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Despite the growing research on work recovery and its well-being outcomes, surprisingly little attention has been paid to at-work recovery and its job performance outcomes. The current study extends the work recovery literature by examining day-level relationships between prototypical microbreaks and job performance as mediated by state positive affect. Furthermore, general work engagement is tested as a cross-level moderator weakening the indirect effects of microbreaks on job performance via positive affect. Using multisource experience sampling method, the authors collected two daily surveys from 71 call center employees and obtained objective records of daily sales performance for two consecutive weeks (n = 632). Multilevel path analysis results showed that relaxation, socialization, and cognitive microbreaks were related to increased positive affect at work which, in turn, predicted greater sales performance. However, breaks for nutrition-intake (having snacks and drinks) did not show significant effects. Importantly, microbreaks had significant indirect effects on job performance via positive affect only for workers who had lower general work engagement, whereas the indirect effects did not exist for workers who had higher general work engagement. Furthermore, Bayesian multilevel analyses confirmed the results. Theoretical and practical implications, limitations, and future research directions are discussed.
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Kim, S., Park, Y., & Headrick, L. (2018, March 29). Daily Micro-Breaks and Job Performance: General
Work Engagement as a Cross-Level Moderator. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online
Daily Micro-Breaks and Job Performance: General Work Engagement as a Cross-Level
Sooyeol Kim
School of Labor and Employment Relations
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL 61820
Telephone: 703-999-9969
YoungAh Park, Ph.D.
School of Labor and Employment Relations
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
504 East Armory Avenue
Champaign, IL, 61820
Tel: (217) 333-1482
Lucille Headrick
School of Labor and Employment Relations
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
504 East Armory Avenue
Champaign, IL, 61820
Tel: (217) 333-1482
Author Note:
We acknowledge the presentation of an earlier version of this study at the 2015 Academy of
Management annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia and the publication of this study at the 2015
Academy of Management Proceeding.
Despite the growing research on work recovery and its well-being outcomes, surprisingly little
attention has been paid to at-work recovery and its job performance outcomes. The current study
extends the work recovery literature by examining day-level relationships between prototypical
micro-breaks and job performance as mediated by state positive affect. Furthermore, general
work engagement is tested as a cross-level moderator weakening the indirect effects of micro-
breaks on job performance via positive affect. Using multi-source experience sampling method,
the authors collected two daily surveys from 71 call center employees and obtained objective
records of daily sales performance for two consecutive weeks (n = 632). Multilevel path analysis
results showed that relaxation, socialization, and cognitive micro-breaks were related to
increased positive affect at work which, in turn, predicted greater sales performance. However,
breaks for nutrition-intake (having snacks and drinks) did not show significant effects.
Importantly, micro-breaks had significant indirect effects on job performance via positive affect
only for workers who had lower general work engagement, whereas the indirect effects did not
exist for workers who had higher general work engagement. Furthermore, Bayesian multilevel
analyses confirmed the results. Theoretical and practical implications, limitations, and future
research directions are discussed.
Keywords: micro-breaks, job performance, positive affect, recovery, resources, work
Daily Micro-Breaks and Job Performance: General Work Engagement as a Cross-Level
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
−A proverb−
The popular media warns that working individuals should take breaks or risk becoming
“worn-out” or “dulled.” The Cable News Network has recently featured on several business
cases that integrate respite activities into the workplace (e.g., foosball, yoga, snack bars, naps) as
some organizations believe that fun and relaxing activities between tasks increase employee
morale and promote productivity (Rodriguez, 2013). Conversely, some organizations and
managers may consider such activities to be counterproductive and disdain breaks as ways to
“goof off” on company time. In light of the contrasting views on respite activities within the
workplace, can organizational psychology provide any insight into whether respite activities at
work are beneficial for job performance outcomes?
Researchers have studied recovery processes that allow workers to unwind and repair
negative consequences of continual work (see, Demerouti, Bakker, Geurts, & Taris, 2009, for a
review). The recovery literature recommends micro-breaks as energy management strategies for
sustaining employee resources throughout a workday (Fritz, Lam, & Spreitzer, 2011; Hunter &
Wu, 2016; Trougakos & Hideg, 2009; Zacher, Brailsford, & Parker, 2014). A recent study also
showed that on days when office workers took frequent afternoon micro-breaks, they reported
substantially reduced effects of work demands on negative affect at the end of the workday
(Kim, Park, & Niu, 2017). Despite increasing evidence that micro-breaks have salutary effects
on well-being and strain, the literature offers little evidence and insights as to whether and how
micro-breaks promote employee job performance (Trougakos & Hideg, 2009). Moreover,
scholarly knowledge is lacking regarding whether micro-breaks benefit job performance for all
employees or certain employees only.
In this study, we aim to better explain the relationship between at-work recovery and its
job performance outcome. Examining the link between micro-breaks and performance will
advance recovery theory and help organizations recognize potential benefits of respite activities
at work. Figure 1 illustrates our conceptual model to examine day-level relationships between
prototypical micro-breaksrelaxation, nutrition-intake, socialization, and cognitive—and job
performance outcomes, as well as determine a mechanism underlying the relationships. Another
important aim is to test general work engagement as an individual difference factor that cross-
moderates the intermediary mechanism in predicting job performance. Our theoretical model and
empirical test contribute to the recovery literature in three key ways.
First, research has shown that recovery outside work relates to the next day’s positive
work-related outcomes, such as proactive behaviors and task performance (e.g., Binnewies,
Sonnentag, Mojza, 2009; Sonnentag, 2003; ten Brummelhuis & Bakker, 2012). However, we
have scarce evidence regarding whether at-work recovery through micro-breaks generates
similar positive work outcomes. This little attention is surprising in that employees spend most
of their time at work. Also, the ultimate purpose of recovery is to promote job performance as
well as well-being (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007). Therefore, testing job performance as an outcome
of micro-breaks is highly warranted. In doing so, we obtained objective records of daily sales
performance to remove self-report biases and minimize common method variance concerns
(Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Also, importantly, because most recovery
research assessed its outcomes with self-report measures, it remains difficult to determine
whether recovery positively influences employees’ substantive work outcomes above and
beyond their perceptual outcomes (Sonnentag, Venz, & Casper, 2017, for a review).
Accordingly, we studied call center employees and collected their daily sales performance
records to test whether micro-breaks increase their important resource (i.e., state positive affect)
which then translates into tangible, core performance outcomes (i.e., daily sales in call center
business). We further confirmed our results with Bayesian multilevel analyses to provide
rigorous evidence.
Second, whereas previous research has found beneficial effects of work breaks on lower
strain symptoms and higher positive affective displays (e.g., Hunter & Wu, 2016; Trougakos,
Beal, Green, & Weiss, 2008), no study has investigated within-person mechanisms by which
micro-breaks lead to job performance outcome. It is not clear which underlying psychological
experiences explain the links between break activities and performance (Trougakos & Hideg,
2009). Specifically, combining resource-based theories with empirical research on at-work
recovery, we conceptualize micro-breaks as resource-replenishing events that aid job
performance because they increase employee resource levels, such as positive affect, especially
for employees who primarily interact with customers on a daily basis. Furthermore, given that
affective states can shape job attitudes and drive important work behaviors (Beal, Weiss, Barros,
& MacDermid, 2005; Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996), it is important to test increased positive
affect as a linking mechanism. Thus, our theoretical reasoning and empirical test of the
psychological mechanism improve understandings of exact channels through which micro-
breaks lead to desirable performance results.
Third, empirical research on moderators of work break effects is rare (for an exception,
see Trougakos, Hideg, Cheng, & Beal, 2014) and virtually nonexistent for performance
outcomes. Considering the lack of knowledge about whether or not processes of micro-breaks
are applicable to all workers, Trougakos and Hideg (2009) and Sonnentag et al. (2017) have
called for research on moderators that potentially influence the relationship between resources
gained from breaks and job performance. As such, we propose that employees who have a stable
characteristic of high work engagementa general tendency to experience work in active and
energetic ways across situations (Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006)—have less need for
frequent micro-breaks to increase their transient positive affect, possibly because they already
have a significant and stable resource reservoir. As moderation tests are necessary for enriching
theories, our study contributes to the recovery literature and its theory development.
Theoretical Foundations and Hypotheses Development
The Concept of Micro-Breaks and Theories Explaining Their Recovery Effects
Micro-break activities are short, informal respite activities taken voluntarily between
tasks (Kim et al., 2017; Trougakos & Hideg, 2009). This concept of micro-breaks is
distinguished from other institutionalized breaks, such as lunch or formally scheduled breaks. As
individuals take micro-breaks as needed amid task activities, they are less structured compared to
formally prescheduled breaks. Although there is no established standard regarding the length of
micro-breaks, they generally last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Most
important, employees pursue micro-break activities at their own discretion. If breaks are taken
otherwise (e.g., unwillingly due to others’ requests or at inopportune moments), they can be
experienced as work interruptions causing distractions, backlogs, and frustrations (Jett & George,
2003). The voluntary nature of micro-breaks also aligns with the literature on off-job recovery
indicating the importance of autonomy during respites (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007). For example,
positive relationships between evening leisure activities and next-morning recovery state were
more pronounced among employees with greater intrinsic motivation for the activities (ten
Brummelhuis & Trougakos, 2014). Additionally, Trougakos et al. (2014) found that employee
autonomy over how to use lunch breaks determined whether the breaks had beneficial or harmful
effects on strain. Thus, self-initiated, voluntary micro-breaks indicate that employees choose
most optimal timing and preferred activities for their momentary respites and accommodate their
idiosyncratic recovery needs and daily rhythms (Kühnel, Zacher, de Bloom, & Bledow, 2017).
Next, we briefly introduce three theories that commonly explain recovery processes in
the literature and explain how our conceptual model of micro-breaks sits within the theoretical
frameworks: Conservation of resources theory (COR; Hobfoll, 1989), ego-depletion theory
(Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998; Baumeister, Muraven, & Tice, 2000), and
effort-recovery model (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). First, COR theory assumes that individuals
have limited resources (e.g., energy) necessary to address various demands in their life (Hobfoll,
1989). Resource depletion causes strain and poor functioning, so individuals try to conserve
resources and avoid resource losses. In the workplace, employees use their personal resources to
deal with work demands and job stressors and, as such, their resources become depleted over the
course of a workday. This resource perspective suggests that employees cannot continue work
efforts indefinitely throughout the workday but they need to replenish drained resources. In that
sense, employees can take micro-breaks and engage in their choice of respite activities to restore
depleted resources.
Similarly, ego-depletion theory is based on the resource scarcity perspective: a central,
psychological resource (ego) determines individuals’ self-regulation capacity, but it is finite and
drains easily if used continuously (Baumeister et al., 1998, 2000). Self-regulatory resources are
particularly important for service employees as emotion regulation is essential for their quality
service work (Grandey, 2000). For example, call center employees often must suppress negative
emotions and display positive emotions if they are to meet their customer service needs and sales
goals (Grandey, Dickter, & Sin, 2004). Thus, call center work is commonly considered a high
self-control context in which self-regulatory resource depletion can make it difficult to control
response tendencies and amplify positive emotions while concentrating on tasks at hand (e.g.,
following call scripts, answering customer questions, searching for best customer options); as a
result, job performance may deteriorate. Nevertheless, ego-depletion theory suggests that self-
regulatory resources can be renewed after sufficient rest (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000). In
addition, studies based on this theory points to positive affect as an important central resource
that counteracts ego depletion and facilitates behavioral performance. For example, Tice,
Baumeister, Shmueli, and Muraven (2007) found that self-regulatory task performance improved
when positive affect was induced by experimental conditions, such as watching a comedy video
which is similar to micro-break activity. A field study applying the theory also found that respite
activities enhance positive affect felt and displayed at work that is needed for performing service
tasks (i.e., cheerleading instruction; Trougakos et al., 2008).
Effort-recovery model (Meijman & Mulder, 1998) further highlights that taking timely
respites is important to recover diminished self-regulatory resources and even generate resource
surpluses. The model posits that individuals should rest momentarily to allow their functional
systems (e.g., emotional, cognitive) to recuperate from accumulated load reactions of continuous
working, such as fatigue; however, when respite opportunities are delayed, the load reactions
persist to the extent that it becomes more difficult to return to one’s baseline functioning. In this
regard, self-initiated micro-breaks can provide the necessary disengagement from work just in
time of needs. Accordingly, work breaks were found to be related to increased well-being and
decreased strain (Hunter & Wu, 2016; Kim et al., 2017; Kühnel et al., 2017; Trougakos et al.,
2008; Zacher et al., 2014).
Building on these theoretical frameworks and empirical findings, we contend that micro-
break activities will be positively linked to job performance through increased positive affect as a
resource. We test daily fluctuating positive affect—feeling active, confident, interested,
concentrating, enthusiastic, and happy—as a linking mechanism in that positive affect is an
integral part of self-regulatory resources and task accomplishment for emotional laborers (Beal et
al., 2005). In particular, we investigate four prototypical micro-breaks (i.e., relaxation, nutrition-
intake, socialization, and cognitive activities), considering that recovery effects may hinge on the
exact nature of the activities employees engage in during breaks. In the next section, we first
hypothesize how each category of micro-breaks increases positive affect. Then, drawing on the
episodic model of affective influences on job performance by Beal et al. (2005), we theorize the
intermediary role of positive affect in connecting micro-breaks and job performance. Last, we
turn to general work engagement as a moderator in the indirect effect of micro-breaks on job
Relaxation Activities
Relaxation is to momentarily relieve psychological and physical tension from continuous
work and further prevent its short-term accumulations throughout a workday. Common
relaxation activities include taking a short nap or walk, meditating, daydreaming, and stretching,
all of which are characterized by low effort or effortless activities (e.g., Sianoja, Syrek, de
Bloom, Korpela, & Kinnunen, 2017; Trougakos & Hideg, 2009). Effort-recovery model explains
that relaxation activities help individuals’ physical and psychological systems return to pre-stress
levels (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). As such, relaxation is considered one of the core recovery
experiences for retreating physically and psychologically to restore depleted resources
(Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007). Likewise, previous studies found that short relaxation at work (e.g.,
stretching, napping) is associated with lower physical and mental fatigue and higher positive
emotions (Henning, Jacques, Kissel, Sullivan, & Alteras-Webb, 1997; Trougakos et al., 2008).
Also, on days when employees had more relaxation activities, they reported much lower impacts
of work demands on affective distress (Kim et al., 2017) and higher vitality, such as feeling
energetic and cheerful, at work (Zacher et al., 2014). Furthermore, an experimental study found
that individuals who appraised their micro-breaks as relaxing reported more feelings of vigor
(Bennett, 2015). Moreover, short relaxation activities (i.e., park walks, soundscape of nature,
relaxation exercises) not only reduced employees’ daily fatigue but also led to more positive
states, such as feelings of vigor, enjoyment, and concentration (Sianoja et al., 2017; Steidle,
Gonzalez-Morales, Hoppe, Michel, & O’shea, 2017). In summary, these combined findings
suggest that relaxation micro-breaks provide optimal conditions for releasing any negative load
reactions of continuous working and resource recovery, thereby increasing positive and pleasant
states for the next task episodes.
Hypothesis 1a: Daily relaxation micro-breaks will be positively related to increased
positive affect at work.
Nutrition-Intake Activities
Nutrition-intake activities refer to snacking and drinking at work. Human physiology runs
on nutrients like a fuel (e.g., water, minerals, protein, glucose), so getting adequate supplies of
nutrients is essential for human energy and daily functioning (Renner, Sproesser, Strohbach, &
Schupp, 2012). For example, glucose (blood sugar) is one of the major sources of nutritional
energy and, as such, individuals who have higher glucose levels tend to show less negative
emotions and more helping behaviors because of high self-regulatory resources (Gailliot et al.,
2007). In addition, some nonessential nutrients from foods and beverages can influence
emotional and mental states. For example, caffeine is a mild stimulant boosting feelings of
alertness, activeness, and energy (Hausser, Schlemmer, Kaiser, Kalis, & Mojzisch, 2014). Recent
studies have discovered beneficial effects of caffeine intake, given the common coffee and tea
breaks at work. Specifically, caffeine consumption attenuated sleep deprivation effects on
feelings of energy depletion (Welsh, Ellis, Christian, & Mai, 2014) and minimized adverse
effects of daily work demands on end-of-work negative affect (Kim et al., 2017). Although most
employees take regular lunches, they may still feel hungry or thirsty as they continuously use
nutritional energy to exert self-control efforts for job tasks throughout the work day. Indeed,
employees tend to eat more snacks on days when they want to reduce feelings of frustration and
fatigue (i.e., high affect-regulation motive) and thereby boost their energy at work (Sonnentag,
Pundt, & Venz, 2016). In short, brief breaks for snacks and beverages between tasks may help
employees avoid discomforting physiological experiences and further increase mental alertness
and energy. Thus, we expect that nutrition-intake breaks will increase positive affect at work
(e.g., feeling active and concentrating, etc.).
Hypothesis 1b: Daily nutrition-intake micro-breaks will be positively related to increased
positive affect at work.
Socialization Activities
Off-job recovery research suggests that one way to assist recovery is through social
activities in which employees interact with others, garner social support, and psychologically
detach from work-related thoughts (Sonnentag, 2001; ten Brummelhuis & Bakker, 2012). In this
study, we contend that nonwork-related social contacts and interactions at work can boost
employees’ positive affect. The concept of relational energy (Owens, Baker, Sumpter, &
Cameron, 2016) explains that interpersonal interactions at work give employees a heightened
level of psychological resourcefulness that can enhance their capacity to do work. That is,
employees can be energized by and even proactively seek social interactions to increase their
energy at work. Moreover, employees who draw more relational energy from social interactions
tend to be highly engaged in their job and more productive (Owens et al., 2016). Trougakos et al.
(2014) also found that daily lunch break socialization reduced end-of-work fatigue when
employees had high autonomy for their lunch break (i.e., deciding what they want to do during
the break). Similarly, Kim et al. (2017) demonstrated that voluntary, nonwork social activities
weakened the effects of daily work demands on subsequent negative affect at work. Moreover,
Zacher et al. (2014) showed that daily micro-breaks including social contacts and interactions
(i.e., talking about common interests like sports or hobbies, checking in with a friend and family
member) increased feelings of vitality at work, whereas work-related break activities (e.g.,
seeking feedback) failed to do so. Taken together, we argue that social interactions and contacts
should be free from work-related aspects to ensure optimal recovery effects of micro-breaks.
Thus, we expect that voluntary, nonwork-related social activities during micro-breaks will
increase positive affect.
Hypothesis 1c: Daily socialization micro-breaks will be positively related to increased
positive affect at work.
Cognitive Activities
Cognitive micro-break activities refer to any activities that facilitate a mental break from
work demands although they may still require some cognitive attention and effort. Examples
include casual reading and browsing the Internet for entertainment or personal learning. Most
important is that cognitive distraction momentarily shifts employees’ attention from high self-
control demands toward chosen activities for entertainment or casual learning. The off-job
recovery literature has suggested that psychological detachment from work is critical for
replenishing energy and affective resources (see Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015, for a review). In
addition, doing preferred activities during breaks increases personal resources at work such as
energy, motivation, and concentration (Hunter & Wu, 2016). However, contrary to the
hypothesized recovery effects of cognitive activities at work, Kim et al. (2017) found that
voluntarily chosen cognitive breaks aggravated employee distress. As a post-hoc explanation,
they attributed the unexpected finding to their failure in distinguishing pleasurable activities from
personal chores and duties (e.g., online banking). Accordingly, we expect that pleasurable or
personally meaningful cognitive breaks will provide temporary escape from work demands and
momentarily improve affective state, as reflected in our cognitive activity items. Thus, we
hypothesize the following.
Hypothesis 1d: Daily cognitive micro-breaks will be positively related to increased
positive affect at work.
Indirect Effects of Micro-Break Activities on Job Performance via Positive Affective
Broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001) posits that individuals’ positive
emotions from positive episodes can widen momentary thought−action repertoires, thereby
increasing performance in various contexts. That is, momentary positive experiences generate
positive affect which, then, leads individuals to seek underexplored paths of thoughts and actions
rather than typical, automatic behavioral options. This proposition is congruent with the episodic
model of affective influences on performance (Beal et al., 2005) as the model theorizes that
affective state influences cognition and behavioral styles that are conducive to effective task
achievement. In other words, the model posits that affective states can not only influence one’s
attentional regulation for task conducts but also directly impact on task approaches and
momentary response tendencies in doing job tasks (Beal et al., 2005). This combined theoretical
perspective suggests that positive affect accruing from micro breaks will influence job
More specifically, in the context of call center jobs, we argue that positive affective state
from micro-breaks may lead to better sales performance for the following reasons. First, call
center employees interact daily with multiple customers. Their task episodes tend to begin and
end with each call they make. In emotionally draining jobs, especially when employees faced
with difficulties and frustrations, they tend to perceive more difficulty in displaying positive
emotions because of greater emotional dissonance between their true feelings and outward
emotional expressions (Beal, Trougakos, Weiss, & Green, 2006). However, shortly after taking
micro-breaks, the resultant positive affect may help employees reappraise and reframe task
situations more confidently and positively, thereby increasing work motivation. Indeed, lab
experiments showed that positive affect improved task performance through enhanced beliefs
that task effort would result in good performance (Erez & Isen, 2002). Similarly, a field study
using insurance sales agents found that positive affect predicted task performance by boosting
motivational components such as task self-efficacy and persistency (Tsai, Chen, & Liu, 2007).
Thus, we expect that positive affect gained from between-task micro-breaks (e.g., feeling
confident, enthusiastic, active, etc.) will shape more positive work attitudes and increase task
motivation momentarily, facilitating job performance.
Second, the performance model of affective influences (Beal et al., 2005) views that
performance during an episode is a joint function of resource level and resource allocation. That
is, job performance is a result of a dynamic process in which individuals control and allocate
various resources to task activities. The model further suggests that state positive affect may
allow employees to better address emotional labor while simultaneously staying focused on
cognitive processing. For example, even during difficult calls, employees may use their state
positive affect to please dissatisfied customers while cognitively searching for the best services
and products. That is, employees in positive affective state may easily alter emotion-regulation
strategies without being distracted from finding the best customer options. In other words, this
example indicates that positive affect helps employees allocate attentional resources to
information-processing as well as address emotional tasks during the sales calls. Accordingly,
when call center workers were in a pleasant and positive affective state, they solved customer
problems more efficiently during calls (Miner & Glomb, 2010) and showed more verbal fluency
in unscripted interactions with customers (“no dead air time”), an important call-quality metric
(Rothbard & Wilk, 2011). Also, bank tellers’ positive emotion displays were associated with
customers’ positive perception of received services (Pugh, 2001). Likewise, positive emotion in
sales clerks was found to relate to their customers’ actual product purchase (Tsai, 2001).
Taken all together, we argue that positive affect derived from micro-breaks will function
as a self-regulatory resource allowing employees to maintain their work motivation, better
handle difficult calls, and display positive emotions in order to meet their service and sales goals.
Hypothesis 2: There will be indirect relationships between micro-breaks—(a) relaxation,
(b) nutrition-intake, (c) socialization, and (d) cognitive activities—and job performance
through increased positive affect, such that on days when employees take more micro-
breaks, they are more likely to gain positive affect and thereby achieve higher
General Work-Engagement as a Cross-Level Moderator
Work engagement is defined as one’s inclination to view work in a positive, fulfilling
way that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption (Schaufeli et al., 2006). The
concept essentially captures the extent that individuals experience their work as stimulating and
energetic (vigor), meaningful and significant (dedication), and interesting and captivating
(absorption). Although work engagement levels can fluctuate daily, some individuals are more
engaged than others across situations, a tendency known as general work engagement (Breevaart,
Bakker, Demerouti, & Hetland, 2012)—hereinafter work engagement in short. This construct is
about dedicating the “full self” and being highly motivated for work, and thus differs from other
traditional job attitudes such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment (see, Christian,
Garza, & Slaughter, 2011, for a review).
A corollary in COR theory (Hobfoll, 2001) is that: “those with greater resources are less
vulnerable to resource loss and more capable of orchestrating resource gain. Conversely, those
with fewer resources are more vulnerable to resource loss and less capable to resource gain” (pp.
349). Although work engagement has not been examined as a cross-level moderator of the
affect−performance link within individuals, the past literature suggests that work engagement is
an important motivational resource for employee performance. In a cross-sectional study of hotel
workers and their customers (Salanova, Agut, & Peiro, 2005), employees’ general work
engagement was related to higher service climate which was, in turn, linked to employee
performance and then customer loyalty. Also, employees’ work engagement predicted
subsequent job performance as assessed by their supervisors and coworkers (Halbesleben &
Wheeler, 2008). A meta-analytic study also confirmed that work engagement explains
incremental variance in task performance above and beyond other job attitudes (Christian, Garza,
& Slaughter, 2011). Thus, work engagement represents a relatively stable resource that may
reduce one’s sensitivity to the effects of fluctuating positive affect on job performance.
More specifically, task performance during an episode is a joint function of resource level
and resource allocation (Beal et al., 2005). As such, employees with high work engagement may
be able to offset temporary losses of affective resources by drawing from larger resource
reservoirs. That is, even with dwindling transient affective resources, they still remain motivated
to pursue persistent task efforts and effectively allocate other necessary resources. In addition,
highly engaged employees tend to go beyond their roles to help achieve goals of coworkers and
their organization, further suggesting that highly engaged individuals are better able to “free up”
their personal resources (Christian et al., 2011). Moreover, general work engagement is driven
by both job resources (e.g., social support, feedback) and personal resources (e.g., resiliency,
positive self-evaluations) (Bakker, 2011; Christian et al., 2011). This may indicate that
individuals with high work engagement have a “caravan of resources” for sustaining work
motivation and enhancing performance; therefore, they are less affected by transient, volatile
resources (Hobfoll, 2001). Translating the conceptual and theoretical reasoning into the current
context, we hypothesize that positive affect gained from micro-breaks will have a weaker
relation with job performance especially for those who have high work engagement but will have
a stronger relation for those who have low work engagement.
Hypothesis 3: Work engagement at the between-person level will moderate (reduce) the
day-level relationship between positive affect and sales performance, such that
employees with high (low) work engagement will be less (more) likely to be influenced
by positive affect during the workday.
Further, our combined hypotheses (H1−H3) imply that the strength of the indirect
relationships between micro-breaks and performance outcomes via positive affect may differ by
the levels of work engagement. That is, high work engagement makes employees less sensitive
and vulnerable to state positive affect from micro-breaks for their performance benefits, such that
the indirect effects of micro-breaks on job performance will be weaker for employees with high
work engagement but will be stronger for those with low work engagement.
Hypothesis 4: The day-level indirect effects of (a) relaxation, (b) nutrition-intake, (c)
socialization, and (d) cognitive micro-breaks on performance outcomes via positive affect
will be weaker (stronger) for employees who have higher (lower) levels of work
Sample and Procedure
The current study is the first publication based on data collected as part of larger study
entitled, “Employees’ Work and Nonwork Experiences in Telemarketing Job.” IRB approval
was granted by Kansas State University for protocol number 7120. Participants included 71
telemarketers at call centers in Korea. Their primary job is to call customers and persuade them
to purchase services or products (O*Net, 2015). The participants sold insurance, credit cards,
cable and Internet, and landline and mobile phone services. Consequently, they often engage in
emotional labor: they must suppress their true feelings, display positive emotions, answer
customers’ questions, and solicit sales (Grandey, 2003). Industries represented were finance
(49%) or telecommunications (51%). The two groups showed no significant differences
regarding age, job tenure, weekly work hours, and work engagement (p-values = .29 .82). Most
participants were women (79%), reflecting the female-dominated call center field in Korea
(Korea Labor and Information Service, 2012). The final sample averaged 37.03 years-old (SD =
7.58), organizational tenure of 4.15 years (SD = 3.19), and 39.45 hours worked per week (SD =
Participants were recruited through several online community websites for call center
workers in Korea. With permission from the websites’ administrators, the recruitment message
was posted for about 4 weeks, explaining the two-phase online study procedure (an initial survey
and two daily surveys for 10 workdays), compensation for participation (a $30 value mobile gift
card), and eligibility for participation. To participate, they had to work full-time at call centers
with a regular work schedule (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) in accordance with regular working hours in
Korea, and fixed lunch hours (no shift and telecommuting workers). The initial survey link was
distributed to 165 participants who expressed interest via email. Completion of the initial survey
indicated their consent to participate in daily surveys and provide their objective performance
report retrieved from their organizations’ sales database (i.e., daily sales performance records
during the participation period). Their organizations used archival sales records to calculate
incentive payments so employees were allowed to track and retrieve their sales records freely on
their work computer1. A total of 105 out of 165 individuals completed the initial survey (64%),
reporting demographic information and their work engagement. They also self-generated ID
codes and used throughout the study to allow us to match responses across measurement
1 Before this study, we conducted a pilot focus group interview with call center workers in Korea. We learned that
they would be able to retrieve their individual sales performance report from their work computer which was
connected to their company’s sales management system.
About one week after the initial survey, they started answering two short daily surveys
for 10 consecutive workdays: one in the morning (Time 1) to assess their morning positive affect
(control variable) and another at the end of each workday before leaving their call center (Time
2) to measure their day-level workload (control variable), engagement in micro-break activities,
and positive affect at work. As expected in daily diary studies, 34 participants (n = 7) skipped
some of the daily surveys (e.g., completing only morning or end-of-work survey), or failed to
complete any daily surveys after the first phase (n = 27). They were removed, leaving 71 of 105
individuals (68%). No significant differences were observed between the initial sample and the
final sample regarding age, sex, education level, organizational and job tenure, average work
hours per week, and work engagement (p-values = .22 .73). On average, they completed the
morning survey at 9:22 a.m. (SD = 0.34), and the end-of-work survey at 6:21 p.m. (SD = 0.78).
In addition, each Friday, participants emailed us the week’s sales report along with their ID code.
The sales reports included successful sales transactions and amount of gross sales in Korean
Won for each day during the entire week. By matching these performance records with daily
survey responses, we obtained 632 day-level data points of 710 points possible (71 participants x
10 workdays), yielding a response rate of 89%.
Day-Level Measures
The measures were provided in Korean. To ensure accurate translation of English-based
measures, we used a translation-back translation procedure with two independent bilingual
translators (Brislin, 1970). All scales were slightly adapted to suit the daily measurement context,
except for the micro-break activities measure.
Micro-break activities (Time 2). Table 1 displays the nine items of micro-break
activities and their categories. We measured micro-break activities by slightly adapting the items
of common respite activities that Kim et al. (2017) developed and fully tested according to the
literature on micro-breaks at work (Fritz et al., 2011; Trougakos & Hideg, 2009). Specifically,
we added a small phrase (“for entertainment”) at the end of their cognitive activity items to
clearly indicate the pleasurable nature of the activities. This adapted measure asked respondents
to recall their short, informal respites taken voluntarily during their work day and then rate how
often they engaged in those break activities (1 = never to 5 = very frequently): two items each for
relaxation, nutrition-intake, and cognitive activities, and three items for social activities. We then
computed an average score within each of the categories to produce four micro-break variables.
We did not calculate the coefficient alphas as these activities are not caused by a latent construct,
and each category of break activities is defined by the combination of its measures (i.e.,
formative measure; Diamantopoulos & Siguaw, 2006).
Positive affect (Time 2). Positive affect was assessed with positive emotion scales from
the Positive and Negative Affective Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). To
minimize participants’ burden, we used six shortened descriptors (i.e., happy, enthusiastic,
active, concentrating, confident, interested) as common in diary studies. Participants indicated
how extensively they had felt the positive emotions during their workday (1 = none to 5 = to a
great extent). The average Cronbach’s alpha across observations was .91.
Job performance. To operationalize job performance, we used daily sales performance
records in Korean Won which indicate gross sales for each work day. Considering that the call
center employees’ gross sales greatly varied across the industries due to the different unit prices
of the products and services they sold, we standardized daily sales performance scores, using the
individuals’ respective average gross sales of the two weeks during the study period2. Therefore,
2 We also used individuals’ average gross sales for the month to calculate standardized performance scores but the
significance of our results did not differ.
negative values represent below-average performance in two working weeks, while positive
values indicate above-average performance.
Control variables. We measured morning positive affect as a control variable (Time 1)
because baseline affective state could influence subsequent affect and work approaches during
the workday. We used the same PANAS affective descriptors and response options to ask
participants to rate how extensively they felt the emotions in the morning. The average
Cronbach’s alpha across observations was .90. In addition, we measured day-specific workload
as another control variable because it could influence affective state at work (Ilies et al., 2007)
and opportunities to interact with customers on the phone. This was assessed at the end of the
workday with a short three-item Quantitative Workload Inventory (Spector & Jex, 1998), on a 5-
point rating format (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). Example item was “Today, I
had a lot of work to do.” The average Cronbach’s alpha across observations was .89.
Person-Level Measure
General work engagement. This was assessed in the initial survey with the short nine-
item Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (Schaufeli et al., 2006) on a 5-point rating format (1 =
strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). Participants rated how well each item described them in
general at work. Example items included: “At my work, I feel bursting with energy in general”
and “I am enthusiastic about my job, in general.” The Cronbach’s alpha was .89.
Analytic Approach
We used multilevel path analysis to test the hypothesized model shown in Figure 1 with
Mplus 6.12 (Muthén & Muthén, 2007). With this approach, we were able to accommodate the
multilevel structure of the data (i.e., daily responses nested in individuals) and simultaneously
estimate the path coefficients for the hypothesized relationships. In our model, as control
variables, morning positive affect and workload were specified to have fixed effects on positive
affect (Time 2) as well as on sales performance. We specified the Level-1 (i.e., intraindividual
level) fixed effects of four micro-break activities on positive affect, and the Level-1 random
effect of positive affect on sales performance. In addition, we specified the direct fixed effects of
the micro-break activities on sales performance. To facilitate the interpretation of the findings,
all Level-1 predictors (i.e., workload, morning positive affect, micro-break activities) were
person-mean centered to obtain unbiased estimates of the intraindividual-level relationships
(Enders & Tofighi, 2007). The Level-2 variable, work engagement, was grand-mean centered.
Variance partitioning showed that within-person fluctuations explained a significant amount of
the variance in the mediator and outcome variable: 84.1% for positive affect during the workday
and 73.4% for sales performance. Also, substantial variability was due to within-person
fluctuations in micro-breaks (75.3% for relaxation, 74% for nutrition-intake, 86.7% for
socialization, and 55.1% for cognitive activities). Thus, the multilevel-modeling approach was
appropriate to test the hypotheses. Mediation hypotheses were tested via Monte Carlo simulation
procedures using the open-source software R, found at (Bauer, Preacher, & Gil, 2006; Preacher &
Selig, 2010).
Furthermore, we ran Bayesian multilevel analysis to confirm our findings and respond to
recent calls to deal with traditional null hypotheses significance testing issues (Andraszewicz et
al., 2015; McKee & Miller, 2015). Critics have objected to the traditional significance testing
because p-values and statistical significance can be misinterpreted, and model comparison
processes are lacking in regression analyses (e.g., Johnson, 2013; Sellke, Bayarri, & Berger,
2001). Bayesian analysis is an alternative to overcome these issues because it depends less on p-
values and significance and provides more flexibility for modeling complex error structures
(Andraszewicz et al., 2015; Gelman, 2003).
Preliminary Analysis
Table 2 presents means, standard deviations, and intercorrelations of the study variables.
As expected, at the within-person level, the four micro-breaks were positively related with
positive affect at Time 2 (rs = .17 to .24, ps < .001). Positive affect at Time 2 was also positively
related with sales performance (r = .29, p < .001). Four types of micro-breaks were also
moderately correlated with each other (rs = .19 to .57, ps < .01), except the relationship between
relaxation and cognitive activities (r = .08, p = .055) and relaxation and nutrition-intake activities
(r = -.02, p = .664). In addition, we checked whether there were any time trends in our mediator
and outcome variables because they were measured repeatedly over two weeks. We entered the
linear time trend variable in each regression model for positive affect and performance outcomes
but found no significant linear time trends in positive affect (γ = .01, p = .999) and sales
performance (γ = .001, p = .999).
Hypothesis Testing
Table 3 presents the results from the multilevel path analysis that estimated all the path
coefficients simultaneously. Relaxation = .13, p < .001), social (γ = .14, p < .001), and
cognitive micro-break activities (γ = .13, p < .01) were positively related to increased positive
affect when morning baseline affect and workload were controlled for; thus, H1a, H1c, and H1d
were supported, respectively. However, the effect of nutrition-intake activities on positive affect
was not significant (γ = .04, p = .333), failing to support H1b. In Table 3, positive affect was
positively related to sales job performance = .41, p < .001), after controlling for morning
affect and workload.
Increased positive affect was further hypothesized to connect the relationship between
employees’ break activities and job performance (H2a – H2d). Testing a series of indirect effects
based on 20,000 Monte Carlo replications showed that the indirect effect of relaxation activities
on sales performance via positive affect was .05 with 95% bias-corrected bootstrap confidence
interval (CI) from 0.02 to 0.09. As the CI did not include zero, H2a was supported. However,
nutrition-intake activities did not show a significant indirect effect on sales performance as the
CI included zero (95% CI [-0.03, 0.07]). Thus, H2b was not supported. The indirect effect of
social activities on sales performance via positive affect was .06 (95% CI [0.02, 0.10]),
supporting H2c. Cognitive activities indirectly affected sales performance via positive affect (.05,
95% CI [0.02, 0.08]), so H2d was supported. Note that there were no significant direct
relationships between the micro-breaks and sales performance. Nonetheless, the effects of
relaxation, socialization, and cognitive micro-breaks on performance were fully mediated by
positive affect.
We tested a cross-level moderation effect of work engagement on the within-person
relationship between positive affect and sales performance. In Table 3, results showed that work
engagement was negatively associated with the random slope between positive affect and sales
amount (γ = -.15, p < .05). Following Preacher, Curran, and Bauer (2006), we conducted simple
slope tests in multi-level modeling to confirm the nature of the interaction effects. As Figure 2
shows, the interaction pattern was observed for sales performance outcome: the positive within-
person link between positive affect and sales performance existed only for those who had low
levels of work engagement (γ = .61, SE = .07, p < .001) but not for those who had high levels of
work engagement (γ = .31, SE = .16, p = .06). Thus, H3 was supported.
Last, we tested whether estimated indirect effects of micro-breaks on sales performance
via positive affect differed at the lower (-1 SD) and higher (+1 SD) level of work engagement.
Relaxation activities had a significant indirect effect of .17 (p < .05) under the low work
engagement level, versus .01 (p = .743) under the high work engagement level. Moreover, the
indirect effects were significantly different between the two conditions: -.15 (95% CI [-.302,
-.002]). We did not test the moderated indirect effect of nutrition-intake activities as H1b and
H2b were not supported. Social activities had a significant indirect effect of .16 (p < .001) under
the low work engagement level, versus .01 (p = .801) under the high work engagement level. The
two conditions had significantly different indirect effects: -.15 (95% CI [-.276, -.015]). Last,
cognitive activities also had a significant indirect effect of .18 (p < .01) under the low work
engagement level but not under the high work engagement level (.04, p = .460). The indirect
effects between the two conditions were significantly different: -.14 (95% CI [-.273, -.014]).
Therefore, work engagement significantly moderated the indirect relationships between the three
micro-breaks and job performance via positive affect, supporting H4a, H4c, and H4d,
respectively. Following suggestions by Preacher and Kelley (2011), we calculated kappa-
squared (P
2), the proportion of the maximum possible indirect effects, to evaluate effect sizes of
indirect effects. The P
2 values were .04, .043, and .037, respectively for relaxation, social, and
cognitive activities’ indirect effect on performance through positive affect. The range of these
effect sizes are between small (.01) and medium (.09) size (Cohen, 1988; Preacher & Kelley,
2011). However, the P
2 value for nutrition-intake’s indirect effect was .009 in accordance with
its nonsignificant indirect effect.
Bayesian Multilevel Analyses to Confirm the Results
For Bayesian multilevel analysis, we used uninformative (objective) prior information
(Kruschke, Aguinis, & Joo, 2012) with the current data to produce a posterior distribution of
parameter estimates. For the Bayesian inference, we used Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulation
using the open-source software R. This method iteratively draw samples from a set of
conditional distributions to create the posterior density of interest (Martin, Quinn, & Park, 2011).
Following Yuan and MacKinnon (2009), we ran the analysis with two chains iterating 10,000
times with 500 burn-in iterations, and both chains converged for all estimated parameters. Table
4 details the results for indirect effects of the four micro-breaks on sales performance via positive
affect. Specifically, relaxation activities had an indirect effect of .15 (95% CI [0.08, 0.21]) for
sales job performance. Socialization activities had an indirect effect of .12 (95% CI [0.07, 0.20])
while cognitive activities had an indirect effect of .13 (95% CI [0.05, 0.21]). However, nutrition-
intake activities did not show a significant indirect effect on job performance as shown in the
previous analyses. General work engagement was also confirmed to moderate the link between
positive affect and job performance: -.15 (95% CI [-0.24, -0.08]). In addition, our Bayesian
multilevel analysis results found the moderated indirect effect of relaxation (-.02, 95% CI [-0.03,
-0.01]), social (-.02, 95% CI [-0.04, -0.01]), and cognitive (-.02, 95% CI [-0.03, -0.01]) activities
on sales performance through positive affect. However, the moderated indirect effect of
nutrition-intake activities was not supported (.001, 95% CI [-0.02, 0.01]). These Bayesian results
indicate that the indirect effects of relaxation, social, and cognitive activities will be reduced
by .02 when the score of general work engagement increases by one unit. Thus, the results from
Bayesian analyses indicated robustness in our initial results.
Supplementary Analyses
While a priori theory of affective influences on job performance (Beal et al., 2005) and
its empirical literature suggest a path direction from state affect to job performance (Shockley,
Ispas, Rossi, & Levine, 2012), it may be possible that preceding episodes of successful sales
increase subsequent positive affect during the workday. Thus, we further explored our partial
data given that 85% of our final sample (n = 60 out of 71 participants) provided time information
of their sales transactions, so we were able to separate their sales performance in the morning
(before lunch hour) and afternoon (after lunch hour). This allowed us to test a possible role of
morning performance in increasing positive affect during the workday (536 day-level data points
out of a possible total of 600). The multilevel path analysis showed that morning sales
performance did not predict increased positive affect during the workday (γ = .12, p = .221),
controlling for morning positive affect (γ = 0.58, p = .255) and day-specific workload (γ = -.075,
p = .314). Also, without the control variables, the path from morning performance to positive
affect still remained nonsignificant.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether and how micro-breaks are positively
linked to daily job performance outcomes within call center employees. Another important goal
was to test whether general work engagement moderates the daily affective process of micro-
breaks involving job performance. Our results from both traditional and Bayesian multilevel
analyses show that relaxation, socialization, and cognitive activities were positively related to
increased positive affect leading to greater sales performance, after controlling for daily
workload and baseline morning affect. We also find that positive affect fully mediates the day-
level relationships between the three micro-breaks and sales performance. Micro-breaks for
nutrition-intake, however, do not predict positive affect and job performance. Furthermore,
micro-breaks have varying indirect effects depending on the levels of work engagement between
persons. Specifically, for employees who have high work engagement, micro-breaks have no
significant day-level indirect effects on sales performance via positive affect, but employees who
have low work engagement show significant indirect effects.
Theoretical Implications
Our findings offer important implications to the work recovery literature, which has
predominantly investigated off-job recovery experiences and their positive outcomes, but has
underexplored on-the-job recovery phenomena and work-relevant outcomes (Trougakos &
Hideg, 2009). Considering that employees spend a significant amount of time in their work
places, we examined micro-breaks as a way to recover momentary affective resources for call
center employees’ job performance. In particular, to maximize more prescriptive knowledge
about on-the-job recovery, we considered the specific content of the breaks. That is, when
employees voluntarily engage in respite activities that facilitate relaxation and socialization, they
can relieve themselves from work demands and increase their affective resources. Also,
importantly, our results showed that cognitive activities can still boost positive affect when the
activities had personal entertainment and learning purposes. Thus, our findings support the
theorized recovery effect of specific micro-breaks as providing important resources (Baumeister
et al., 1998; Hobfoll, 1989; Meijman & Mulder, 1998).
On the other hand, nutrition-intake activities did not have a significant indirect effect on
job performance via positive affect. As a post-hoc explanation, it may be plausible that
employees enjoy snacks and coffee while interacting with others or watching a fun video
footage. Indeed, the within-person correlations showed that on days when individuals had more
nutrition-intake activities, they were also likely to have socialization (r = .32, p < .001) and
cognitive activities at work (r = .57, p < .001). In addition, when we ran another path model
including nutrition-intake breaks as a sole predictor, nutrition-intake significantly increased
positive affect (γ = .14, p < .001) which, in turn, led to higher sales performance (γ = .50, p
< .001). Furthermore, considering the short-term effects of caffeine in boosting one’s energy (cf.
Kim et al., 2017; Welsh et al., 2014), we differentiated consumption of caffeine vs. snacks and
noncaffeinated beverage as separate predictors in exploratory analyses. Caffeine-intake seemed
to provide a quick boost in positive affect (γ = .10, p = .041), whereas snacking and having
noncaffeine drinks did not show the effects (γ = .04, p = .309). Nevertheless, the significant
effect of caffeine-intake disappeared when all types of micro-breaks were included in the
analysis. These patterns suggest that the effects of nutrition-intake might have been masked by
other break activities due to their concurrent occurrences. Thus, it may be premature to draw a
definitive conclusion that nutrition-intake activities do not have recovery effects.
Moreover, the notion of limited self-regulatory resources has been central to the recovery
literature, but no study has actually tested specific resources as a mechanism involved in daily
micro-breaks and job performance outcomes (Trougakos & Hideg, 2009). Although Hunter and
Wu (2016) tested combined personal resources (energy, motivation, concentration) as a linking
mechanism between preferred break activities and somatic symptoms (e.g., headaches, eye
strain), it remained unclear whether micro-breaks can be connected to performance outcomes via
increased resources. Building on the major theoretical frameworks in recovery, we further drew
upon the performance model of affective influences (Beal et al., 2005) to theorize why state
positive affect from micro-break activities translates into substantive job performance outcomes.
This supported the theoretical notion that positive affect is a key self-regulatory resource
especially for employees who often need emotion regulation to achieve service and sales goals.
Of important note, both our study and Hunter and Wu (2016) found full mediation effects in
which break activities were not directly linked to the outcome variables but only through
increased personal resources. The consistent indirect effects in our study further corroborate the
theoretically driven role of micro-breaks in temporarily halting resource expenditure and
replenishing important resources for positive work outcomes. Thus, we advance theoretical and
empirical knowledge by showing that recovery activities (i.e., micro-breaks) influence
performance through an enhanced resource. Moreover, our findings of the objective performance
outcomes expand a recent study’s result that short, self-initiated breaks at work were related to
employees’ positive approaches to their job with more vigor, dedication, and enthusiasm (Kühnel
et al., 2017).
Last, it may be too simplistic to assume that work breaks aid momentary recovery for all
employees without considering individual or situational differences (Trougakos et al., 2014;
Sonnetag et al., 2017). When it comes to job performance, some individuals may be more
motivated to perform well, regardless of their fluctuating resource levels (Trougakos & Hideg,
2009). In accordance, we found that work engagement moderated the indirect effects of micro-
breaks on performance via positive affect, supporting the contention that not all individuals are
sensitized to transient affective resource for their job performance. That is, relaxation,
socialization, and cognitive micro-breaks are most beneficial for employees in low work
engagement in that they depend more on state positive affect due to their lack of work motivation
in general. In contrast, fluctuating positive affect has much less influence on employees in high
work engagement as they can remain highly engaged in their job tasks, regardless of situations.
In other words, those who have high work engagement may not need frequent micro-breaks to
replenish affective resources for job performance. Therefore, our findings add to the performance
model of affective influences (Beal et al., 2005) by showing that the within-person variability of
transient affectperformance linkage is contingent upon the important individual difference
factor, particularly for tasks that require high self-regulations. Additionally, our findings support
COR theory (Hobfoll, 2002): a stable resource reservoir (general work engagement) increases
resistance to the ebb and flow of transient resources (state positive affect). In short, our study
contributed to identifying general work engagement as a boundary condition for the performance
benefits of micro-breaks via positive affect.
Limitations and Future Research Directions
Overall, we used more rigorous methodological approaches: two daily surveys for ten
consecutive days, objective performance records, and confirmation through Bayesian multilevel
analysis that lessens concerns for traditional null hypothesis testing issues (Andraszewicz et al.,
2015; McKee & Miller, 2015). However, we must acknowledge a few limitations for future
research directions. First, the same measurement points for the predictor and mediator limited
causal inferences in our study, although we controlled for morning affect and workload to rule
out the possibility that they drive the hypothesized relationships. Nevertheless, for better causal
inferences, future studies should separate the time points for the predictor and mediator when
possible. In addition, although objective sales records were used to show that micro-breaks
matters for tangible job outcomes beyond the perceptual outcomes in the literature, our study
cannot determine the exact causal direction from work-day positive affect and performance
outcomes due to the inherent limitations of correlational design and daily aggregated sales data.
Thus, to empirically determine the causal directions, we strongly recommend that future studies
should confirm our findings using laboratory or field experiments in which researchers can
manipulate micro-breaks and induce positive affect and then examine various aspects of job
performance including quality of handling service and sales calls beyond quantitative metrics.
Third, although we found relaxation, socialization, and cognitive micro-breaks to have
positive effects independent of each other, nutrition-intake activities did not significantly
increase positive affect. Our current design cannot disentangle possible patterns of co-occurring
activities during micro-break episodes. Thus, future research should measure micro-break
activities at an episodic level, using alternative methods, such as event-contingent diary in which
participants record any event of micro-breaks in detail every time it occurs (Wheeler & Reis,
1991). Also, the event-level approach may better reflect post-break affective changes, their
influences on performance-related behaviors, and more nuanced break activities, such as habitual
versus purposeful snacking at work (cf. Sonnentag et al., 2016).
Next, our sample included only call center employees, perhaps restricting generalizability
of the current findings. Future studies should examine whether micro-breaks bring similar
performance benefits across different jobs and industries. In particular, given the fully mediated
effects via positive affect in our study, future research should confirm whether the indirect
effects also replicate in different job settings other than customer service and sales jobs. For
example, the impact of positive affective state will be beneficial only to the extent that the affect
matches the task requirements, in that positive affect might not be so helpful when job tasks
require a narrower set of response tendencies and attentional focus (Beal et al., 2005).
In addition, whereas we investigated only nonwork-related social activities as breaks in
this study, employees in other job contexts might enjoy work-related social activities. For
example, a researcher may take a small break from his or her manuscript-writing task and have a
casual conversation with colleagues about new research ideas. This break activity may still boost
the person’s positive affect. Perhaps, some specific job or performance contexts determine the
potential, salutary effects of work-related activities during breaks. Thus, future research needs to
explore when and why the context of work provides energizing experiences during breaks.
Another important note is that we tested general work engagement as the only cross-level
moderator, so future research should search for other situational or contextual factors that may
moderate micro-breaks’ recovery effects or their indirect effects on performance outcomes. For
example, some organizations and work groups may emphasize performance and competition too
much, underestimating values of well-being and social interactions (e.g., Hammer, Saksvik,
Nytro, Torvatn, & Bayazit, 2004). Under such workplace norms, employees might experience
adverse effects of micro-breaks as they may feel guilty about nonwork respite activities at work.
In fact, an organizational survey has shown that about 20% of respondent employees said they
did not step away from their workspaces due to guilt (Staples Advantage, 2014).
Future research should go beyond our study to explore micro-break timing. For example,
micro-breaks later in the day were found to be less effective than breaks before work shifts for
replenishing resources (Hunter & Wu, 2016), whereas another study found that afternoon micro-
breaks boosted daily work engagement while breaks in the morning failed to do so (Kühnel et al.,
2017). Although micro-breaks’ exact timings, durations, and specific activities may be difficult
to track in real time, researchers might try a day reconstruction method (see Diener & Tay, 2014,
for a review) in which participants systematically parse their previous day into major activities
and then rate their experiences and time spent on each activity (e.g., Oerlemans & Bakker, 2014).
In addition, micro-breaks might have an optimal duration for the best performance outcomes; too
much might be counterproductive. Thus, future research should explore micro-breaks’ durations,
timings, and their recovery effects on various outcomes, both over the course of a workday and
greater periods of time.
Last, we recommend that future studies investigate antecedents to micro-breaks and their
specific content. For example, Bowling, Beehr, and Swader (2005) found that extraverted
individuals engage in more frequent and positive social interactions at work. Also, a few studies
using a latent profile analysis approach found that work and personal factors (e.g., role
ambiguity, job control, supervisor support) are associated with certain profiles of post-work
recovery experiences (Bennett, Gabriel, Calderwood, Dabling, & Trougakos, 2016; Kinnunen et
al., 2016). Other studies have recently suggested that organizational climates (e.g., eating and
exercise climate) may influence employees’ snacking at work and health behaviors in general
(Sonnentag et al., 2016; Sonnentag & Pundt, 2016). Therefore, future research may find it
fruitful to examine various personality, work, and organizational factors as potential predictors of
micro-breaks and specific activities chosen.
Practical Implications
Our findings have important implications for organizational and managerial practices.
Organizations should educate their employees and managers in the values of micro-breaks
between task episodes for enhancing job performance, so that self-initiated micro-breaks are not
frowned upon. Considering that employees spend most of their lifetime working, they should
strategically construct their workday activities to allow brief moments for recovery, possibly
using a time-tracking app. In addition, organizations may redesign their call centers to be more
conducive to micro-break activities. For example, areas might be designated for specific
relaxation activities such as meditation or listening to music. Indeed, an intervention study found
that call center employees reported reduced physical and psychological strain after using a silent
break room with daybeds for practicing progressive muscle relaxation (Krajewski, Wieland, &
Sauerland, 2010). Organizational wellness training might include instructions for effective desk
stretching between calls and encouraging social interactions during breaks. In call centers,
employees are often separated by partitions which might constrain positive social interactions, so
easily accessible areas for breaks would help. For cognitive activities, we recommend giving
employees free access to the Internet, books, magazines, and newspapers, so that employees can
take a mental break from work demands.
As our results showed that micro-breaks have conditional indirect effects on performance
via positive affect, managers should be aware that employees may vary in their need for micro-
breaks depending on their general work engagement levels. Especially after difficult calls, those
who have low work engagement may need small breaks to boost positive affect and prevent
further loss of affective resources. Relatedly, we found that general work engagement positively
predicted an average level of job performance across days (i.e., direct effect of general work
engagement on the intercept of daily job performance). Thus, in addition to encouraging micro-
breaks on a need basis, we recommend that managers should help employees increase work
engagement to improve their performance, recognizing that day-to-day engagement experiences
may develop into work engagement over time (Bakker, 2011). Also, considering that both job
and personal resources drive the general work engagement levels, managers may try to provide
workers with necessary job resources (e.g., autonomy, performance feedback, social support,
coaching), as well as training to build personal resources such as self-efficacy and optimism
(Bakker, 2011).
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Table 1
Common Micro-Break Activities
Relaxation activities
Stretching, walking around the office, or relaxing briefly
Daydreaming, gazing out the office windows, taking a quick nap, or any other psychological relaxation
Nutrition-intake activities
Drinking caffeinated beverages (e.g., energy drinks, coffee, black or green tea)
Snacking (e.g., cookies) or drinking non-caffeinated beverages (e.g., juice, water, vitamin water)
Social activities
Chatting with coworkers on non-work related topics
Texting, using instant messenger, or calling to friends or family members
Checking personal SNS (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs)
Cognitive activities
Reading books, newspapers, or magazines for personal learning or entertainment.
Surfing the Web for entertainment (e.g., watching short video clips, playing a game)
Table 2
Means, Standard Deviations, and Intercorrelations among Study Variables
Variable M SDa SDb 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1. General work engagement (Level 2) 3.16 1.00 .18 .07 -.08 .08 .14 .02 .08 .16
2. Morning positive affect (Control) 2.84 0.72 0.30 -.19 -.03 .19 .03 .22 .24* .16
3. Workload (Control) 3.00 0.68 0.29 -.04 .02 -.11 .06 -.15 -.02 .05
4. Relaxation activities 2.58 0.88 0.50 -.04 -.07 -.11 .31** .14 .24* -.17
5. Nutrition-intake activities 2.70 0.86 0.50 .05 -.05 -.02 .40** .68*** .19 .02
6. Social activities 2.68 0.92 0.44 -.06 -.06 .19*** .32*** .33** .18 .06
7. Cognitive activities 2.88 0.82 0.59 .04 -.07 .08 .57*** .29** .32** -.10
8. Positive affect 2.88 0.66 0.34 .12** -.03 .21*** .17*** .24*** .23*** .22
9. Sales performance 0.00 1.07 0.51 .22*** .10** -.05 .07 .07 .01 .29***
Note. All variables are within persons, except general work engagement. Correlations below the diagonal represent within-person correlations (n =
632). Correlations above the diagonal represent between-person correlations (n = 71). To calculate between-person correlations, we averaged within-
person scores across days. a = within-person, b = between-person. Sales performance was standardized based on individual mean scores during the
two weeks. *p < .05, **p < .01; ***p < .001.
Table 3
Unstandardized Coefficients of the Multilevel Model
Positive Affect
Sales Performance
General work engagement
Control: Morning positive affect
Control: Workload
Relaxation activities
Nutrition-intake activities
Socialization activities
Cognitive activities
Positive affect (PA)
PA x General work engagementc - 0.15 0.06 -2.59*
Level 1 n = 632, Level 2 n = 71. a between-person variable; b within-persons variables; c cross-level interaction term;
S.E. = standard error. All results came from a path model that included all variables: controls, predictors, mediator,
moderator, and interaction term. *p < .05, **p < .01; ***p < .001.
Table 4
Results of Bayesian Multilevel Analysis
Sales Performance
2.5% of CI
97.5% of CI
Indirect effects of relaxation activities
Indirect effects of nutrition-intake activities
Indirect effects of social activities
Indirect effects of cognitive activities
Positive affect (PA)
General work engagement
PA x Work engagement
Conditional indirect effects of relaxation activities
Conditional indirect effects of nutrition-intake activities
Conditional indirect effects of social activities
Conditional indirect effects of cognitive activities
Note. Level 1 n = 632, Level 2 n = 71. SE = standard error. PA = positive affect. The conditional indirect effects indicate that
as the score of moderator, general work engagement, increases by one unit, each indirect effect decreases, except nutrition-intake breaks.
Between-Individual (Level 2)
Within-Individual (Level 1)
Figure 1. Conceptual Model
Note. Control variables’ paths were not shown in the figure for simplicity but were included in the analysis (i.e., day-specific morning positive affect
and workload predicting the mediator and outcome variable).
Day-specific relaxation activities
Day-specific nutrition-intake activities
Day-specific social activities
Day-specific cognitive activities
Day-specific positive affect
General work engagement
Day-specific sales performance
Figure 2. Cross-Level Moderation Effect of General Work Engagement in Predicting Daily Sales Performance
Sales Performance
Low General Work
High General Work
Low Positive Affect High Positive Affective
... Micro-breaks are short, informal, and voluntary breaks. They are flexible in timing, duration, and frequency because they depend on how much the individual needs them [16,17]. Some examples of micro-breaks include coffee breaks and just getting up and stretching. ...
... Self-regulatory resources are cognitive resources that are relevant for the working day because they are related to the individual's ability to self-control their behaviors, emotions, and impulses (e.g., focus attention on the tasks even when physically or emotionally exhausted or suppress some emotion that is not supposed to be expressed) [16,18,19]. By engaging in micro-breaks, individuals restore their capacity to fully function [17] and reach fullness [20]. Despite the relevance of microbreaks for health outcomes [10], no study has explored HAIs as a micro-break at work (see [5] as an exception). ...
... In addition, selfregulatory resources are limited in nature because while working, there is a natural use of such resources for different self-control tasks (e.g., stopping to procrastinate or stopping to chat, allocating and redirecting cognitive attention to the tasks) [42,43]. When this happens, individuals must engage in recovery behaviors as a strategy to stop such regulatory efforts and thus take micro-breaks to recover the depleted resources before going to the next set of self-regulation activities [16,17]. ...
Full-text available
This study is based on the conservation of resources theory and the recovery step model in order to further explore the furr-recovery method—a mechanism through which workers break their routine by taking micro-moments to interact with their “furry co-workers,” thus relieving their fatigue and tension or other negative affective states. Based on this, we argue that this method not only serves the purpose of restoring self-regulatory resources but also ameliorates mental health. Accordingly, this study aims to analyze how daily human–animal interactions during teleworking positively influence teleworkers’ mental health, via recovering their self-regulatory resources, at the within-person level. Full-time teleworkers completed multiple online surveys for 5 consecutive workdays (N = 211 × 5 = 1055 daily observations). Multilevel path analysis results showed that on days on which employees had more micro-moments to interact with their “furry co-workers” during the day, they experienced a higher self-regulatory capacity and felt better while working. In sum, the findings give support for the theoretical resource perspective of interacting with pets as an effective energy management strategy while at work. This research extends the theoretical understanding of regulatory resources as a cognitive mechanism that links HAIs to employee mental health. Moreover, the findings outlined here offer practical implications by highlighting the furr-recovery method, a method that teleworkers who own pets may use as a strategy during the working day to restore resources needed to be healthier.
... Work engagement refers to the state of energy and enthusiasm that employees approach their work (Bakker et al., 2007). Highly engaged employees are motivated to do their jobs well (Halbesleben et al., 2009;Kim et al., 2018), go beyond their roles to assist others and the organization (Christian et al., 2011). It is also a powerful motivational resource buffering against setbacks and demands: they offset temporary negative experiences at work by using their work engagement to stay motivated enthusiastic about their assigned work (Halbesleben et al., 2009;Kim et al., 2018;Macey & Schneider, 2008) and see demands (such as micromanagement) as controllable challenges (Clauss et al., 2021). ...
... Highly engaged employees are motivated to do their jobs well (Halbesleben et al., 2009;Kim et al., 2018), go beyond their roles to assist others and the organization (Christian et al., 2011). It is also a powerful motivational resource buffering against setbacks and demands: they offset temporary negative experiences at work by using their work engagement to stay motivated enthusiastic about their assigned work (Halbesleben et al., 2009;Kim et al., 2018;Macey & Schneider, 2008) and see demands (such as micromanagement) as controllable challenges (Clauss et al., 2021). We argue that engagement likely buffers against some effects of micromanagement. ...
... For instance, recently, Junça- Silva (2022a, b) demonstrated that HAIs were micro-breaks that served to recover workers' cognitive resources due to this relaxing and in-control moment that, in turn, contributed to performance increases. Moreover, microbreaks have been associated with improved levels of positive affect, job satisfaction and work engagement (Kim et al., 2018). In consonance with this evidence, HAIs may be a resource that enables the individual to face daily work life. ...
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Purpose Human–animal interactions (HAIs) have been found to have an extensive and significant influence on individuals' well-being and health-related outcomes. However, there are few studies that examine this influence on work-related contexts, such as teleworking. In this study, the author relied on the affective events theory to examine the effect of daily HAI on employees’ daily work engagement and the underlying mechanisms (daily affect ratio and state mindfulness), by resorting to a daily diary study. Design/methodology/approach To test the hypotheses, the author collected daily data during five consecutive working days with pet owners ( N = 400 × 5 = 2,000). Findings Multilevel results showed that interacting with pets during the working day was positively associated with daily work engagement, but this positive relationship was stronger for individuals with lower levels of mindfulness. Further analyses showed that the daily affect ratio mediated the moderating effect of mindfulness on the relationship between daily interactions with pets and daily work engagement. Practical implications These findings provide strong support for the proposed mediated moderation model; indeed, positive affect and mindfulness help to explain the positive effect of HAIs on work engagement. Hence, managers may consider the adoption of teleworking, even in a hybrid format for those workers who own pets, because interacting with pets may be a strategy to make them feel more positive and, in turn, more enthusiastic, dedicated and absorbed in their work. Originality/value This study is one of the first studies to demonstrate the importance of adopting pet-friendly practices, such as allowing pet owners to telework, as a way to promote daily work engagement.
... tivation for consistency as classes of explanations for serial position effects give rise to predictions concerning two potential moderators of these effects: the possibility to take a break between decisions and the decision-makers' experience. Breaks and diminished load allow people to recover from fatigue (Hockey & Earle, 2006;Hunter & Wu, 2016;S. Kim, Park, et al., 2018;Sievertsen et al., 2016;Trougakos & Hideg, 2009). Hence, when fatigue underlies the serial position effects, reducing decision load and increasing break times between consecutive decisions should reduce or even eliminate these effects (with longer breaks more likely to eliminate them). However, when serial position effects are triggered ...
Experts and employees in many domains make multiple similar but independent decisions in sequence. Often, the serial position of the case in the sequence influences the decision. Explanations for these serial position effects focus on the role of decision-makers' fatigue, but these effects emerge also when fatigue is unlikely. Here, we suggest that serial position effects can emerge due to decision-makers' motivation to be or appear consistent. For example, to avoid having inconsistencies revealed, decisions may become more favorable toward the side that is more likely to put a decision under scrutiny. As a context, we focus on the legal domain in which many high-stakes decisions are made in sequence and in which there are clear institutional processes of decision scrutiny. We analyze two field data sets: 386,109 U.S. immigration judges' decisions on asylum requests and 20,796 jury decisions in 18th century London criminal court. We distinguish between five mechanisms that can drive serial position effects and examine their predictions in these settings. We find that consistent with motivation-based explanations of serial position effects, but inconsistent with fatigue-based explanations, decisions become more lenient as a function of serial position, and the effect persists over breaks. We further find, as is predicted by motivational accounts, that the leniency effect is stronger among more experienced decision-makers. By elucidating the different drivers of serial position effects, our investigation clarifies why they are common, when they are expected, and how to reduce them. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
Why do employees engage in time theft? Existing studies primarily view time theft as a destructive behavior driven by self-oriented motives, overlooking the fact that positive motives may also induce employee time theft. The main purpose of this article is to identity and develop an integrative framework for the motives of employee time theft. Building upon a thorough review of the literature, we propose a two-dimensional framework for the motives of time theft, including goal orientation (self-oriented vs. work-oriented vs. other-oriented) and proactivity (proactive vs. reactive) dimensions. We further integrate theories from relevant literature (e.g., impression management theory, effort-recovery model, and prosocial motivation) and identify 11 motives of time theft. This article expands research on time theft and reminds managers to pay attention to the complexities of employees' time theft motives.
A substantial proportion of the workforce experiences financial precarity, which is defined as persistent concern about one's personal financial welfare. Research suggests that financial precarity often harms performance at work. In this paper, we investigate whether characteristics of the work context disproportionately occupied by people at the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder (low autonomy, high routinization, high interdependence, low social support) heighten the detrimental impact of financial precarity on performance. Drawing on role stress theory, we propose that these characteristics alter the degree to which the cognitive resources appropriated by financial precarity interfere with the resource requirements of a person's work role. Our predictions are tested using experience sampling data covering 8 consecutive observation days for 956 individuals in the United States (k = 7,015). Analyzing daily observations allows us to distinguish financial precarity from the day-to-day experience of transient financial events. We observed that financial precarity significantly undermined the quality of one's work during a given day, but this relationship was driven by those working in contexts with low levels of autonomy, routinization, and coworker support. This pattern was only observed for those experiencing financial precarity, not those only exposed to a negative financial event in a given day. The research demonstrates that specific characteristics of the work environment can lead to inequality in who bears the performance costs associated with financial precarity.
Based on the Conservation of Resources theory, we develop dual mechanisms by which lunchtime recovery activities predict creativity. Specifically, by conceptualizing the quality of lunchtime naps and meals as examples of recovery activities, we expect these recovery activities help individuals replenish their psychological resources in the form of more work engagement (affective process) and less cognitive depletion (cognitive process). Further, individuals are expected to utilize these available psychological resources to generate creative ideas. To test our model, we used a group‐mean centering approach to focus on within‐person effects by recruiting 230 employees working at construction sites in South Korea. Overall, after removing 242 invalid observations (omitting at least two items and not reporting the duration of a nap), we finalized a total of two‐wave 1598 daily questionnaires. A high quality of lunchtime naps and meals helps individuals recover their emotional resources (more work engagement) and cognitive resources (less cognitive depletion), which predict individuals' creativity. Finally, although indirect effects of the two recovery activities on creativity via affective and cognitive processes were generally supported, the indirect effect of lunch nap quality on creativity via work engagement was not significant, suggesting most of the effect is due to meal quality rather than nap quality.
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Unlabelled: Although breaks can help employees stay energized and maintain high levels of performance throughout the day, employees sometimes refrain from taking a break despite wanting to do so. Unfortunately, few studies have investigated individuals' reasons for taking and for not taking a break at work. To address this gap, we developed a model for predicting employees' break-taking behaviors. We developed hypotheses by integrating theories of work stress, self-regulation, and the results of a qualitative survey conducted as part of the current research (Study 1). Specifically, we predicted that high workloads would be positively related to the desire to detach from work, but that at the same time, high workloads would also deter employees from actually taking breaks. Furthermore, we predicted that employees would be less likely to act upon their desire to take a break within an environment where breaks are frowned upon by supervisors and coworkers, relative to an environment where breaks are allowed and encouraged. The results of a daily diary study of full-time employees (Study 2) provided general support for these predictions. Altogether, this research provides insights into the manner in which employees' psychological experiences and characteristics of the work environment combine to predict break-taking. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10869-022-09866-4.
Based on the conservation of resources theory, this two‐wave study investigated the mediating role of work–nonwork conflict in the relationship between job crafting and employee recovery experience and examined the moderating role of work demands in this relationship. Participants were 486 employees (39.3% male and 60.7% female) from a medical company in the central region of China who responded to a paper‐and‐pencil survey twice with a 1‐month interval. Regression‐based results indicated that job crafting positively predicted recovery experience after work through lower work–nonwork conflict. Furthermore, the association between job crafting and work–nonwork conflict was moderated by work demands, such that the effect was stronger for employees with higher work demands. The present study explains how job crafting may improve employees' after‐work recovery experience and addresses whether this process could be more significant for employees with higher work demands. The conclusion has practical implications for improving employee recovery experience.
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Only few studies so far have examined recovery from work during workday breaks. In this intervention study, based on the effort-recovery model and the conservation of resources theory, we examined how to enhance recovery during lunch breaks. More specifically, we examined the within-person effects of lunchtime park walks and relaxation exercises on employees’ levels of concentration, strain, and fatigue experienced at the end of a working day. We moreover tested whether detachment from work and enjoyment experienced during lunch breaks transmitted the effects of these activities to well-being outcomes. Participants in the park walk (n = 51) and relaxation (n = 46) groups were asked to complete a 15-minute exercise during their lunch break on 10 consecutive working days. Afternoon well-being, lunchtime detachment, and lunchtime enjoyment were assessed twice a week before, during, and after the intervention, altogether for five weeks. Multilevel analysis results showed that park walks at lunchtime were related to better concentration and less fatigue in the afternoon through enjoyment. Relaxation exercises were related to better concentration in the afternoon via detachment. In addition, relaxation exercises were directly linked to lower levels of strain and fatigue in the afternoon. Our study suggests that on days on which employees engage in recovering activities during lunch breaks, they experience higher levels of well-being at the end of a working day. These results add to the theory-based knowledge on recovery during workday breaks and highlight the importance of breaks for organizational practices.
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The current study investigates the benefits of a good night’s sleep and short work breaks for employees’ daily work engagement. It is hypothesized that sleep and self-initiated short breaks help restore energetic and self-regulatory resources which, in turn, enable employees to show experience high work engagement. A daily diary study was conducted with 107 employees who provided data twice a day (before lunch and after work) over five work days (453 days in total). Multilevel regression analyses showed that sleep quality and short breaks were beneficial for employees’ daily work engagement. After nights employees slept better, they indicated higher work engagement during the day. Moreover, taking self-initiated short breaks from work in the afternoon boosted daily work engagement, while taking short breaks in the morning failed to predict daily work engagement. Taking short breaks did not compensate for impaired sleep with regard to daily work engagement. Overall, these findings suggest that recovery before and during work can foster employees’ daily work engagement.
Increasing and new work demands drain employees’ energy resources at work. This four-week longitudinal field experiment investigated the energizing potential of a respite intervention conducted at the workplace (either a simulated savoring nature intervention or a progressive muscle relaxation intervention). First, growth modeling analyses confirmed a linear trend for the growth of vigor and decline in fatigue across the days of the intervention group, indicating a typical upward resource trajectory. No changes appeared in the control group. Mediation analyses indicated that repeatedly engaging in a daily respite intervention influenced more stable energy levels after the intervention period indirectly through the immediate changes in daily energy levels during the intervention period. Findings suggest that, in some cases, respite interventions may present a useful tool to replenish and build energy resources at work. Implications for using respite intervention in organizational research and practice are discussed.
Job-stress recovery during nonwork time is an important factor for employee well-being. This article reviews the recovery literature, starting with a brief historical overview. It provides a definition of recovery that differentiates between recovery as a process and recovery as an outcome. Empirical studies have shown that recovery activities (e.g., physical exercise) and recovery experiences (e.g., psychological detachment from work) are negatively associated with strain symptoms (e.g., exhaustion) and positively associated with positive well-being indicators (e.g., vigor). Recovery activities and recovery experiences suffer when employees face a high level of job stressors. Psychological mechanisms underlying recovery seem to be similar across different temporal recovery settings (e.g., work breaks, free evenings, vacations) and seem to be enhanced in natural environments. Intervention studies have pointed to a diverse set of strategies for how everyday job-stress recovery can be supported. This article discusses 5 avenues for future research, with a particular focus on individual and contextual factors that may influence recovery as well as highlighting more complex temporal patterns than those uncovered in previous research. (PsycINFO Database Record
This study aimed at examining predictors of healthy and unhealthy snacking at work. As proximal predictors we looked at food-choice motives (health motive, affect-regulation motive); as distal predictors we included organizational eating climate, emotional eating, and self-control demands at work. We collected daily survey data from 247 employees, over a period of 2 workweeks. Multilevel structural equation modeling showed that organizational eating climate predicted health as food-choice motive, whereas emotional eating and self-control demands predicted affect regulation as food-choice motive. The health motive, in turn, predicted consuming more fruits and more cereal bars and less sweet snacks; the affect-regulation motive predicted consuming more sweet snacks. Findings highlight the importance of a health-promoting eating climate within the organization and point to the potential harm of high self-control demands at work.
Employees are exposed to a wide variety of job demands that deplete personal resources and necessitate recovery. In light of this need, research on work recovery has focused on how distinct recovery experiences during post-work time relate to employee well-being. However, investigators have largely tested the effects of these experiences in isolation, neglecting the possibility that profiles of recovery experiences may exist and influence the recovery process. The current set of studies adopted a person-centered approach using latent profile analysis (LPA) to understand whether unique constellations of recovery experiences—psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery, control, and problem-solving pondering—emerged for two samples of full-time employees. In Study 1, which involved a single-time point assessment, we identified four unique profiles of recovery experiences, tested whether job demands (i.e., time pressure, role ambiguity) and job resources (i.e., job control) differentiated profile membership, and evaluated whether each profile uniquely related to employee well-being outcomes (i.e., emotional exhaustion, engagement, somatic complaints). In Study 2, which involved two time points, we replicated three of the four profiles observed in Study 1, and tested two additional antecedents rated by employees’ supervisors: leader-member exchange and supervisor support for recovery. Across both studies, unique differences emerged in regards to antecedents and outcomes tied to recovery experience profile membership.
Recovery literature has focused predominantly on recovery processes outside the workplace during nonwork times. Considering a lack of research on momentary recovery at work, we examined four categories of micro-break activities—relaxation, nutrition-intake, social, and cognitive activities—as possible recovery mechanisms in the workplace. Using effort recovery and conservation of resources theories, we hypothesized that micro-break activities attenuate the common stressor–strain relationship between work demands and negative affect. For 10 consecutive workdays, 86 South Korean office workers (842 data points) reported their specific daily work demands right after their lunch hour (Time 1) and then reported their engagement in micro-break activities during the afternoon and negative affective state at the end of the workday (Time 2). As expected, relaxation and social activities reduced the effects of work demands on end-of-workday negative affect. Nutrition intake of beverages and snacks did not have a significant moderating effect. Post hoc analyses, however, revealed that only caffeinated beverages reduced work demands effects on negative affect. Unexpectedly, cognitive activities aggravated the effects of work demands on negative affect. The findings indicate not only the importance of taking micro-breaks but also which types of break activities are beneficial for recovery. Implications, limitations, and future research directions are discussed. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.