OLBI; Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, & Schaufeli, 2001). Sample items
are “At my work, I feel increasingly drained emotionally”, “After my work, I usually feel
worn out and weary.” Again, as response format we used a 5-point Likert scale (1 = I fully
disagree; 5 = I fully agree). Cronbach’s alpha was .78.
Time pressure. For assessing time pressure at Time 1 we used the five items from the
Instrument for Stress-Related Job Analysis (Semmer, 1984; Zapf, 1993), a measure that has
been widely used in earlier research (e.g., Garst, Frese, & Fay, 2000). A sample item is “How
often do you face time pressure?”. Participants reported their responses on a 5-point Likert
scale (1 = very rarely or never; 5 = very often). Cronbach’s alpha was .74.
Pleasurable leisure experiences. We measured pleasurable leisure experiences at
Time 1 with four items, beginning with “During my free time…”, “…I pursue activities that
bring me joy”, “… I engage in activities that I like doing”, “… I do things that cheer me up”,
“… I devote myself to enjoyable things”. Participants answered the items on a 5-point Likert
scale (1 = I fully disagree; 5 = I fully agree). Cronbach’s alpha was .87.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 13
!
Control variables. As control variables we assessed psychological detachment at Time
1, work hours, and emotional stability. We included psychological detachment at Time 1 in
order to capture change in psychological detachment potentially due to levels of exhaustion
and its interactions with time pressure and pleasurable leisure experiences. We controlled for
work hours because long work hours might be associated with exhaustion (Shirom, Nirel,
Vinokur, 2010) and poor psychological detachment (Sanz-Vergel, Demerouti, Bakker, &
Moreno-Jiménez, 2011; Siltaloppi et al., 2009). We included emotional stability because
earlier work has shown that low emotional stability – i.e. the tendency to experience negative
emotions such as anger or anxiety - may be related to exhaustion (Alarcon, Eschleman, &
Bowling, 2009) as well as a lack of psychological detachment from work during off-hours
(Kühnel, Sonnentag, & Westman, 2009; Sonnentag et al., 2010).1
Specifically, we assessed psychological detachment at Time 1 with the same four
items as used at Time 2. Cronbach’s alpha was .89. We assessed work hours with a single
item directly asking about the number of hours participants worked per week. We assessed
emotional stability with twelve items of the German version (Borkenau & Ostendorf, 1993) of
the NEO FFI (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Cronbach’s alpha was .84.
Confirmatory factor analyses. To examine if the constructs assessed at Time 1 were
distinct, we computed confirmatory factor analyses. In a model with five factors (exhaustion,
time pressure, pleasurable leisure, psychological detachment, and emotional stability) with all
items loading on their respective factors (χ2 = 763.966, df = 454, (χ2/df ratio = 1.68), all factor
loading were highly significant. Importantly, this 5-factor model fit the data better than the
best-fitting 4-factor model with pleasurable leisure and psychological detachment loading on
one common factor (χ2 = 978.886, df = 458, Δχ2 = 214.92, Δdf = 4, p < .001), the best-fitting
3-factor model with exhaustion, pleasurable leisure, and psychological detachment loading on
one common factor (χ2 = 1233.306, df = 461, Δχ2 = 469.33, Δdf = 7, p < .001), the best-fitting
2-factor model with exhaustion, time pressure pleasurable leisure, and psychological
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 14
!
detachment loading on a first, and emotional stability loading on a second factor (χ2 =
1409.535, df = 463, Δχ2 = 645.569, Δdf = 9, p < .001), and a one-factor model (χ2 = 1813.850,
df = 464, Δχ2 = 1049.884, Δdf = 10, p < .001). This analysis demonstrates that the five
measures assessed at Time 1 represent empirically distinct constructs.
Results
Test of Hypotheses
We tested our hypotheses using ordinary least square regression analyses. In Step 1,
we entered emotional stability, work hours, and psychological detachment from work during
off-job time at Time 1 as control variables. Because we controlled for psychological
detachment at Time 1, the other variables entered into the regression model refer to the
prediction of change in psychological detachment at Time 2. In Step 2, we entered exhaustion
at Time 1 as our core predictor variable. In Step 3, we entered the two moderators, time
pressure and pleasurable leisure experiences. In Step 4, we included the interaction terms
between the two moderators and exhaustion.
Table 2 shows the results. From the control variables entered in Step 1 only
psychological detachment at Time 1 was significant. It was a strong positive predictor of
psychological detachment at Time 2, reflecting a substantial stability in employees’ general
tendency to psychologically detach from work during off-job time. Entering exhaustion in
Step 2 contributed to the prediction of psychological detachment at Time 2. Employees who
experienced high levels of exhaustion assessed at Time 1 reported a decrease in psychological
detachment at Time 2; in other words, over the four-week study period their detachment
levels dropped relative to their detachment levels that one would have expected from their
detachment levels at Time 1. This finding provides support for Hypothesis 1. Neither time
pressure nor pleasurable leisure experiences entered in Step 3 were significant predictors of
psychological detachment at Time 2. When entering the interaction terms in Step 4, explained
variance further increased. Both interaction terms were significant. To explore these
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 15
!
interaction effects further, we computed simple slope tests using the computational tool
provided by Preacher, Curran, and Bauer (2006). For time pressure as moderator, the simple
slope was negative and significant for high levels of time pressure (+1 SD, β = -0.466; SE =
0.146, t = -3.20, p < .01), but not for low levels of time pressure (-1 SD, β = 0.037; SE = 0.151,
t = 0.24, ns). Thus, when employees had high time pressure at work, exhaustion was
associated with a decrease in psychological detachment over time. However, when time
pressure was low, exhaustion did not predict a change in psychological detachment over time
(Figure 1). This pattern of findings is in line with Hypothesis 2. For pleasurable leisure
experiences as the moderator the opposite pattern emerged: At low levels of pleasurable
leisure experiences (-1 SD), exhaustion was related to a decrease in psychological detachment
over time (β = -0.446; SE = 0.120, t = -3.73, p < .001). At high levels of pleasurable leisure
experiences (+1 SD), exhaustion was not related to a change in psychological detachment (β =
-0.059; SE = 0.089, t = -0.66, ns; Figure 2). Although the direction of the slopes is in line with
the prediction made in Hypothesis 3, the exact pattern does not correspond to the rationale
underlying Hypothesis 3. Employees with low levels of exhaustion and low levels of
pleasurable leisure experiences showed the biggest change in detachment.
Additional Analysis: Test for Reverse Causation
To arrive at a more complete picture about the interrelations between exhaustion and
psychological detachment over the four-week period, we also tested for reverse causation. We
conducted an ordinary least square regression analysis with exhaustion at Time 2 as outcome
variable. Similar to our procedure when testing the hypotheses, we entered emotional stability,
work hours, and exhaustion at Time 1 as control variables in Step 1. In Step 2, we entered
psychological detachment at Time 1 as main predictor variable of interest. To explore the role
time pressure and pleasurable leisure experiences, we entered these two variables in Step 3
and included the interaction terms between time pressure and psychological detachment, and
between pleasurable leisure experiences and psychological detachment in Step 4. As shown in
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 16
!
Table 3, exhaustion at Time 1 was a strong predictor of exhaustion at Time 2. Psychological
detachment at Time 1 did not predict exhaustion at Time 2. Neither the main effects of time
pressure and pleasurable leisure experiences nor the interaction terms were significant.
Results remain unchanged in a further analysis when not controlling for emotional stability or
work hours.2
Discussion
Our study showed that exhaustion predicts a decrease in psychological detachment
over the course of four weeks. Employees who felt exhausted reported having a harder time
mentally disengaging from work during off-job time. Time pressure and pleasurable leisure
experiences moderated this association between exhaustion and decrease in psychological
detachment. Exhaustion was related to a decrease in psychological detachment from work
during off-job time when time pressure was high, but not when time pressure was low. Thus,
time pressure can be seen as a factor that increases the risk that employees high in exhaustion
do not benefit sufficiently from their leisure time. Pleasurable leisure experiences showed a
significant interaction effect with exhaustion – albeit the pattern differed from the one we had
expected.
It is important to note that exhaustion predicted change in psychological detachment.
This finding suggests that exhausted employees do not just find it difficult at the very moment
to mentally detach from work during off-job time – as becomes obvious in the concurrent
zero-order correlations. Importantly, exhaustion is associated with a decline in detachment
over time. The tendency of exhausted employees to stay increasingly connected to their work
during off-job time instead of detaching could be seen as a coping attempt (Lazarus &
Folkman, 1984). Not detaching implies to think about work-related issues, for instance trying
to come up with solutions for pressing problems or difficulties. The finding that time pressure
increases the association between exhaustion and decreased psychological detachment is in
line with this interpretation: particularly when time pressure is high, exhausted employees
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 17
!
might perceive a necessity to come up with a solution for this stressful situation and will
continue thinking about work as a coping attempt during off-job time.
Our finding that exhaustion predicts a decrease in psychological detachment from
work may appear to contradict findings from other studies that showed a positive association
between exhaustion and withdrawal symptoms such as absenteeism and turnover intentions
(Lee & Ashforth, 1996; Ybema, Smulders, & Bongers, 2010). It might be that exhausted
employees wish to withdraw from their work at the behavioral level as the exhaustion process
proceeds; but nevertheless they are not successful in withdrawing mentally from work during
off-job time. One might even speculate that exhausted employees’ intention to withdraw at
the behavioral level reflects an attempt to gain distance to the demands of work because they
fail in mentally detaching from work during off-job time.
With respect to time pressure, past research has seen time pressure mainly as a
predictor of exhaustion (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). Our study adds an additional
perspective: When time pressure persists once employees have developed the first exhaustion
symptoms – which may be the case in many work settings – the situation will further
deteriorate: time pressure hinders exhausted employees from mentally detaching from work
during off-job time. However, detachment is important for employee well-being and
performance capacity.
Our study provides new insights into the role of pleasurable leisure experiences.
Whereas earlier research has mainly looked at the main effect of positive and pleasurable
experiences during leisure time (Sonnentag & Zijlstra, 2006; van Hooff et al., 2011), the
present study illustrates an interaction effect between exhaustion and pleasurable leisure
experiences. When employees have pleasurable leisure experiences, exhaustion does not
predict a change in psychological detachment. When employees lack pleasurable leisure
experiences, exhaustion and change in psychological detachment were negatively related. The
pattern of this interaction effect is interesting: as predicted, when exhausted employees do not
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 18
!
experience pleasurable leisure, psychological detachment decreases. However, when
employees with low exhaustion levels do not experience pleasurable leisure, psychological
detachment increases. Not experiencing pleasurable leisure might be an indicator of
experiencing social conflicts at home or of facing financial problems. Social conflicts and
financial problems might distract from one’s job and thereby increase psychological
detachment in employees who are not exhausted because they can focus their attention on the
problematic situation at home that needs to be resolved. Exhausted employees, however, will
be less able to detach from work even when facing problems in the home domain because
they are less able to deliberately direct their attention (van der Linden, et al., 2007).
Our test of reverse relationships indicates that lack of psychological detachment did
not predict change in exhaustion over the course of four weeks. This result is in contrast to
earlier findings with longer time lags that found that lack of psychological detachment
predicted an increase in exhaustion (Sonnentag et al., 2010). In our study, exhaustion was
rather stable over the four-week time period (r = .78). Similarly, using longitudinal data with
multiple time lags of six months, Dunford, Shipp, Boss, Angermeier, and Boss (2012) found
exhaustion to be relatively stable over such a period of time in employees who do not undergo
major job changes. In line with earlier research on burnout (e.g., Hall et al., 2010), these
findings from Dunford and his colleagues suggest that changes in exhaustion develop over
longer periods of time. Therefore, it is no surprise that our study with the rather short time lag
of four weeks did not find a lagged relationship between lack of detachment and increase in
exhaustion, whereas earlier research with a longer time lag did find such a lagged relationship.
Possibly, the speed of the two underlying causal processes that link exhaustion with
psychological detachment (i.e., from exhaustion to a decreased detachment versus from low
detachment to increased exhaustion) differ: Specifically, not detaching from work during off-
job time might be a rather short-term reaction to feelings of exhaustion, whereas it takes
longer until lack of detachment translates into higher levels of exhaustion. In terms of
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 19
!
Conservation of Resources Theory (Hobfoll, 1998), this process might reflect a typical loss
cycle: being exhausted leads to poor psychological detachment. Poor psychological
detachment in turn indicates that no full recovery has occurred and resources cannot be
restored. Lack of resources in turn implies that work is experienced as even more demanding,
subsequently resulting in increased levels of exhaustion. It is important to note that several
parts of the loss cycle might operate within different time frames. In addition, it might be that
some parts of the cycle can be influenced more easily than others. For instance, within a
shorter time frame, it might be easier to increase psychological detachment by a deliberate
change in everyday activities (e.g., ten Brummelhuis & Bakker, 2012) than it is to reduce a
person’s level of exhaustion.
Our results further indicated that neither time pressure nor pleasurable leisure
experiences predicted change in psychological detachment over time, although both variables
showed significant concurrent relationships with psychological detachment at both
measurement occasions. Possibly, both, time pressure and lack of pleasurable leisure
experiences have an immediate impact on psychological detachment. For instance, time
pressure during the workday might lead to high levels of activation at night making
psychological detachment difficult. This process might repeat itself over a longer period of
time resulting in an equilibrium-type condition (Mitchell & James, 2001), so that no further
effect of time pressure on psychological detachment can be detected.
Limitations and Directions for Future Research
As most research, our study has some limitations. For example, we used self-reports to
measure our key study variables, stimulating concerns about common method variance
(Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). We addressed those concerns by using a
prospective design that allowed us to separate the assessments of our predictor and outcome
variables. Moreover, we controlled for emotional stability thereby reducing the likelihood that
our findings can be explained by a general response bias. In addition, it has to be noted that
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 20
!
common method bias is more of a threat when testing main effects as opposed to interaction
effects (Siemsen, Roth, & Oliviera, 2010). However, in our study, using self-report measures
leaves an important question unanswered: is it the objective time pressure that moderates the
relationship between exhaustion and low psychological detachment or is it the perception of
time pressure? It might be that exhausted employees overestimate the amount of time pressure
they are facing because they feel that they do not have enough energy resources to deal with
their demands at work. Although our measure of time pressure aims at minimizing subjective
response bias by asking about the objective situation – and not one’s reaction to it (Semmer,
Grebner, & Elfering, 2004), future studies may want to disentangle the potential influence of
objective stressors and more subjective appraisal processes.
We deliberately choose a relatively short time lag of four weeks for our prospective
analysis. This decision implies that our study is mute about processes they might unfold over
shorter (e.g., two weeks) or longer (e.g., two or three months) periods of time. Future research
may explore this question by systematically varying the time lags between several
measurement occasions in order to identify the time period that best reflects when exhaustion
results in a subsequent decrease in psychological detachment, and low levels of detachment
result in increased levels of exhaustion (cf. Meier & Spector, 2013, for a similar approach).
In our study, we focused on time pressure and pleasurable leisure experiences as two
possible moderators between exhaustion and psychological detachment. It remains an open
question to be addressed in future research if our findings generalize to other job stressors and
if other factors on or off the job might protect exhausted employees from ending in a situation
where they become unable to mentally disengage from work during off-job time. For instance,
a high level of mindfulness might help employees stay mentally focused on the moment once
they leave their workplace at the end of the workday (Hülsheger, Alberts, Feinhold, & Lang,
2013), what in turn might facilitate psychological detachment from work.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 21
!
When developing our hypotheses we have argued that psychological detachment of
exhausted employees may decrease over time because exhausted employees may ruminate
and worry about work. We have to note, however, that in conceptual terms, lack of
psychological detachment is distinct from worry and rumination - although the concepts are
substantially related (Flaxman, Ménard, Bond, & Kinman, 2012; Querstret & Cropley, 2012).
Future studies may want to explicitly examine worry and rumination as the mechanisms
underlying the relationship between exhaustion and decreased psychological detachment.
Although using a prospective design, our study still sketches only a rather rough
picture about the processes that link exhaustion, time pressure, leisure experiences, and
psychological detachment. Future studies may take a much more fine-grained approach and
assess in detail how exhausted and non-exhausted employees structure their work day,
respond to time pressure, spend their leisure time, and how they think about work when being
on and off the job. To examine these questions, experience sampling or daily diary study
designs would be most appropriate (Fisher & To, 2012; Sonnentag, Binnewies, & Ohly, 2013).
Practical implications
Previous research demonstrated that in the long run employee well-being benefits
from mentally disengaging from work during off-job time (Sonnentag et al., 2010; van Thiele
Schwarz, 2010). Therefore, employees should be encouraged to psychologically detach from
work when off the job. This study showed that employees who are already exhausted fail to
detach from work, particularly when they are facing time pressure at work and when they do
not engage in pleasurable leisure experiences. To increase psychological detachment from
work in exhausted employees, it is important to address time pressure at work and enable
replenishing leisure experiences. With respect to time pressure at work, supervisors may want
to limit the workload and time pressure of employees who are running the risk of becoming
exhausted. For instance, supervisors might want to refrain from assigning time-sensitive tasks
with strict deadlines to exhaustion-prone employees. For this purpose, developing a good
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 22
!
leader-employee relationship is crucial (Thomas & Lankau, 2009). A second – and often more
realistic – approach might be to support employees in dealing with the time pressure they are
actually facing. Such an approach should include several steps, such as addressing appraisal
processes, teaching time-management skills, helping set priorities, and training substantive
skills that help employees complete their work in a more efficient way (e.g., Arthur, Bennett,
Edens, & Bell, 2003; Green & Skinner, 2005).
Pleasurable leisure provided a relative benefit for exhausted employees while it was
less advantageous for non-exhausted employees. Therefore, exhaustion-prone employees
should be encouraged to spend their off-job time in a way that helps them to prevent further
depletion of their scarce energy resources. In addition to pleasurable leisure experiences, rest
and relaxation might be particularly important.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 23
!
References
Alcaron, G., Eschleman, K. J., & Bowling, N. A. (2009). Relationships between personality
variables and burnout: A meta-analysis. Work & Stress, 23, 244-263.
Amstad, F. T., Meier, L. L., Fasel, U., Elfering, A., & Semmer, N. K. (2011). A meta-analysis
of work-family conflict and various outcomes with a speciial emphasis on cross-
domain verses matching-domain relations. Journal of Occupational Health
Psychology, 16, 151-169.!
Arthur, W. J., Bennett, W. J., Edens, P. S., & Bell, S. T. (2003). Effectiveness of training in
organizations: A meta-analysis of design and evaluation features. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 88, 234-245.
Baer, M., & Oldham, G. R. (2006). The curvilinear relation between experience creative time
pressure and creativity: Moderating effects of openness to experience and support for
creativity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 963-970.
Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The Job Demands-Resources model: state of the art.
Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22, 309-328.
Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Verbeke, W. (2004). Using the job demands-resources model
to predict burnout and performance. Human Resource Management, 43, 83-104.
Bolton, L. R., Harvey, R. D., Grawitch, M. J., & Barber, L. K. (2011). Counterproductive
work behaviours in response to emotional exhaustion: A moderated mediational
approach. Stress and Health, 28, 222-233.
Borkenau, P., & Ostendorf, F. (1993). NEO-Fünf-Faktoren Inventar (NEO-FFI) nach Costa
und McCrea. Göttingen: Hogrefe.
Brosschot, J. F., Pieper, S., & Thayer, J. F. (2005). Expanding stress theory: Prolonged
activitation and perseverative cognition. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 30, 1043-1049.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 24
!
Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R)
and NEA Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) professional manual. Odessa, FL:
Psychological Assessment Resources.
Crawford, E. R., LePine, J. A., & Rich, B. L. (2010). Linking job demands and resources to
employee engagement and burnout: A theoretical extension and meta-analytic test.
Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 834-848.
Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Geurts, S. A. E., & Taris, T. W. (2009). Daily recovery from
work-related effort during non-work time. In P. L. Perrewé, D. C. Ganster & S.
Sonnentag (Eds.), Research in organizational stress and well-being (Vol. 7, pp. 85-
123). Oxford, UK: Emerald Publishing Group.
Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Nachreiner, F., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2001). Job demands-
resources model of burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 499-512.
Demerouti, E., Mostert, K., & Bakker, A. B. (2010). Burnout and work engagement: A
thorough investigation of the independency of both constructs. Journal of
Occupational Health Psychology, 15, 209-222.
Diestel, S., & Schmidt, K.-H. (2011). The moderating role of cognitive control deficits in the
link from emotional dissonance to burnout symptoms and absenteeism. Journal of
Occupational Health Psychology, 16, 313-330.
Dunford, B. B., Shipp, A. J., Boss, R. W., Angermeier, I., & Boss, A. D. (2012). Is burnout
static or dynamic? A career transition perspective of employee burnout trajectories.
Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 637-650.
Etzion, D., Eden, D., & Lapidot, Y. (1998). Relief from job stressors and burnout: Reserve
service as a respite. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 577-585.
Feuerhahn, N., Sonnentag, S., & Woll, A. (2014). Exercise after work, psychological
mediators, and affect: A day-level study. European Journal of Work and
Organiszational Psychology, 23, 62-79.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 25
!
Fisher, C. D., & To, M. L. (2012). Using experience sampling methodology in organizational
behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33, 865-877.
Flaxman, P. E., Ménard, J., Bond, F. W., & Kinman, G. (2012). Academics' experiences of a
respite from work: Effects of self-critical peerfectionism and perseverative cognition
on postrespite well-being. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 854-865.
Fritz, C., Yankelevich, M., Zarubin, A., & Barger, P. (2010). Happy, healthy and productive:
The role of detachment from work during nonwork time. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 95, 977-983.
Garst, H., Frese, M., & Molenaar, P. C. M. (2000). The temporal factor of change in stressor-
strain relationships: A growth curve model on a longitudinal study in East Germany.
Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 417-438.
Green, P., & Skinner, D. (2005). Does time management training work? An evaluation.
International Journal of Training and Development, 9, 124-139.
Hahn, V., Binnewies, C., & Haun, S. (2012). The role of partners for employees' recovery
during the weekend Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80, 288-298.
Hahn, V. C., Binnewies, C., Sonnentag, S., & Mojza, E. J. (2011). Learning how to recover
from job stress: Effects of a recovery training program on recovery, recovery-related
self-efficacy and well-being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 16, 202-
216.
Hall, G. B., Dollard, M. F., Tuckey, M. R., Winefield, A. H., & Thompson, B. M. (2010). Job
demands, work-family conflict, and emotional exhaustion in police officers: A
longitudinal test of competing theories. Journal of Occupational and Organizational
Psychology, 83, 237-250.
Hecht, T. D., & Boies, K. (2009). Structure and correlates of spillover from nonwork to work:
An examination of nonwork activities, well-being and work outcomes. Journal of
Occupational Health Psychology, 14, 414-426.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 26
!
Hobfoll, S. E. (1998). Stress, culture, and community: The psychology and physiology of
stress. New York: Plenum.
Hülsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J. E. M., Feinholdt, A., & Lang, J. W. B. (2013). Benefits of
mindfulness at work: The role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional
exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98, 310-325.
Kühnel, J., Sonnentag, S., & Westman, M. (2009). Does work engagement increase after a
short respite? The role of job involvement as a double-edged sword. Journal of
Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82, 575-594.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. Ney York: Springer.
Lee, R. T., & Ashforth, B. E. (1996). A meta-analytic examination of the correlates of the
three dimensions of job burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81, 123-133.
Major, V. S., Klein, K. J., & Ehrhart, M. G. (2002). Work time, work interference with family,
and psychological distress. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 427-436.
Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of
Psychology, 52, 397-422.
Meier, L. L., & Spector, P. E. (2013). Reciprocal effects of work stressors and
counterproductive work behavior: A five-wave longitudinal study. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 98, 529-539.
Melamed, S., Ugarten, U., Shirom, A., Kahana, L., Lerman, Y., & Froom, P. (1999). Chronic
burnout, somatic arousal and elevated salivary cortisol levels. Journal of
Psychosomatic Research, 46, 591-598.
Mitchell, T. R., & James, L. R. (2001). Building better theory: Time and the specification of
when things happen. Academy of Management Review, 26, 530-547.
Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method
biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended
remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 879-903.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 27
!
Preacher, K. J., Curran, P. J., & Bauer, D. J. (2006). Computational tools for probing
interactions in multiple linear regression, multilevel modeling, and latent curve
analysis. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 31, 437-448.
Sanz-Vergel, A. I., Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., & Moreno-Jiménez, B. (2011). Daily
detachment from work and home: The moderating effect of role salience. Human
Relations, 64, 775-799.
Schmidt, K.-H., Neubach, B., & Heuer, H. (2007). Self-control demands, cognitive control
deficits, and burnout. Work & Stress, 21, 142-154.
Semmer, N. (1984). Streßbezogene Tätigkeitsanalyse [Stress-oriented task-analysis].
Weinheim: Beltz.
Semmer, N. K., Grebner, S., & Elfering, A. (2004). Beyond self-report: Using observational,
physiological, and situation-based measures in research on occupational stress. In P. L.
Perrewé & D. C. Ganster (Eds.), Research in occupational stress and well-being:
Emotional and physiological processes and positive intervention strategies (Vol. 3, pp.
205-263). Amsterdam, NL: Elsevier.
Shirom, A. (2003). Job-related burnout. In J. C. Quick & L. E. Tetrick (Eds.), Handbook of
occupational health psychology (pp. 245-265). Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association.
Shirom, A., Nirel, N., & Vinokur, A. D. (2010). Work hours and caseload as predictors of
physician burnout: The mediating effects by perceived workload and by autonomy.
Applied Psychology: An International Review, 59, 539-565.
Siemsen, E., Roth, A., & Oliveira, P. (2010). Common method bias in regression models with
linear, quadratic, and interaction effects. Organizational Research Methods, 13, 456-
476.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 28
!
Siltaloppi, M., Kinnunen, U., & Feldt, T. (2009). Recovery experiences as moderators
between psychological work characteristics and occupational well-being. Work &
Stress, 23, 330-348.
Söderström, M., Jeding, K., Ekstedt, M., Perski, A., & Akerstedt, T. (2012). Insufficient sleep
predicts clinical burnout. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17, 175-183.
Sonnentag, S., & Bayer, U.-V. (2005). Switching off mentally: Predictors and consequences
of psychological detachment from work during off-job time. Journal of Occupational
Health Psychology, 10, 393-414.
Sonnentag, S., Binnewies, C., & Mojza, E. J. (2010). Staying well and engaged when
demands are high: The role of psychological detachment. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 95, 965-976.
Sonnentag, S., Binnewies, C., & Ohly, S. (2013). Event-sampling methods in occupational
health psychology. In R. R. Sinclair, M. Wang & L. E. Tetrick (Eds.), Research
methods in occupational health psychology (pp. 208-228). New York: Routledge.
Sonnentag, S., & Frese, M. (2012). Stress in organizations. In N. W. Schmitt & S. Highhouse
(Eds.), Handbook of Psychology. Volume 12: Industrial and Organizational
Psychology (Second ed., pp. 560-592). Hoboken: Wiley.
Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2007). The Recovery Experience Questionnaire: Development and
validation of a measure assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. Journal of
Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 204-221.
Sonnentag, S., Kuttler, I., & Fritz, C. (2010). Job stressors, emotional exhaustion, and need
for recovery: A multi-source study on the benefits of psychological detachment.
Journal of Vocational Behavior, 76, 355-365.
Sonnentag, S., & Zijlstra, F. R. H. (2006). Job characteristics and off-job activities as
predictors of need for recovery, well-being, and fatigue. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 91, 330-350.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 29
!
Spector, P. E., & Brannick, M. T. (2011). Methodological urban legends: The misuse of
statistical control variables. Organizational Research Methods, 14, 287-305.
Taris, T. W. (2006). Is there a relationship between burnout and objective performance? A
critical review of 16 studies. Work & Stress, 20, 316-334.
Taris, T. W., Le Blanc, P. M., Schaufeli, W. B., & Schreurs, P. J. G. (2005). Are there causal
relationships between the dimensions of the Maslach Burnout Inventory? A review
and two longitudinal tests. Work & Stress, 19, 238-255.
ten Brummelhuis, L. L., & Bakker, A. B. (2012). Staying engaged during the week: The
effect of off-job activities on next day work engagement. Journal of Occupational
Health Psychology, 17, 445-455.
Thomas, C. H., & Lankau, M. J. (2009). Preventing burnout: The effects of LMX and
mentoring on socialization, role stress, and burnout. Human Resourve Management,
48, 417-432.
Tice, D. M., Baumeister, R. F., Shmueli, D., & Muraven, M. (2007). Restoring the self:
Positive affect helps improve self-regulation following ego depletion. Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 379-384.
Totterdell, P., Wood, S., & Wall, T. (2006). An intra-individual test of the demands-control
model: A weekly diary study of psychological strain in portfolio workers. Journal of
Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 79, 63-84.
van der Linden, D., Keijsers, G. P. J., Eling, P., & van Schaijk, R. (2005). Work stress and
attentional difficulties: An initial study on burnout and cognitive failures. Work &
Stress, 19, 23-36.
van Hooff, M. L. M., Geurts, S. A. E., Beckers, D. G. J., & Kompier, M. A. J. (2011). Daily
recovery from work: The role of activities, effort and pleasure. Work & Stress, 25, 55-
74.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 30
!
Verkuil, B., Brosschot, J. F., Meerman, E. E., & Thayer, J. F. (2012). Effects of momentary
assessed stressful events and worry episodes on somatic health complaints.
Psychology and Health, 27, 141-158.
von Thiele Schwarz, U. (2011). Inability to withdraw from work as related to poor next-day
recovery and fatigue among women. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 60,
377-396.
Ybema, J. F., Smulders, P. G. W., & Bongers, P. M. (2010). Antecedents and consequences of
employee absenteeism: A longitudinal perspective on the role of job satisfaction and
burnout. European Journal of Work and Organiszational Psychology, 19, 102-124.
Zaheer, S., Albert, A., & Zaheer, A. (1999). Time scales and organizational theory. Academy
of Management Review, 24, 725-741.
Zapf, D. (1993). Stress-oriented analysis of computerized office work. European Work and
Organizational Psychologist, 3, 85-100.
Zijlstra, F. R. H., & Rook, J. (2008). The weekly cycly of work and rest. In R. A. Roe, M. J.
Waller & S. Clegg (Eds.), Time in organizations: Approaches and methods (pp. 62-
79). London: Routledge.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 31
!
Footnote!
1 Researchers have criticized the inclusion of negative affectivity and related
constructs (i.e., low emotional stability) as control variables (Spector & Brannick, 2011). To
rule out that our findings are driven by the fact that we controlled for emotional stability, we
computed our analyses also without emotional stability. Results remain unchanged.
2 In addition, used a structural-equation modeling approach (implemented in
Mplus 6.1) to test if the path from exhaustion at Time 1 to detachment at Time 2 differed
from the path from detachment at Time 1 to exhaustion at Time 2. In this model we specified
the stabilities of detachment and exhaustion explicitly, and included work hours as a control
variable. To keep the model parsimonious, we omitted the moderator variables. A model in
which the paths from exhaustion at Time 1 to detachment at Time 2 and from detachment at
Time 1 to exhaustion at Time 2 were freely estimated showed a good fit (χ2 = 0.192, df = 1,
ns) and the path from exhaustion at Time 1 to detachment at Time 2 was significant, whereas
the path from detachment at Time 1 to exhaustion at Time 2 was not. Overall these findings
mirror the results of the multiple-regression analyses. In a model in which we constrained the
paths from exhaustion at Time 1 to detachment at Time 2 and from detachment at Time 1 to
exhaustion at Time 2 to be equal, model fit decreased (χ2 = 4.757, df = 2, p < .10, Δχ2 = 4.565,
df = 1, p < .05), suggesting that the two paths differ. Overall, these analyses provide no
support for a reverse causation within the time lag of 4 weeks.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 32
!
Table 1
Means, Standard Deviations, and Zero-Order Correlations between Study Variables
M
SD
1
2
3
4
5
6
1 Work hours
36.07
6.14
2 Emotional stability
3.44
0.63
.17
3 Exhaustion (Time 1)
2.70
0.64
-.05
-.34
4 Exhaustion (Time 2)
2.75
0.58
.01
-.25
.78
5 Time pressure
3.34
0.73
-.09
-.14
.38
.38
6 Pleasurable leisure experiences
3.86
0.60
.40
.08
-.14
-.02
-.01
7 Psychological detachment (Time 1)
3.34
0.83
.06
-.05
-.23
-.19
-.26
.39
8 Psychological detachment (Time 2)
3.29
0.79
-.02
-.02
-.34
-.34
-.29
.22
Note. N = 109. a r .19 are significant at p < .05. r .25 are significant at p < .01.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 33
!
Table 2
Results from Hierarchical Regression Analysis Predicting Psychological Detachment from Work
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 4
ß
t
ß
t
ß
t
ß
t
Emotional stability
0.03
0.41
-0.04
-0.60
-0.04
-0.60
-0.05
-0.73
Work hours
-0.07
-1.05
-0.07
-1.01
-0.05
-0.74
-0.04
- 0.68
Psychological
detachment (Time 1)
0.73
10.90***
0.68
10.11***
0.69
9.08***
0.68
9.35***
Exhaustion (EX)
-0.20
-2.78**
-0.18
-2.39*
-0.36
- 0.68
Time pressure (TP)
-0.06
-0.80
0.60
1.91
Pleasurable leisure (PL)
-0.04
-0.55
-0.67
-2.32*
EX x TP
-1.15
-2.13*
EX x PL
1.02
2.26*
R²
0.53
0.54
0.54
0.59
F
39.69***
33.60***
22.40***
19.20***
ΔR²
0.53
0.03
0.01
0.04
F
39.69***
7.72**
0.56
4.71*
Note. N = 109. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 34
!
Table 3
Results from Hierarchical Regression Analysis Predicting Change in Exhaustion
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 4
ß
t
ß
t
ß
t
ß
t
Emotional stability
-0.00
-0.07
-0.01
-0.14
-0.01
-0.14
0.01
0.17
Work hours
0.03
0.41
0.03
0.45
0.01
0.02
-0.01
-0.11
Exhaustion (Time 1)
0.78
12.15***
0.77
11.55***
0.75
10.68***
0.76
10.62***
Psychological detachment (DT)
-0.03
-0.47
-0.05
-0.64
-0.46
-0.94
Time pressure (TP)
0.09
1.27
0.00
0.00
Pleasurable leisure (PL)
0.09
1.16
-0.09
-0.44
DT x TP
0.12
0.40
DT x PL
0.42
0.91
R²
0.61
0.61
0.63
0.63
F
55.15***
41.38***
28.61***
21.32***
ΔR²
0.61
0.00
0.02
0.00
F
55.15***
0.22
1.79
0.42
Note. N = 109. *** p < .001.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 35
!
Figure 1. Interaction effect of exhaustion and time pressure on change in psychological detachment over time.
Exhaustion and lack of detachment 36
!
Figure 2. Interaction effect of exhaustion and pleasurable leisure on change in psychological detachment over time.
... It has been linked with psychological ill health (Michélsen and Bildt 2003). Time pressure has been meta-analytically linked to reduced wellbeing (LePine et al. 2005), also on a day-to-day level (Ilies et al. 2010) and might also lead to a lack of psychological detachment (Sonnentag et al. 2014). Emotional demands have been meta-analytically linked with reduced wellbeing and job attitudes (Hülsheger and Schewe 2011;Zapf 2002). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter addresses the working conditions and well-being of young employees working in Luxembourg. Data from the “Quality of Work” project – a project that aims to assess the work quality and its relationship with well-being – was used to describe the working situation of young people in Luxembourg. Within the Quality of Work project employment quality (income satisfaction, training opportunities, career advancement, job security, difficulty of job change, and work-life-conflict), job design (participation, feedback, autonomy), work intensity (mental demands, time pressure, emotional demands), social conditions (social support, mobbing, competition) and physical conditions (physical burden, risk of accident) are seen as key factors that contribute to employee’s health, well-being and motivation (work satisfaction, vigor, burnout, general well-being, health problems). Findings show that younger employees (i.e., between 16 and 29 years) perceive more training opportunities and stronger career advancement compared to employees in the older age groups. They also report more participation, feedback and social support compared to the older age groups. On the other side, young employees report higher levels of physical burden and risk of accident. With regard to well-being, young employees report higher levels of work satisfaction and lower level of physical health problems. Regression analyses showed that the associations of certain working conditions with different well-being dimensions were not the same for the different age groups. Work satisfaction of young employees seems to be less affected by lower career advancement and lower job security compared to employees in older age groups. The present study is the first to elucidate the moderating effect of age on the association between working conditions and well-being/health in Luxembourg.
... However, high job stressors predict low detachment, and detachment is crucial for the recovery process (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015). Sonnentag et al. (2014) showed that time pressure intensifies the negative relationship between exhaustion and detachment. Therefore, it can be assumed that without intervention, people have difficulties recovering during work breaks when they have to deal with elevated situational job demands, which is when effective rest is particularly important (Sonnentag et al., 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this study is to investigate whether short, live-streaming activity and relaxation lunch breaks have positive associations with office workers’ mood (calmness, valence, and energetic arousal), back pain, and attention after break and whether these associations are mediated by better break recovery. Additionally, we considered the two respite interventions as resources possibly buffering the effects of elevated situational job demands. Ten-minute break exercises were conducted during lunch breaks via Zoom live-stream, and data on those days were compared with data on days on which participants spent their breaks as usual. Our sample of 34 office workers provided data for 277 work days (209 in the home office and 68 on site at the company). Multilevel path models revealed positive total associations of both respite interventions with the mood dimension of calmness. Activity breaks additionally showed a positive association with the energetic arousal dimension of mood, while relaxation breaks were positively related to objectively measured cognitive performance. Interestingly, activity breaks moderated the relationships of job demands with calmness and valence, indicating their function as a stress-buffering resource. There were no significant associations between the two respite interventions and back pain. Supplemented by participants’ feedback, the findings of this study suggest that offering short virtually guided break exercises may represent a feasible and office-compatible approach to promote break recovery, mood and functionality at work, especially regarding home-office work. Possible advantages and disadvantages of the live-streaming format are discussed.
... It is summed up as 'a stand on the sidelines' standpoint. As an excellent psychological quality, detachment helps nurses overcome difficulties and improve resilience based on their emotions, especially during patient death, major changes and other circumstances (Sonnentag et al., 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
Aim Nurses play roles in hospitals, families, society and other aspects and often face stress sources, such as heavy workload, doctor–patient conflict and medical accidents. Resilience can help the nurses to avoid or reduce various adverse consequences caused by stress sources; however, this phenomenon remains ill-defined and under-researched. The aim of this review was to summarize the experiences of development of nurses' resilience and explore the reasons for the formation of resilience by examining the findings of the existing qualitative studies. Design The review is a systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative studies. Data Sources PubMed, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, Web of Science, Embase, and Ovid and Chinese databases include the following: Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Wanfang Database (CECDB), VIP Database and China Biomedical Database (CBM). Review Methods Relevant publications were identified by systematic searches across 11 databases in June 2021. All qualitative and mixed-method studies in English and Chinese that explored the experiences of development of nurses' resilience were included. The qualitative meta-synthesis followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) recommendations. Two independent reviewers selected the studies and assessed the quality of each study. Meta-synthesis was performed to integrate the results. Results A total of nine studies revealed 10 sub-themes and three descriptive themes: being psychologically strong, physical positive coping and adoption of external support. Conclusion Several factors contributed to the development of nurses' resilience, and various supporting strategies in the nursing management and education are helpful to their adaption ability. However, it is necessary to focus on the cultivation of nurses' resilience to improve the quality of clinical nursing. Leaders or organizations are required to establish and sustain multifaceted strategies to improve nurse’ resilience through scientific resilience training programmes and improved organizational support.
... No presente estudo, o lazer apresentou associação estatística positiva em relação ao diagnóstico da síndrome de burnout, identificando uma distribuição proporcionalmente heterogênea com maiores frequências de adoecimento no grupo que não praticava o lazer. Este achado corrobora com outras literaturas que afirmam que o lazer possui um efeito protetor para o desenvolvimento da síndrome (27)(28)(29). ...
Article
Full-text available
Objetivo A síndrome de burnout é definida como um fenômeno psicossocial em resposta crônica aos estressores interpessoais no ambiente de trabalho. Avaliar a síndrome de burnout em docentes dos cursos da área de saúde. Método Estudo descritivo, transversal, com abordagem quantitativa. Para coleta de dados foi utilizado o Maslach Burnout Inventory, além de um questionário socioeconômico. Utilizou-se do teste exato de Fisher para verificar se existe associação entre as variáveis sociodemográficas e a presença de burnout. Resultados Participaram do estudo 57 docentes, a maior parte do sexo feminino (n=39; 68,4%) e com tempo de atuação profissional acima de 10 anos (n=30; 52,6%). A maioria possui outro vinculo (n=43; 75,4%) e dedica mais de 40 horas semanais ao trabalho (n=35; 61,4%). A variável lazer apresentou-se estatisticamente significante em relação a ter ou não burnout evidenciando maior proporção de adoecimento entre os que referiram não sair a lazer. Observou-se percentuais elevados de exaustão emocional, despersonalização e baixa realização profissional revelando uma alta prevalência da síndrome de burnout entre os docentes. Conclusão Esses achados merecem atenção para o acompanhamento dos fatores psicossociais e organizacionais do processo laboral que possam intervir na qualidade de vida e nas condições de saúde desse trabalhador.
... 47,48 In contrast, individuals with low psychological detachment spend time thinking about work after working hours, which consumes their psychological resources and hinders their opportunity to engage in other activities. 49 Thus, individuals who can better detach themselves from their work may experience less WLC. ...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose: Some studies have shown that job autonomy can reduce individual work-leisure conflict (WLC). However, some individuals show that WLC is stronger in situations of greater job autonomy. In light of these inconsistent findings, this study explores the relationship between job autonomy and WLC as well as the mediating role of psychological detachment and the moderating role of boundary flexibility willingness based on the fit perspective of person-job. Methods: The daily diary research method was used to investigate 97 employees for five consecutive working days, and a multilevel model was established. Results: The results show that job autonomy is negatively related to WLC. Psychological detachment plays a mediating role in the relationship between job autonomy and WLC. Boundary flexibility willingness can significantly moderate not only the relationship between job autonomy and psychological detachment but also that between job autonomy and WLC. Conclusion: In light of the inconsistent results of past work, this study explored the relationship between job autonomy and WLC as well as the possible mediating and moderating mechanisms involved. Job autonomy, psychological detachment and WLC are characterized by daily changes occurring at the individual level. Job autonomy is negatively related to WLC, and psychological detachment plays a mediating role in the relationship between job autonomy and WLC. The fit of boundary flexibility willingness and job autonomy will cause a change in boundary permeability, which will lead to the relationship between job autonomy and WLC to varying degrees. The results of this study are helpful for understanding boundary theory and provide guidance for enterprise management.
Article
Work–leisure conflict (WLC) can have a series of negative effects on individuals. Against the backdrop of the rapid development of communication equipment, does individuals' use of communication equipment to handle work during nonworking hours lead to WLC? Previous studies have failed to discuss this relationship. Therefore, based on boundary theory, this study explored the possible effect of work connectivity behavior after hours (WCBAH) on WLC as well as the roles played by psychological detachment and individual segmentation preferences in this relationship. In this study, 82 employees were investigated via daily diary research for a period of 5 continuous working days, and a multilevel model was developed. The results indicated that daily WCBAH is positively related to WLC and that psychological detachment plays a mediating role in this relationship. Individual segmentation preferences can significantly moderate not only the relationship between WCBAH and psychological detachment but also the indirect effect of WCBAH on WLC via psychological detachment. This study increases our understanding of boundary theory and provides management suggestions regarding ways of reducing WLC.
Article
I nærværende artikel ønsker vi at udfolde et perspektiv om social acceleration præsenteret af sociologen Rosa og tage et skridt i retning af et kollektivt sprog for den psykiske mistrivsel, som desværre er udbredt i vores samfund. Samtidig udfolder vi også den individualisering, som flere kulturkritikere peger på er karakteristisk for det senmoderne samfund, og beskriver med udgangspunkt i den foucauldianske magtforståelse, hvorledes individualiseringen spiller ind i den herskende diskurs, særligt med henblik på, hvad dette betyder for, hvordan vi forstår og behandler psykisk mistrivsel i en terapeutisk sammenhæng. Vi vil med udgangspunkt i denne analyse diskutere, hvordan psykoterapiens genstandsfelt muligvis må udbredes og tilpasses de tendenser, der har indvirkning på individers psykiske trivsel, samt pointere vigtigheden af at integrere et kulturkritisk element i psykoterapien og en kritisk refleksion afegen praksis som psykolog.
Article
Time-related work stress is prevailing in today’s society. This is especially true in the nonprofit sector, where people are willing to self-sacrifice in order to contribute to organizational performance. Although literature highlights the shortcomings of time-related work stress, little is still known on its negative impact on work climate. The article contributes to fill this gap, shedding light on the consequences of time-related work stress on work climate in a large sample of people employed in the nonprofit sector. Secondary data were obtained from the latest wave of the European Working Condition Survey. Conditional process analysis was used to investigate the effects of time-related stress on work climate, considering the mediating role of work-life conflicts and work engagement. Stress caused by time constraints did not have direct implications on work climate. However, it expanded exposure to work-life conflicts and impaired work engagement, thus indirectly impoverishing work climate. Since it is hard to escape time pressures in modern work environments, precautions should be taken to protect employees against the backlash of time-related stress on work climate. Alongside empowering people to cope with work-related stress, tailored human resource management practices should be designed to address the sources of time pressures in the workplace.
Article
Building upon Social comparison theory (SCT), this study examined the mediating role of hard-work and moderating role of leisure in the association between trait-competitiveness and life-satisfaction. Using three-wave data from 415 postgraduate students from North Indian universities, we found that hard work fully mediated the linkage between competitiveness and life-satisfaction. Moreover, inclination towards leisure weakens the association between competitiveness and hard-work and the indirect effect of competitiveness on life-satisfaction via hard-work. This study highlighted the importance of hard-work and leisure in understanding the possible mechanisms between the association of trait-competitiveness and life-satisfaction which can be utilized to develop interventions to promote student satisfaction.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This meta-analysis examined how demand and resource correlates and behavioral and attitudinal correlates were related to each of the 3 dimensions of job burnout. Both the demand and resource correlates were more strongly related to emotional exhaustion than to either depersonalization or personal accomplishment. Consistent with the conservation of resources theory of stress, emotional exhaustion was more strongly related to the demand correlates than to the resource correlates, suggesting that workers might have been sensitive to the possibility of resource loss. The 3 burnout dimensions were differentially related to turnover intentions, organizational commitment, and control coping. Implications for research and the amelioration of burnout are discussed.
Article
Full-text available
Arising from interest concerning the possibility of causal relationships among the three components of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, several process models have been proposed for the development of burnout. The present paper first reviews the evidence in favour of the three most influential of these (Leiter and Maslach's model (1988); Golembiewski, Boudreau, Munzenrider, & Luo's (1996) phase model; and Lee and Ashforth's model (1993)). These three models, and our own model (which integrates of two of them, and includes feedback effects of depersonalization on emotional exhaustion) are then compared with each other using structural equation modelling, drawing on longitudinal data from two Dutch samples (total N=1185). The review revealed that none of the seven previous studies on this issue provided any convincing support for any particular causal order proposed so far. In contrast, our own study showed that high levels of exhaustion were associated with high levels of depersonalization over time across both samples. Further, higher levels of depersonalization led to higher levels of emotional exhaustion and lower levels of personal accomplishment. To our knowledge, the present research is the first to provide reliable longitudinal evidence for the conceptualization of burnout as a developmental process, although the effects are not large enough to be of practical use in the recognition of burnout.
Article
In any investigation of a causal relationship between an X and a Y, the time when X and Y are measured is crucial for determining whether X causes Y, as well as the true strength of that relationship. Using past research and a review of current research, we develop a set of XY configurations that describe the main ways that causal relationships are represented in theory and tested in research. We discuss the theoretical. methodological, and analytical issues pertaining to when we measure X and Y and discuss the implications of this analysis for constructing better organizational theories.
Article
Interest in the problem of method biases has a long history in the behavioral sciences. Despite this, a comprehensive summary of the potential sources of method biases and how to control for them does not exist. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which method biases influence behavioral research results, identify potential sources of method biases, discuss the cognitive processes through which method biases influence responses to measures, evaluate the many different procedural and statistical techniques that can be used to control method biases, and provide recommendations for how to select appropriate procedural and statistical remedies for different types of research settings.
Article
A critical specification lacking from much theory and research on organizations is that of time scale. Specification of the relevant time scale is as critical as the specification of the appropriate level or unit of analysis, a concept to which it is related. We define and explore five types of time scales and consider their implications for both the social constructionist and positivist approaches. Using examples from strategy and organizational theory, we show how the choice of time scale has important implications for the development of theory.