Running Head: EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 1
© 2020, American Psychological Association. This paper has been accepted for
publication at the Journal of Applied Psychology. But this draft is not the
copy of record and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version
of the article. Please do not copy or cite without authors' permission. The
final article will be available, upon publication, via its DOI:
Excuse Me, Do You Have a Minute? An Exploration of the Dark- and Bright-Side Effects of
Daily Work Interruptions for Employee Well-being
University of Illinois at Chicago
Texas A&M University
Heather C. Vough
George Mason University
University of Cincinnati
We want to thank Suzanne Masterson, Jaime Windeler, and the participants of the University of
Cincinnati Brown Bag research series, for their helpful suggestions and comments. A previous
version of this paper was presented at the 2020 annual meeting of the Academy of Management.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 2
Work intrusions—unexpected interruptions by other people that interrupt ongoing work,
bringing it to a temporary halt—are common in today’s workplaces. Prior research has focused
on the task-based aspect of work intrusions and largely cast intrusions as events that harm
employee well-being in general, and job satisfaction in particular. We suggest that apart from
their task-based aspect, work intrusions also involve a social aspect—interaction with the
interrupter—that can have beneficial effects for interrupted employees’ well-being. Using self-
regulation theory, we hypothesize that while work intrusions’ self-regulatory demands of
switching tasks, addressing the intrusion, and resuming the original task can deplete self-
regulatory resources, interaction with the interrupter can simultaneously fulfill one’s need for
belongingness. Self-regulatory resource depletion and belongingness are hypothesized to mediate
the negative and positive effects of work intrusions onto job satisfaction respectively, with
belongingness further buffering the negative effect of self-regulatory resource depletion on job
satisfaction. Results of our 3-week experience sampling study with 111 participants supported
these hypotheses at the within-individual level, even as we included stress as an alternate
mediator. Overall, by extending our focus onto the social component of work intrusions, and
modeling the mechanisms that transmit the dark- and the bright-side effects of work intrusions
onto job satisfaction simultaneously, we provide a balanced view of this workplace phenomenon.
In the process, we challenge the consensus that work intrusions harm job satisfaction by
explaining why and when intrusions may also boost job satisfaction, thus extending the recent
research on work intrusions’ positive effects.
Keywords: work interruption, work intrusion, self-regulation, belongingness, job satisfaction
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 3
Excuse Me, Do You Have a Minute? An Exploration of the Dark- and Bright-Side Effects
of Daily Work Interruptions for Employee Well-being
Imagine that you are working in your office and a coworker pops in unexpectedly for a
chat. You have just experienced a work intrusion—a type of work interruption that is defined as
“an unexpected encounter initiated by another person that interrupts the flow and continuity of an
individual’s work and brings that work to a temporary halt” (Jett & George, 2003, p. 495). Given
today’s dynamic workplaces, intrusions by coworkers, supervisors, and clients are very common
(e.g., Leroy & Glomb, 2018; Mark, 2015; Wajcman & Rose, 2011). To date, research has largely
emphasized work intrusions’ negative implications for employee well-being and, in particular,
for employee job satisfaction (e.g., Baethge & Rigotti, 2013; Keller et al., 2020; Perlow, 1999).
However, scholars have recently challenged this negative view of work intrusions by exploring
the potential positive outcomes of intrusions (e.g., Hunter et al., 2019; Sonnentag et al., 2018).
Yet, whether arguing for negative or positive outcomes of work intrusions, the emphasis
of prior research has mainly been on how the interruption of an ongoing task, or the facilitation
of another task, during an intrusion affects employees (e.g., Altmann & Trafton, 2002; Baethge
et al., 2015; Leroy & Schmidt, 2016). This task-focused approach is certainly important, but as
the opening example shows, it captures only a part of a work intrusion’s core experience, since
intrusions also have a social component—interaction with the interrupter. Yet, despite studies on
the benefits of workplace interactions (e.g., Bhave & Lefter, 2018; Lilius, 2012), work intrusion
scholars have generally lagged in recognizing that the social interaction during an intrusion may
carry beneficial effects for interrupted employees (for an exception see: Ou & Davison, 2011). In
a recent review, Puranik et al. (2020) noted that although scholars have generally presumed work
intrusions to have negative implications for employee well-being, focusing on intrusions’ social
aspect has the potential to change this conversation. To that end, our aim is to study the potential
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 4
positive consequences that can arise from the social aspect of intrusions, while also remaining
mindful of intrusions’ darker implications for employee well-being shown by past research.
To do so, we draw upon self-regulation theory, which focuses on the dynamic process
wherein people respond to discrepancies between current and ideal states (e.g., Baumeister &
Vohs, 2016). We posit that work intrusions have self-regulatory implications stemming from
both their task and social aspects, resulting in two mechanisms—one for the dark side of work
intrusions (self-regulatory resource depletion) and one for the bright side (belongingness) (Beal
et al., 2005; Leary, 2012)—that connect work intrusions to our outcome of interest: job
satisfaction (widely deemed an indicator of employee well-being; Ilies et al., 2007). Our focus on
job satisfaction also aligns with previous work intrusion research that has linked work intrusions
to low job satisfaction (e.g., Cooper et al., 1989; Keller et al., 2020; Pachler et al., 2018).
To briefly foreshadow our model, we start with its dark side. Here, the repeated shifting
of attention from an ongoing task, to the cause of the intrusion, and then back to the original task
during work intrusions requires self-control and draws from a limited store of self-regulatory
resources (Beal et al., 2005). This may leave employees feeling depleted (Freeman & Muraven,
2010), which, in turn, should negatively affect their job satisfaction. Moving to the bright side
component of our model, here we emphasize the social aspect of work intrusions. Theory on
self-regulation in interpersonal contexts states that humans are social beings with an evolved
need to feel as if they belong, which can be fulfilled via daily social interactions (Leary &
Guadagno, 2004; Sandstrom & Dunn, 2014). Since such interactions are an integral part of work
intrusions (Jett & George, 2003), we expect intrusions to have the potential to fulfill interrupted
employees’ need to belong, which, we posit, will positively affect their job satisfaction.
Further, theory on self-regulation gives reason to believe that the above mechanisms may,
in fact, interact in predicting job satisfaction. When depleted, people are less willing to expend
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 5
self-regulatory resources, which can make them vulnerable to a negative state—especially in the
case of work intrusions, which often hinder goals—ultimately resulting in a negative relationship
between depletion and job satisfaction (Muraven et al., 2006; Wagner & Heatherton, 2013).
However, theory on self-regulation (Baumeister & Vohs, 2016) and the ‘undoing hypothesis’
(Fredrickson et al., 2000) dovetail in predicting that a positive and uplifting experience such as
higher levels of belongingness can boost interrupted employees’ capacity for self-regulation, thus
buffering or undoing this negative relationship (Blackhart et al., 2011). Stated directly, we expect
a second-stage interaction effect wherein belongingness need fulfillment mitigates the
aforementioned negative relationship of self-regulatory resource depletion with job satisfaction.
We tested our theory using a within-individual approach in an experience-sampling
study. As Figure 1 shows, along with the above noted relationships, we also modeled stress—a
previously established mechanism of work intrusions (e.g., Jett & George, 2003)—as an alternate
mediator of the link between work intrusions and job satisfaction to provide a stronger test of our
hypothesized relationships. Overall, we extend the work intrusion literature in crucial ways. First,
we add to our understanding of work intrusions’ core experience by also emphasizing intrusions’
social aspect, in addition to their task-based component. Here, we advance a new mechanism—
belongingness—that not only accounts for intrusions’ social aspect but also provides a novel
explanation for their positive outcomes, thus adding to the recent research that has started
exploring work intrusions’ positive effects (e.g., Hunter et al., 2019; Sonnentag et al., 2018).
Second, the focus on work intrusions’ social aspect also helps provide, to our knowledge,
the first evidence of work intrusions’ positive effect on job satisfaction—thereby challenging the
consensus that work intrusions tend to harm job satisfaction (e.g., Cooper et al., 1989; Keller et
al., 2020; Pachler et al., 2018). This is a key insight because, in its absence, practitioners and
future scholars may otherwise continue to believe that intrusions uniformly harm job satisfaction,
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 6
resulting in recommendations for reducing work intrusions (e.g., Baethge & Rigotti, 2013). We
show that such a conclusion may be premature, as it omits a crucial avenue to enhancing job
satisfaction via increased belongingness. We thus provide a new direction for research on the
relationship between intrusions and job satisfaction and also add job satisfaction to the list of
outcomes positively affected by work intrusions (Jett & George, 2003; Sonnentag et al., 2018).
Third, we extend recent research, which has modeled intrusions’ positive and negative
effects simultaneously but independently (e.g., Hunter et al., 2019; Sonnentag et al., 2018), by
unpacking the interaction of these effects. We show that beyond simple additive effects, the
mechanisms transmitting work intrusions’ impact may have a more complicated relationship
with outcomes. Thus, we emphasize that a comprehensive understanding of intrusions’ impact
requires the joint consideration of both the bright- and dark-side effects of work intrusions.
Taken together with our elucidation of the above mediating effects, we explain why, and when,
work intrusions affect job satisfaction (Whetten, 1989). In so doing, we also answer the call for
an integration of interaction effects in the study of dynamic well-being (Sonnentag, 2015).
Fourth and finally, we also add to the research on self-regulation focused on uncovering
factors that counteract the effect of workplace depletion (e.g., Lanaj et al., 2016; Lilius, 2012).
By showing that in a workplace setting, belongingness need fulfillment can offset the effects of
self-regulatory resource depletion at the daily, within-individual level, we complement previous
studies that have found person-level factors that buffer the effect of daily depletion (e.g., Rosen
et al., 2016). That is, we show that even in the absence of these person-level factors, managers
may have other levers they can pull as an antidote to the feeling of depletion in the workplace.
Work Intrusions: A Type of Workplace Interruption
Work interruptions involve the unexpected suspension of an ongoing work task (Puranik
et al., 2020). In a theory piece on interruptions, Jett and George (2003) advanced a typology of
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 7
four types of interruptions—work intrusions, discrepancies, breaks, and distractions. We focus
here on work intrusions, which are defined as unexpected encounters initiated by other people
that temporarily halt an ongoing work task (e.g., Lin et al., 2013; Rogers & Barber, 2019).
Work intrusions occur widely in today’s workplaces given the emphasis on virtual
collaboration, open offices, and multi-team memberships (Mark, 2015). Wajcman and Rose
(2011) noted that employees experience, on average, 3 intrusions per hour (up to 22 intrusions
daily). Scholars have also shown work intrusions to be a common and consistent feature for
employees in various occupations including engineers, knowledge workers, manufacturing
employees, healthcare workers, and information technology professionals (e.g., Andreasson et
al., 2017; Baethge & Rigotti, 2015; Claessens et al., 2010; Perlow, 1999). Thus, as Leroy et al.
(2020) have noted, studying the experience of work intrusions is a key research endeavor.
The Consequences of Work Intrusions for Interrupted Employees
Work intrusions are not only common but also consequential. Scholars have generally
focused on how the task-related aspect of work intrusions—involving the (re)switching of tasks,
addressing of the intrusion, and the performance of interrupting tasks—impacts employees by
increasing task completion time, causing errors, and even leading employees to forget the
original task (e.g., Altmann & Trafton, 2002; Leroy et al., 2020). Also, as intrusions increase, the
time available to complete ongoing tasks reduces, which can be a stressful experience (Baethge
et al., 2015). As such, studies have found stress to be a crucial consequence of work intrusions,
as well as a key a mediator of the effects of intrusions onto ensuing outcomes (e.g., Fonner &
Roloff, 2012; Jett & George, 2003; Mark et al., 2008; Tams et al., 2015). Beyond this, multiple
studies have, over the years, shown that work intrusions can also harm employee well-being by
negatively affecting job satisfaction (e.g., Baethge & Rigotti, 2013; Cooper et al., 1989; Hunter
et al., 2019; Keller et al., 2020; Pachler et al., 2018)—leading to a consensus that work intrusions
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 8
tend to harm job satisfaction. Viewed from this perspective, the extant advocacy for reducing
work intrusions seems warranted (e.g., Lin et al., 2013; Perlow, 1999; Steinhilber, 2017).
Yet, there have also been hints about potential benefits of intrusions. For example, Jett
and George (2003) speculated that intrusions can at times supply task-related information, and
Speier et al. (2003) argued that intrusions can improve performance on simple tasks by forcing
people to block out distractions and focus more attention on the task. Recently, scholars have
shown that by facilitating other tasks, intrusions can result in positive affect, even as the impeded
progress on the interrupted task results in negative affect (Hunter et al., 2019; Sonnentag et al.,
2018). Thus, scholars have started focusing on the potential positive consequences of intrusions.
Extending the Focus onto the Social Aspect of Work Intrusions
A common thread binding the above research is that scholars have primarily focused on
the effects of the task-based aspect of intrusions. Yet a work intrusion is, by definition, initiated
by others (Jett & George, 2003). Thus, as noted by Puranik et al. (2020), there is a, heretofore,
largely overlooked social aspect of a work intrusion—interaction with the interrupter—that is a
key part of its core experience. Importantly, this social aspect may have unappreciated positive
consequences and so, by not considering it, scholars may have obtained only an incomplete
understanding of work intrusions. Underscoring this point, Ou and Davison (2011) showed that
the social interaction during work intrusions facilitated team-level trust. Extending this line of
research, we unpack the individual-level, well-being implications of work intrusions for
interrupted employees by considering work intrusions’ social aspect alongside the task aspect.
For this purpose, we have chosen job satisfaction as our outcome because it is (a) a well-
established outcome in the work intrusion literature, (b) a key indicator of employee well-being,
which is of interest to us, and (c) a vital concern for managers (Hunter et al., 2019; Ilies et al.,
2007; Puranik et al., 2020). As noted before, there is a consensus in the work intrusion literature
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 9
that work intrusions generally harm job satisfaction (e.g., Cooper et al., 1989; Hunter et al.,
2019; Keller et al., 2020; Pachler et al., 2018). Yet, as we outline below, there are reasons to
believe work intrusions might at times boost job satisfaction as well, thereby challenging this
consensus. However, to be mindful of the prior findings about the negative effects of intrusions
on job satisfaction, we followed recommendations by Leroy et al. (2020) and adopted a balanced
approach to studying work intrusions. We did this by using a self-regulation framework to model
both the bright- and dark-side effects of intrusions on job satisfaction together. This provides a
complete and nuanced picture of the relationship between work intrusions and job satisfaction.
Dual Mechanisms Linking Work Intrusions to Job Satisfaction
Drawing from self-regulation theory (e.g., Baumeister & Vohs, 2016), we identify two
mechanisms—self-regulatory resource depletion and belongingness need fulfillment—that
reflect the task- and social-aspects of work intrusions, and transmit intrusions’ effects onto job
satisfaction. Further, as prior research has shown stress to be a mechanism that can convey work
intrusions’ effect onto subsequent outcomes (e.g., Fonner & Roloff, 2012; Jett & George, 2003),
we included stress as an alternate mediator in our model to provide a stronger test of our self-
regulatory framework. We unpack this framework below, starting with the dark side pathway.
Dark Side of Work Intrusions: Work Intrusions and Self-Regulatory Resource Depletion
Self-regulation theory focuses on the dynamic process by which people pursue goals by
regulating their activities based on a comparison of their current and a desired state (Austin &
Vancouver, 1996), as well as the downstream effects of this process (Baumeister & Vohs, 2016).
One component of this theory focuses on the notion that the regulation of thoughts, actions, and
emotions requires exerting self-control on the part of the individual, which draws from a limited
pool of self-regulatory resources (Beal et al., 2005). Depletion of this pool of self-regulatory
resources generally leaves people with a reduced ability to regulate subsequent thoughts, actions
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 10
and emotions, as they become unwilling to expend further self-regulatory resources (Muraven et
al., 2006; Rosen et al., 2016). Thus, initial activities needing self-control tend to leave employees
depleted and less able to regulate later activities requiring self-control (McClean et al., in press).
We submit that work intrusions involve such activities, given their nature as unexpected
events that interrupt people in the middle of their tasks (Jett & George, 2003). On facing a work
intrusion, employees need to unexpectedly suspend an ongoing task, switch attention from that
task onto the intrusion, cognitively understand and attend to the intrusion (maybe even perform
an alternative task), and then switch attention back to the original task (Altmann & Trafton,
2002). All this time, they may need to control distracting thoughts, potentially suppress thoughts
related to the task they just suspended, and regulate behavior accordingly (e.g., Leroy, 2009).
Each of these activities will require self-control by the employee and will thus consume self-
regulatory resources (Freeman & Muraven, 2010). Another implication is that employees may
feel as if the intrusion has hindered progress on a task, which may initiate a negative reaction
(Carver & Scheier, 1990). But it may be inappropriate and counter-normative to express this
negative reaction, as workplaces often discourage such negative displays (Gabriel et al., 2019a;
Sutton, 2007). So, employees may feel the need to adhere to these norms by suppressing their
negative feelings, which can also be depleting (DeBono et al., 2011; Trougakos et al., 2015).
Indirect evidence supports the above arguments. For example, Lin et al. (2013) suggested
that work intrusions may have self-regulatory implications, and Freeman and Muraven (2010)
found that lab participants needed to exert self-control to halt an interrupted task. Analogously,
organizational citizenship researchers have argued that because acts such as helping tend to
occur in response to a request from a coworker (Grant & Hofmann, 2011), citizenship behavior
requires a similar process of ceasing one’s current task and switching attention to the nature of
the request (Koopman et al., 2016). Such acts of citizenship have been found to be depleting
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 11
(Gabriel et al., 2018), and we expect a similar logic to apply here. Hence, we hypothesize:
Hypothesis 1: At the day level, work intrusions will be positively related to self-
regulatory resource depletion for interrupted employees.
The depletion of self-regulatory resources has been linked to reduced psychological well-
being (Lanaj et al., 2014; Rivkin et al., 2015). We posit that in our case, it will be negatively
related to a specific indicator of well-being—job satisfaction—which reflects how satisfied one
is with one’s job and work context (e.g., work, coworkers etc.), and which has been shown to
vary at the daily level (Ilies & Judge, 2004; Sonnentag, 2015). As noted, much previous work
intrusion research has found a negative relationship between work intrusions and job satisfaction
(e.g., Baethge & Rigotti, 2013; Cooper et al., 1989; Keller et al., 2020; Pachler et al., 2018). We
expect this negative relationship to be partially mediated by self-regulatory resource depletion.
Self-regulation theory suggests that depleted people enter a conservation mode where
they become unwilling to expend further self-regulatory resources, which impairs their capacity
to regulate subsequent activities requiring self-control (Muraven et al., 2006). This impaired
capacity for self-regulation, in turn, increases people’s susceptibility to negative states by
weakening the barriers they would otherwise have against these states (Gailliot et al., 2006;
Muraven, 2008; Wagner & Heatherton, 2013). This can be especially problematic in the context
of work intrusions because, as mentioned earlier, intrusions often hinder progress toward one’s
goals and require acts of emotion suppression—both of which may cause and augment negative
reactions (e.g., Beck et al., 2017; Carver & Scheier, 1990; Trougakos et al., 2015). Further, self-
regulatory resource depletion can also threaten one’s ability to accomplish those hindered goals
in the future (Baumeister & Vohs, 2016), as well as prevent the enactment of other important
work behaviors (Gabriel et al., 2018; Koopman et al., in press-b). Taken together, depletion
stemming from work intrusions can thus foster frustration and foment a negative state (Lin et al.,
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 12
2013; Wagner & Heatherton, 2013). Prior research suggests that such negative states can narrow
employees’ focus onto the negative aspects of their job and negatively color how they view their
job and work context (Elfenbein, 2007; Forgas, 1995; Schwarz & Clore, 1983). Ultimately, the
result is an unfavorable appraisal of one’s job and work environment, culminating in low levels
of job satisfaction (Dimotakis et al., 2011; Ilies & Judge, 2002; Judge & Ilies, 2004).
Hypothesis 2: At the day level, self-regulatory resource depletion will mediate the
negative indirect relationship between work intrusions and the job satisfaction of
Bright Side of Work Intrusions: Work Intrusions and Belongingness
In focusing on intrusions’ bright side, we expect the social interaction occurring during
work intrusions to be an avenue for employees to fulfill their need to belong—an evolutionary
desire for social inclusion (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). From a self-regulatory perspective, this
need reflects a desired internal state that people typically strive for (Leary & Guadagno, 2004).
Scholars hold that the reduction in the discrepancy between one’s current and ideal end states in
terms of fulfilling the belongingness need can be achieved via social interaction (Leary, 2012).
For instance, Sandstrom and Dunn (2014) found that even some small talk with the barista when
ordering a coffee, led to feelings of more belongingness as opposed to just ordering a coffee.
Also, scholars have shown that exposure to non-verbal cues like eye contact, smiling, or nodding
during social interactions can influence belongingness (DeWall et al., 2009; Pickett et al., 2004).
Since work intrusions involve another person, they create a venue for social interaction
(Jett & George, 2003) and, thus, the fulfillment of belongingness needs. For instance, day-to-day
workplace interactions often have a patterned or ritualistic component and foster attachment and
connection among employees (Holmes, 2005; Methot et al., in press). Work intrusions, whether
work or non-work related, likely involve a similar social component of small talk (Chong &
Siino, 2006) that can signal to the interrupted employee that they are viewed favorably as an
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 13
interaction partner (Sandstrom & Dunn, 2014). Moreover, norms of workplace civility generally
involve the expression of regret or an apology on disturbing someone, as is likely to be the case
when interrupting someone in the middle of their work (Walsh et al., 2012). Thus, irrespective of
the overarching purpose of the work intrusion, interrupters may tend to apologize, indicating that
they value the interrupted employee’s time and, in turn, promoting a sense of belonging (Leary,
2012). Even work intrusions that are explicitly task-focused (i.e., for seeking help/information or
assigning of tasks) may still be a signal that the employee’s knowledge and skills are valued and
acknowledged by others (Richardson & Taylor, 2012), in turn, fostering a sense of belonging.
Indirect empirical evidence supports our expectation here. For example, research in social
psychology found that generally people who have more daily interactions reported higher levels
of belongingness (Mehl et al., 2010; Milek et al., 2018; Sandstrom & Dunn, 2014). Similar
results were found within-individual, as people reported more belongingness on days when they
had more social interactions than on days with less social interactions (Bernstein et al., 2018).
These results mirror recent findings in organizational scholarship. For example, Bhave and
Lefter (2018) found that employees who engaged in more workplace social interactions reported
higher feelings of relatedness and vitality. Taken together, we expect that as the frequency of
daily work intrusions increases, employees will report higher levels of belongingness, given the
increased opportunity for engaging in social interactions with others. Hence, we hypothesize:
Hypothesis 3: At the day level, work intrusions will be positively related to the level of
belongingness of interrupted employees.
We further expect the sense of increased belongingness associated with work intrusions
to be positively related to interrupted employees’ well-being in general, and more specifically, to
their job satisfaction. With regard to general well-being, theory on self-regulation in
interpersonal contexts notes that fulfillment of the need to belong represents an ideal state that
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 14
implies one is accepted and valued by others—which is a desirable state to be in (Leary &
Guadagno, 2004). As such, the experience of belongingness is characterized by positive feelings
and high self-esteem that contribute to an enhanced sense of well-being (Leary et al., 1995).
As it pertains to job satisfaction specifically, a crucial input to job satisfaction appraisals
is the extent to which employees see their work environment as enabling the fulfillment of their
key needs and goals (Ilies et al., 2018). That is, when employees experience work events that
create desirable circumstances—such as those that fulfill their important needs—they should be
more likely to report satisfaction with that job (Lynch Jr et al., 2005; Spehar et al., 2016). By
providing an avenue for social interaction, work intrusions represent one such work event that
holds the potential for satisfying employees’ fundamental need to belong, and should thus be
associated with positive effects on employees’ job attitudes such as job satisfaction (Ilies et al.,
2018; Leary & Guadagno, 2004; Sandstrom & Dunn, 2014). Moreover, a sense of acceptance
from one’s coworkers may foster a positive appraisal of those coworkers, and such coworker
appraisals are a key input into how satisfied one is with one’s job (Chiaburu & Harrison, 2008).
In sum, the positive experience of belongingness, representing an ideal state from a self-
regulatory perspective, should lead employees to appraise their job and work environment
positively, resulting in high job satisfaction (Dimotakis et al., 2011; Spehar et al., 2016). We thus
expect belongingness to positively mediate the link between work intrusions and job satisfaction.
Hypothesis 4: At the day level, belongingness will mediate the positive indirect
relationship between work intrusions and the job satisfaction of interrupted employees.
The Undoing of Self-Regulatory Resource Depletion by Belongingness Need Fulfillment
Until now we have positioned self-regulatory resource depletion and belongingness—
stemming from the task and social aspects of intrusions—as mechanisms that independently
convey the effects of work intrusions onto job satisfaction. But the task and social aspects of a
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 15
work intrusion together make up its core experience (Puranik et al., 2020), implying that these
mechanisms may co-occur and even interact. As such, we expect belongingness to buffer the
negative relationship of depletion with job satisfaction by countering the previously described
reason for this relationship—depleted employees’ increased vulnerability to the negative state
associated with hindered goal progress and emotion regulation requirements during intrusions
(Beck et al., 2017; Wagner & Heatherton, 2013). Below, we unpack this notion in detail, based
on the intersection of two streams of research—self-regulation and the undoing hypothesis.
From a self-regulatory perspective, belongingness need fulfillment reflects an ideal state
in the context of social interactions (Leary & Guadagno, 2004). An implication of achieving such
an ideal state is that people no longer need to use self-regulatory resources to strive toward this
state (Baumeister & Vohs, 2007). A key tenet of self-regulation theory is that the same central
store of self-regulatory resources is used for different self-control activities (Beal et al., 2005).
This implies that the self-regulatory resources that interrupted employees would have otherwise
used in regulating toward belongingness may now become available for other acts of self-control
(Baumeister & Vohs, 2016). This should bolster their store of available self-regulatory resources
and their self-regulation capacity, which would, in turn, strengthen their defenses against the
aforementioned negative state associated with work intrusions (Wagner & Heatherton, 2014).
Thus, one way in which higher levels of belongingness may counteract the negative effect of
depletion on job satisfaction is by bolstering interrupted employees’ self-regulation capacity.
Beyond this, we theorize that the positive nature of the experience of belongingness itself
can also counteract the negative effects of depletion on job satisfaction. Here, we draw on the
‘undoing hypothesis,’ which states that positive experiences can potentially undo or correct the
detrimental effects of negative experiences (Fredrickson et al., 2000). Although this hypothesis
was first proposed in the context of affective states, it is relevant here because self-regulation and
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 16
affect are inextricably intertwined (Carver & Scheier, 1990; Wagner & Heatherton, 2013) and
importantly, it has been used in the prediction of daily job satisfaction (Dimotakis et al., 2011).
From the standpoint of this theory, the pleasant and uplifting experience of belongingness
need fulfillment should counter some of the harmful effects of depleted employees’ previously
described negative state (Bono et al., 2013; Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005). Indeed, experiencing
belongingness is linked with increased self-esteem and positive affect (Baumeister & Leary,
1995), which tends to broaden thought-action repertoires and promote flexible cognitive thinking
(Fredrickson, 2001). This can counteract the narrowing effects of the negative state that depleted
employees are vulnerable to experiencing in the case of work intrusions, which may lead them to
narrowly focus on only the negative aspects of their job and their work context (Elfenbein,
2007). Instead, broadening of thought-action repertoires will mean that interrupted employees
may think more broadly about their jobs (for example, instead of focusing on only negative
aspects, they may also consider positive examples of their job and working conditions)
(Dimotakis et al., 2011; Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005). Thus, the positive experience of
belongingness need fulfillment has the potential to weaken the negative relationship between
self-regulatory resource depletion and job satisfaction (Blackhart et al., 2011).
In contrast, some work intrusions may fail to fulfill interrupted employees’ need for
belongingness, leaving them experiencing self-regulatory resource depletion without the added
buffer of belongingness need fulfillment. Here, we expect the negative relationship between self-
regulatory resource depletion and job satisfaction to be magnified (Baumeister et al., 2005). The
reason is that in such cases employees are likely to perceive a large discrepancy from their ideal
state of belonging, requiring them to invest significant amount of self-regulatory resources
toward addressing it (Lord et al., 2010; Puranik et al., 2019). This will leave them with even
fewer self-regulatory resources, and potentially an even weaker barrier against the negative state
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 17
associated with goal hindrance and emotion regulation requirements during work intrusions than
they would otherwise have (Gailliot et al., 2006; Wagner & Heatherton, 2013). Further, lower
belongingness implies a lower level of acceptance by others, which can threaten one’s workplace
success and is a negative and disconcerting experience (Leary, 2012). Thus, lower belongingness
will only add to the aforementioned negative state that depleted employees are already
vulnerable to experiencing in the case of work intrusions (Leary et al., 1995; Wagner &
Heatherton, 2013). Taken together, lower levels of belongingness can exacerbate the negative
relationship between self-regulatory resource depletion and job satisfaction not only by making
employees more susceptible to experiencing the previously described negative state associated
with work intrusions, but also by adding to this negative experience itself. Ultimately, this
negative state may creep into, and magnify, employees’ unfavorable appraisal of their job and
work context (Forgas, 1995; Schwarz & Clore, 1983), resulting in a stronger negative
relationship of self-regulatory resource depletion with job satisfaction (Baumeister et al., 2005).
Overall, we expect belongingness need fulfillment to moderate the negative effect of self-
regulatory resource depletion on job satisfaction, such that this effect will be weaker at higher
rather than lower levels of belongingness. Further, we combine this moderation argument with
our above mediation hypotheses about the effects of intrusions, to note that belongingness will
moderate the negative indirect effect of intrusions on job satisfaction via self-regulatory resource
depletion such that this effect will be weaker at higher rather than lower levels of belongingness:
Hypothesis 5a: At the day-level, belongingness will moderate the relationship between
self-regulatory resource depletion and job satisfaction such that this relationship will be
negative at lower levels of belongingness, whereas it will not be significant at higher
levels of belongingness.
Hypothesis 5b: At the day-level, belongingness will moderate the indirect effect of work
intrusions on job satisfaction via self-regulatory resource depletion such that this indirect
effect will be negative at lower levels of belongingness, whereas it will not be significant
at higher levels of belongingness.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 18
We tested our model in a daily, experience sampling methodology (ESM) study. This
approach helps align our theory and methodology because not only do our focal constructs vary
at the within-individual level (Beal et al., 2005; Bernstein et al., 2018; Dimotakis et al., 2011;
Sonnentag et al., 2018) but given its focus on the dynamic process of goal pursuit, self-regulation
theory lends itself well for this methodology (Johnson et al., 2006; Klein & Kozlowski, 2000).
Sample and Procedure
This study was approved by University of Cincinnati IRB (Title: Daily work interactions
and employee outcomes; Study# 2018-1580) and is the first publication from a broader data
collection. We sent an email inviting employees of a Midwestern US university and other local
organizations to participate in the study for a chance to win up to $30 worth of Starbucks gift
cards (e.g., Koopman et al., in press-a; Lanaj et al., 2018; Tepper et al., 2018). Interested persons
followed a link to a sign-in survey with a consent form, and those who met the eligibility criteria
(i.e., working full time with access to email during the day) were given a description of the study
and they provided data on demographic and individual-level variables. To increase participation,
we used a snowball technique where participants were invited to forward the recruitment email
to others who may be interested in the study (e.g., Koopman et al., 2020; Rosen et al., 2016).
During the daily portion of the study, we emailed the participants two surveys every day
for three weeks (i.e., 15 consecutive work-days). The first (lunch-time) survey was sent around
mid-day and captured participants’ experience since arriving at work. It contained the scales for
work intrusions, self-regulatory resource depletion, belongingness, and our alternate mechanism
of stress, and was completed, on average, at 11:54 am. The second (end of workday) survey,
containing the scale for job satisfaction, was sent toward the end of the workday and captured
participant experience since the first survey. On average, it was completed at 4:19 pm and the
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 19
average time elapsed between the two surveys was 4 hours and 25 min. All survey items were
self-reported because our focus was on employee experiences (intrusions), internal cognitive
states (self-regulatory resource depletion and belongingness), and well-being (job satisfaction)—
for which “the use of same-source data is perfectly acceptable” (Gabriel et al., 2019b, p. 991).
While self-reports may elicit common method variance (CMV) concerns, the temporal separation
of constructs, as well as our interaction results, help reduce this concern (Podsakoff et al., 2003).
Overall, 120 participants (65 recruited directly by the author team and 55 via snowball)
enrolled in the study. In line with prior ESM research (e.g., Gabriel et al., 2018, p. 92; Rosen et
al., 2016), we dropped nine participants who did not provide data on at least three days of the
study, since at least “three data points per person are statistically needed to appropriately model
within-person relationships.” The final sample thus included 111 participants who provided 1147
days of data (average of 10.3 days per person)—which is in line with recommendations by
multilevel scholars (e.g., Gabriel et al., 2019b; González-Romá & Hernández, 2017) and recent
ESM studies (e.g., Rosen et al., 2019; Tang et al., 2020). Participants occupied various technical,
managerial, administrative, and service positions in their organizations.
Their average age was
35.6 years, 77% were female, and 78% were Caucasian. Average job tenure was 4.8 years and
they worked on average 8.3 hours daily and 41.5 hours per week in their workplaces.
Daily Within-Individual Measures
A comparison of participants recruited directly by the author team vs. those recruited via the snowball technique
showed that the former had, on average, longer job tenure than the latter (5.92 years vs. 3.5 years, p = .032). No
other differences were seen with regard to our study variables or other relevant variables.
Of the final 111 participants, 71 (63%) were university employees and scored higher than non-university
employees on work scheduling autonomy (mean of 4.01 vs. 3.54, p = .017) and work interaction requirements (mean
of 4.36 vs. 3.93, p = .008) but did not differ based on our study variables or other relevant variables. We address the
implications of these differences in our supplemental analyses section.
Of the final 111 participants, 45 (40.5%) worked in a private office and 64 (57.6%) worked in a shared office, with
2 participants not providing information about their workspace. A comparison revealed that participants working in
private offices were older than those working in shared offices (mean of 39 years vs. 33 years, p = .009). Beyond
this, there were no differences on any of our study variables or other relevant variables.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 20
Unless mentioned, all rating scales were from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.
Also, with regard to internal consistency estimate, coefficient alpha has recently been criticized
for its strong assumptions about scale items being both normally distributed and tau equivalent
(i.e., that items contribute equally to the scale). Scholars have noted that these assumptions are
rarely met empirically, which then leads coefficient alpha to be an inconsistent estimator of
reliability (e.g., Geldhof et al., 2014; McNeish, 2018). So, there have been calls to report
composite reliability (omega) instead. Given the general familiarity of readers with coefficient
alpha, we report it below alongside an estimate of coefficient omega (e.g., Rosen et al., in press).
Work intrusions. As part of their lunch-time survey, participants reported the work
intrusions they experienced since arriving at work on a 5-item scale developed by Parke et al.
(2018). Given our focus on the frequency of work intrusions, the rating scheme for this scale was
from 1 = Never to 5 = Constantly. Sample items were, “I was interrupted by people seeking
information from me,” and, “I was interrupted by people who gave or assigned a new task to
me.” Average Cronbach alpha and omega values were 0.85 and 0.86 respectively.
Self-regulatory resource depletion. We measured self-regulatory resource depletion in
the lunch-time survey using the 5-item scale validated by Johnson et al. (2014) and used in prior
depletion research (e.g., Lanaj et al., 2016). Participants rated the items based on how they felt
“right now.” Sample items included, “I feel drained right now,” and, “My mental energy is
running low.” Average Cronbach alpha and omega were 0.92 and 0.93 respectively.
Belongingness. We adapted 5 items from the General Belongingness Scale of Malone et
al. (2012) to measure belongingness as part of the lunch-time survey. Employees rated the extent
of belongingness they experienced since arriving at work.
Sample items included, “I felt
A point to note is that our belongingness scale asked about belongingness experienced “since arriving at work,”
while the depletion scale measured the level of depletion “right now.” Theoretically, even though we captured
belongingness experienced since arriving at work (as opposed to momentary belongingness), we still expect it to be
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 21
connected with others at work,” and, “I felt isolated from others at work” (reverse scored).
Average Cronbach alpha and omega both had a value of 0.94.
Job satisfaction. In line with Koopman et al. (2016), we used a 4-item scale, adapted
from Brayfield and Rothe (1951), to measure job satisfaction as part of the end of the workday
survey. Participants rated the items based on how they felt “right now,” and sample items
included, “I feel fairly satisfied with my present job,” and, “I find real enjoyment in my work.”
Average Cronbach alpha and omega values were 0.89 and 0.90.
Stress (alternate mediator). As noted earlier, work intrusions have been linked with
workplace stress (e.g., Fonner & Roloff, 2012; Jett & George, 2003; Tams et al., 2015), and so,
we included stress as an alternate mechanism for work intrusions’ negative effect on job
satisfaction to provide a stronger test of our hypothesized relationships. Also, for completeness
we included an interaction of belongingness with stress, parallel to that of belongingness and
depletion. We measured stress in the lunch-time survey with a 4-item scale given by Motowidlo
et al. (1986) that has been used in prior research on workplace stress (e.g., Matta et al., 2017).
Employees rated the items based on their experience since arriving at work. Sample items were,
“My job was extremely stressful,” and, “Very few stressful things happened to me at work”
(reverse scored). Average Cronbach alpha and omega values were 0.86 and 0.83. An important
point to note is that our results remain unchanged even when stress is dropped from the model.
Control variables. We included several control variables recommended by ESM
able to moderate the relationship between momentary depletion and subsequent job satisfaction as these feelings of
belongingness are unlikely to dissipate completely over the short time spans of our ESM design (Beal, 2015). To test
this, as part of a larger survey (Texas A&M IRB Study# 2020-0236M; Title: Study on measures of emotions,
personality, and behaviors at work), we asked 181 participants from Prolific who had been at work for an average of
7.8 hours to report their level of belongingness “since arriving at work today,” as well as “right now.” We found
these two sets of ratings to be correlated at 0.86. In fact, given the potential for the experience of belongingness to
decay over the day, our results may actually be a more conservative test of the undoing effect of belongingness on
the negative relationship between self-regulatory resource depletion and job satisfaction in our model.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 22
scholars. First, we included prior levels of endogenous variables by adding lagged versions of
these variables from the previous time period (i.e. the previous day) as controls to account for
autoregressive effects (Beal, 2015). We also followed recommendations to control for temporal
variation in our variables, which can be an alternate explanation for observed relationships (e.g.,
Beal & Ghandour, 2011; Beal & Weiss, 2003). Specifically, we controlled for linear trends by
including a variable ranging from 1 to 5 for the day of the week (e.g., Lim et al., 2018; Rosen et
al., 2016), and another one ranging from 1 to 15 for study day (e.g., Lanaj et al., 2016; Sonnentag
& Starzyk, 2015). We also controlled for weekly cyclical trends by including the sine and cosine
of the above weekday variable with a period of one week (Beal & Ghandour, 2011; Gabriel et
al., 2019b). Our results, however, remain unchanged even after dropping these lagged and
temporal controls. For completeness, we report the results for a model with these variables.
Given the multi-level structure of our data (days within persons), we used multi-level
path analysis in Mplus 8.4 to test our hypothesized relationships. As Table 1 shows, we first
verified that there was sufficient within-individual variability to justify multi-level analysis (e.g.,
Gabriel et al., 2019b; González-Romá & Hernández, 2017). We then proceeded with multi-level
path analysis, where we simultaneously modeled all the variables from Figure 1, along with our
lagged and temporal controls, at the within-individual level. The mediators were covaried with
each other to account for any unmeasured covariance among them (Koopman et al., 2016).
Within-individual predictors were centered around each employee’s mean (i.e. group
mean centering) (e.g., Enders & Tofighi, 2007; Hofmann & Gavin, 1998). This helps the study
of within-individual relationships by controlling for between-individual confounds (Dimotakis et
al., 2013). All within-individual relationships shown in Figure 1 were modeled as random slopes,
while the relationships of lagged and temporal controls were modeled as fixed effects (e.g.,
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 23
Lanaj et al., 2016). We included the direct effect of work intrusions on job satisfaction. To test
the moderation effects, we calculated the within-individual product of belongingness and the
other two mediating variables (self-regulatory resource depletion and stress) (Lanaj et al., 2018).
For indirect effects, we used a bootstrap procedure with 20,000 iterations to estimate the
bias corrected confidence interval for each indirect effect. Further, to confirm the hypothesized
conditional indirect effect of work intrusions on job satisfaction via self-regulatory resource
depletion, we checked the significance of the difference in this indirect effect at higher and lower
levels of belongingness (Hayes, 2015). Finally, we calculated two types of variance explained
values—overall and incremental (e.g., LaHuis et al., 2014; Rosen et al., 2016; Snijders &
Bosker, 1994). The former refers to the variance explained in each of our mediators and our
outcome by the overall model in Figure 1 (including the control variables). It was calculated by
comparing the total and residual variance between the null and the hypothesized models
respectively. For the latter, we checked the variance explained by each specific path in our model
by comparing the residual variance of a model with and without that particular path.
Table 2 shows the means, standard deviations, and correlations among the variables.
Before testing the hypotheses, we ran a multilevel confirmatory factor analysis of the five focal
variables from Figure 1 (work intrusions, self-regulatory resource depletion, belongingness, job
satisfaction, and stress). This 5-factor model with all 23 items loading onto their corresponding
factors fit the data adequately (χ2 = 855.94, df = 220, CFI = 0.91, RMSEA = 0.05, SRMRwithin =
.04). Moreover, the fit was better than a 4-factor model in which depletion and stress items were
allowed to load onto a single factor (χ2 = 2186.53, df = 224, CFI = 0.74, RMSEA = 0.09,
SRMRwithin = .10; Satorra–Bentler χ2diff = 531.4, df = 4, p < .001), and another 4-factor model in
which belongingness and job satisfaction items loaded onto a single factor (χ2 = 1565.97, df =
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 24
224, CFI = 0.82, RMSEA = 0.07, SRMRwithin = .08; Satorra–Bentler χ2diff = 335.56, df = 4, p <
.001), as well as a 1-factor model where all items loaded onto a single factor (χ2 = 5744.23, df =
230, CFI = 0.26, RMSEA = 0.14, SRMRwithin = .17; Satorra–Bentler χ2diff = 1280.54, df = 10, p <
.001). Overall, this provides support for the factor structure of our 5-factor model from Figure 1.
Tests of Hypotheses
We then proceeded with multi-level path analysis (see Table 3 for results). Starting with
the dark-side pathway, we found work intrusions to be positively related self-regulatory resource
depletion (γ = .150, S.E. = .046, p = .001), thus supporting Hypothesis 1. This indicates that the
unexpected interruption and switching of tasks during work intrusions may take a self-regulatory
toll on employees. Further, in support of Hypothesis 2, self-regulatory resource depletion was
negatively related to job satisfaction (γ = -.071, S.E. = .023, p = .002), and mediated the negative
indirect effect of intrusions on job satisfaction (indirect effect = -.011, 95% CI: -.023 to -.003).
This result reaffirms the negative relationship between intrusions and job satisfaction from prior
research, while advancing self-regulatory resource depletion as a mediator of this relationship.
For the bright-side pathway, in support of Hypothesis 3, intrusions were positively related
to belongingness (γ = .088, S.E. = .037, p = .018), meaning being interrupted by others may be
an avenue to fulfill one’s need to belong. Further, belongingness was positively related to job
satisfaction (γ = .099, S.E. = .032, p = .002), and mediated the indirect relationship of intrusions
with job satisfaction (indirect effect = .009, 95% CI: .002 to .021), supporting Hypothesis 4. To
our knowledge, this is the first evidence of a positive relationship between work intrusions and
job satisfaction, implying this relationship may be more nuanced than previously thought.
For Hypothesis 5a, we found support for the interaction effect of belongingness on the
relationship of self-regulatory resource depletion with job satisfaction (γ = .115, S.E. = .041, p =
.006), such that this relationship was negative at lower levels of belongingness (γ = -.126, S.E. =
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 25
.032, p < .001), but was not significant at higher levels of belongingness (γ = - .016, S.E. = .030,
p = .591) (see Figure 2). For the conditional indirect effect, as Table 3 shows, the indirect effect
of intrusions on job satisfaction via self-regulatory resource depletion was negative at lower
levels of belongingness (indirect effect = -.019, 95% CI: -.038 to -.006), but was not significant
at higher levels of belongingness (indirect effect = -.002, 95% CI: -.015 to .005). Also, the
difference between these two indirect effect values was significant (indirect effect difference =
.017, CI: .004 to .038), supporting Hypothesis 5b (Hayes, 2015). Overall, our results show that
belongingness not only mediated the positive effect of work intrusions on job satisfaction, but
also buffered the negative effect of self-regulatory resource depletion on job satisfaction.
Importantly, our hypotheses were supported after adding stress as an alternate mediator
of the relationship between intrusions and job satisfaction, indicating that our two hypothesized
mediators—depletion and belongingness—have predictive capacity beyond this previously
established mechanism of work intrusions. For results related to stress, as seen in Table 3, work
intrusions were positively related to stress (γ = .453, S.E. = .056, p < .001), stress was negatively
related to job satisfaction (γ = -.050, S.E. = .024, p = .039) and also mediated the negative
indirect effect of work intrusions on job satisfaction (γ = -.023, 95% CI: -.046 to -.002). The
moderation effect of belongingness on the link between stress and job satisfaction was not
significant (γ = -.070, S.E. = .050, p = .166)—we discuss this in more detail in our discussion.
Finally, regarding the overall variance explained, our model from Figure 1, along with
the control variables, accounted for 14.5% variance in self-regulatory resource depletion, 18% in
belongingness, and 15.1% in job satisfaction. With regard to incremental variance explained by
our hypothesized relationships, work intrusions explained incremental variance of 5.2% in
depletion and 8.1% in belongingness, and the direct effect of self-regulatory resource depletion
and belongingness each explained incremental variance of 2.1% in job satisfaction.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 26
We ran several supplemental analyses to check the robustness of our findings. First, as
noted in footnote 3, we found that participants working in private offices tended to be older than
those working in shared offices. Apart from this difference, these two groups did not differ based
on our study variables or other relevant variables (e.g., job tenure, daily and weekly work hours,
task interdependence, workplace polychronicity, job complexity, work interaction requirements,
and work scheduling autonomy). Further, our results were unchanged by the inclusion of this
distinction as a cross-level moderator of the relationship between intrusions and our meditators.
Second, we modeled two variables that can influence norms related to work intrusions—
workplace polychronicity and task interdependence—as cross-level moderators of the link
between intrusions and our mediators in two separate analyses. Workplace polychronicity is the
extent to which organizations stress the simultaneous performance of multiple tasks (Mattarelli et
al., 2015). Its cross-level effect on the relationship between intrusions and our mediators was not
significant, nor did our hypothesized results change on adding it. Research has also shown that
task interdependence can influence intrusions (Perlow, 1999; Van der Vegt et al., 2001), and on
adding it as a cross-level moderator of the relationship between intrusions and our mediators, our
hypothesized relationships did not change. But it did moderate the relationship between work
intrusions and belongingness (γ = .094, S.E. = .047, p = .043), such that this positive relationship
was stronger when task interdependence was higher (γ = .160, S.E. = .059, p = .007) than when it
was lower (γ = .002, S.E. = .046, p = .973)—a point to which we return in our discussion section.
Third, we probed the distinction between university and non-university employees in
terms of control over intrusions. The average number of intrusions did not vary across these two
groups of employees. Plus, these groups also did not differ based on our study variables, or other
relevant variables (e.g., age, job tenure, daily and weekly work hours, workplace polychronicity,
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 27
task interdependence, job complexity). But as noted in footnote 2, university employees reported
higher work scheduling autonomy and greater work interaction requirements than non-university
employees (Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006), which could be relevant to their level of control over
work intrusions. We thus probed the impact of these variables by modeling them as cross-level
moderators of the relationship between intrusions and our mediators in two separate analyses.
Our hypothesized relationships remained unchanged in both cases. While work interaction
requirements did not have an effect on the relationship between intrusions and our mediators,
work scheduling autonomy did moderate the relationship between intrusions and belongingness
(γ = .076, S.E. = .038, p = .042) such that this positive relationship was stronger when work
scheduling autonomy was higher (γ = .161, S.E. = .049, p = .001) than when it was lower (γ =
.008, S.E. = .056, p = .893). We discuss the implications of this finding in our discussion section.
Lastly, based on an anonymous reviewer’s suggestion, we split the Parke et al. (2018)
work intrusion scale into two factors
—Factor 1 had three items for intrusions where others seek
information/help or assign new tasks (e.g., ‘I was interrupted by people seeking information from
me,’ ‘I was interrupted by people seeking my help,’ ‘I was interrupted by people who gave or
assigned a new task to me’), and Factor 2 had two items for non-work intrusions or intrusions
that lead to information gain (e.g., ‘I was interrupted by people for non-work related matters
(e.g., socializing), and ‘I was interrupted by people who provided me work-related updates or
information’)—to probe whether these factors related differently with our mediators.
First, we ran a multilevel CFA to compare our hypothesized 5-factor model (in which all
intrusion items loaded onto a single factor) with a 6-factor model in which the intrusion items
were allowed to load onto two different factors, as described above. While the 6-factor model
An anonymous reviewer suggested that these two factors could be qualitatively different given the different types
of intrusions that make up these factors and can hence relate differently with our mediators. Accordingly, we ran a
supplemental analysis where we added these two factor as two different predictors of our mediators from Figure 1.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 28
with two work intrusion factors had an acceptable fit (χ2 = 846.79, df = 215, CFI = 0.91, RMSEA
= 0.05, SRMRwithin = .04), it was not significantly better than the more parsimonious 5-factor
model with a single work intrusion factor in it (Satorra–Bentler χ2diff = 9.15, df = 5, p = .103).
We did, however, run an exploratory analysis where we included these two intrusion factors as
separate predictors of the mediators from Figure 1. Results showed that the two factors related
differentially with our mediators—Factor 1 was significantly related to depletion (γ = .105, S.E.
= .049, p = .034), but not to belongingness (γ = .024, S.E. = .028, p = .390), while Factor 2 was
significantly related to belongingness (γ = .077, S.E. = .038, p = .04) but not to depletion (γ =
.033, S.E. = .055, p = .55). All our hypothesized second stage relationships remained unchanged.
This finding is interesting, and was something we had not considered, since prior work
with this measure has also treated it as unidimensional (Parke et al., 2018). As it pertains to the
theory we build and test here, we retained the more parsimonious 5-factor model (with a single
factor for the work intrusion scale) because this conceptualization is consistent with prior theory
and empirics in the work intrusion literature (e.g., Fletcher et al., 2018; Jett & George, 2003; Lin
et al., 2013; Parke et al., 2018; Rogers & Barber, 2019). Further, it also reflects our theoretical
focus at the outset of this study. However, the results of our exploratory analysis provide what
we feel are crucial directions for future research, as we explain in more detail in the discussion.
Being interrupted by others is a common occurrence in today’s workplaces given the
emphasis on open workspaces, virtual collaboration, and multitasking. Using a self-regulation
lens, we showed that while the interruption and switching of tasks during intrusions can take a
toll on employees’ self-regulatory resources, the social interaction with the interrupter can help
boost their level of belongingness. These two mechanisms were linked negatively and positively
to job satisfaction, respectively. Overall, we advance a balanced understanding of intrusions that
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 29
accounts for both their task and social aspects, as well as their dark- and bright-side effects.
Our central theoretical contribution is to the literature on work intrusions. By unpacking
the consequences of the social interaction occurring during work intrusions, we provide an
expanded and more complete view of the core experience of work intrusions. Past research,
whether on negative or positive outcomes of intrusions, has largely ignored this social aspect of
work intrusions, focusing instead on the consequences of intrusions’ task-based aspect (Jett &
George, 2003; Leroy et al., 2020). Our results suggest that this may have left out an influential
part of work intrusions’ core experience, resulting in an incomplete understanding of this
workplace phenomenon. By demonstrating that work intrusions can be an avenue to fulfill one’s
need to belong, we highlight the importance of work intrusions’ social aspect, and also advance a
novel mechanism—belongingness—that explains why work intrusions can have positive effects.
Our second theoretical contribution lies in demonstrating a positive relationship between
work intrusions and job satisfaction that is counter to most of prior work intrusion research. To
our knowledge, we are the first to theorize about, and empirically show, this positive relationship
based on our focus on work intrusions’ social aspect. We believe this is a crucial insight because
in its absence, it is possible that practitioners and future researchers may continue to believe that
work intrusions uniformly harm job satisfaction, based on the vast amount of past research that
has found a negative relationship between these constructs (e.g., Baethge & Rigotti, 2013;
Cooper et al., 1989; Hunter et al., 2019; Keller et al., 2020; Pachler et al., 2018). Such a
conclusion could, in turn, result in recommendations and interventions to reduce work intrusions,
given that job satisfaction is a key concern for managers in the workplace. Indeed, we do see
writings in the popular media that cast work intrusions as unwanted events and recommend
elimination of work intrusions (e.g., Schulte, 2015; Steinhilber, 2017). Our findings suggest that
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 30
such a conclusion may be premature, and we bring a new perspective to this relationship by
showing that work intrusions can at times even enhance job satisfaction. In the process, we also
extend the recent research on work intrusions’ positive effects by identifying job satisfaction as a
potential positive outcome of work intrusions (e.g., Hunter et al., 2019; Sonnentag et al., 2018).
Third, recent studies have provided crucial insights by modeling both the positive and the
negative effects of work intrusions as parallel paths in the same model (e.g., Hunter et al., 2019;
Sonnentag et al., 2018). Yet, by modeling these mechanisms in parallel, there is an assumption
that these paths convey the positive and negative effects of intrusions onto subsequent outcomes
independently. By advancing theory about how belongingness stemming from intrusions’ social
aspect can buffer the negative effect of depletion on job satisfaction and finding support for it,
we show that these positive and negative mechanisms can actually interact. Thus, we extend
theory by showing that work intrusions may have a more complicated effect on outcomes than
previously thought and that understanding this effect may require a joint consideration of both
the bright- and dark-consequences of work intrusions. This finding also answers the call for an
integration of interaction effects in the study of dynamic well-being (Sonnentag, 2015).
Fourth, the above interaction effect also adds to self-regulation research on factors that
offset the negative effects of self-regulatory resource depletion in the workplace (Lanaj et al.,
2016; Lilius, 2012). To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that in a workplace setting,
experiencing belongingness can somewhat counteract the effects of self-regulatory resource
depletion, at the within-person level. This is a key contribution as depletion has been linked to
various deleterious effects. We complement studies that have uncovered person-level factors that
buffer daily depletion (e.g., Rosen et al., 2016), by showing that even in the absence of these
factors, daily belongingness could be an antidote to the feeling of depletion in the workplace.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 31
Given the widespread occurrence of work intrusions, insight into how employees are
affected by intrusions can help managers better manage employees’ workplace experience. In the
past, scholars and popular writers have often recommended the reduction of work intrusions,
based on the negative effects of work intrusions found in prior research (Baethge & Rigotti,
2013; Lin et al., 2013; Perlow, 1999; Schulte, 2015; Steinhilber, 2017). However, our study
shows that work intrusions could also have potential beneficial effects, indicating that reducing
all work intrusions may, in fact, eliminate some of these potential benefits. Thus, we call for
better management, rather than the complete elimination, of these workplace occurrences.
Specifically, work intrusions can have beneficial effects by providing an avenue for the
fulfillment of interrupted employees’ need to belong. Our supplemental analyses indicated that
high task interdependence and high work scheduling autonomy may potentially boost the
positive association between work intrusions and belongingness at the day level. It could be that
emphasizing these components more may help unlock the beneficial effects of work intrusions’
social aspect even more by promoting belongingness, which can positively affect employee job
satisfaction and also buffer the negative effects of self-regulatory depletion on job satisfaction.
Our results also showed that self-regulatory resource depletion is an important reason for
the negative effects of work intrusions. Since the same central store of self-regulatory resources
is used to fuel various acts of self-control (Baumeister & Vohs, 2016), it is possible that even
interventions that are not targeted specifically at managing work intrusions per say, but which
are focused more generally on reducing self-regulatory demands in the work environment (e.g.,
redesigning workplaces to reduce distracting background noises or implementing less stringent
norms of emotional labor in the workplace) could help reduce the negative effects of work
intrusions. The reason is that if other general workplace demands on employees’ self-regulatory
resources are lessened, they will have more resources available to handle the self-regulatory
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 32
demands of work intrusions, reducing the negative impact of intrusions on their well-being.
In sum, given the inevitability of being interrupted by others in the workplace and the
bright side of intrusions unearthed in our study, we call on managers to adopt a more balanced
view of work intrusions—one that not only focuses on intrusions’ negative effects on employee
well-being but also acknowledges intrusions’ potential benefits for employee well-being.
Limitations and Future Research
There are two approaches to studying work intrusions—frequency and episodic (Puranik
et al., 2020). We use the former to study the aggregate effect of multiple intrusions. This in line
with the call by Baethge et al. (2015) who noted that given the large number of intrusions in the
workplace, it is crucial to study intrusions’ cumulative effects. Plus, the focus on the frequency
of work intrusions is aligned with recent work in this area (e.g., Fletcher et al., 2018; Hunter et
al., 2019; Lin et al., 2013; Parke et al., 2018; Sonnentag et al., 2018). A frequency approach also
makes sense here since our hypothesized mediators—self-regulatory resource depletion and
belongingness—tend to be affected by the aggregate effect of multiple episodes employees
encounter over a day (e.g., Bernstein et al., 2018; Lanaj et al., 2016; Milek et al., 2018). This
approach, however, is less suitable for studying any single intrusion episode in detail, which may
be needed when interest is in event-level attributes of intrusions. An episodic approach that
considers each intrusion separately (e.g., Beal et al., 2005) and thus allows one to zoom in on the
specific contents of each work intrusion such as, say, the attributes of the social interaction with
the interrupter (e.g., duration, complexity, valence, topic etc.) may help in such cases.
Another way of exploring whether different work intrusions have different effects is by
checking if the work intrusion construct has different underlying dimensions defined by different
types of intrusions. Our exploratory analyses of the two potential factors underlying the Parke et
al. (2018) scale may be relevant in this regard. For instance, Factor-1, which primarily comprised
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 33
of only task-related intrusions, was related to depletion but not belongingness, while Factor-2,
which was made of one non-work intrusion item and one item capturing intrusions for work-
related updates, was related to belongingness but not depletion. This seems to hint that intrusions
related to work tasks may predominantly result in depletion due to high attention-switching
demands, but may not facilitate belongingness; while intrusions that are non-work-related or
which lead to information gain could facilitate belongingness as they might involve a significant
social interaction component, but may not result in depletion. In other words, there could
potentially be a difference in being interrupted for social reasons as opposed to being interrupted
for work-related help or information or for being assigned new tasks. Thus, although scholars
have treated work intrusion as a unidimensional construct in the past (e.g., Jett & George, 2003;
Lin et al., 2013; Parke et al., 2018; Rogers & Barber, 2019; Wilkes et al., 2018), the above
described results of our exploratory analysis hint that focusing on the reason for the intrusion
could be a way of delineating different dimensions underlying the work intrusion construct.
However, this exploratory analysis is not without shortcomings. A theoretical concern
with this analysis is that we do not have well-defined theoretical constructs underlying each of
these factors (e.g., Factor-2 is a mix of work and non-work intrusions and so, its theoretical
meaning is not entirely clear). An empirical concern is that splitting the presently unidimensional
Parke et al. (2018) scale into separate three-item and two-item scales may not be ideal from a
psychometric standpoint (Kline, 2016), especially given the low reliability of the two-item
measure (average Cronbach alpha and omega were both .53). Plus, the smaller number of items
could also mean that these scales underspecify the content domain for different work intrusion
types. These limitations notwithstanding, the exploration of different dimensions of work
intrusions and the relationship of these dimensions with key outcomes is a crucial avenue for
future research that can provide a fine-grained understanding of work intrusions and their effects.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 34
As one example of this, scholars could examine the work/non-work distinction as one
way to classify the different dimensions of intrusions. Work-related intrusions could perhaps
instill a sense of competence, while non-work intrusions could maybe provide respite from the
monotony of daily work. Alternately, scholars could also classify work intrusions based on
whether they are in-person or virtual in nature. In-person work intrusions include a rich set of
non-verbal cues and may also require immediate response from the interrupted person, whereas
work intrusions occurring virtually (e.g., instant messenger chat) may at times lack these factors.
There is thus substantial scope to tease apart potential underlying dimensions of work intrusions.
Scholars can also extend our research by exploring boundary conditions for our model.
While we have outlined how our mediating mechanisms interact, there can be other factors that
shape the intrusion experience. Daily workload could be one factor, with demands linked to high
workload adding to intrusions’ negative relationship with depletion and reducing the positive one
with belongingness. Employees’ occupation could be another factor that shapes the experience of
intrusions. For some occupations (e.g., nurses) the stakes of errors are more, and this could shape
employee reactions to intrusions. Alternately, one’s occupation could affect the level of ‘control’
one has over intrusions, in turn, impacting one’s response to intrusions. For instance, we found
high task interdependence and work scheduling autonomy seem to bolster the positive effects of
intrusions’ social aspect. It is also possible that occupations differ in the extent to which people
are exposed to similar versus different types of intrusions. Or there could be variation in the time,
duration, or weekly/daily distribution of work intrusions across different occupations that could
influence the experience of work intrusions. We invite scholars to build further on our findings to
explore how work intrusions affect employees in different work contexts and occupations.
Lastly, an interesting point was the lack of interaction effect of belongingness on the
relationship between stress and job satisfaction—which though not formally hypothesized, could
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 35
be evidence of the conceptual difference between the depletion and stress pathways in our
model. Although stress and depletion are related, they are still distinct constructs with differing
physiological and psychological experiences (see: Baumeister & Vohs, 2016). In the case of
work intrusions specifically, the eliciting conditions for stress (e.g., time-pressure: Jett &
George, 2003) differ from those responsible for depletion (e.g., self-regulatory demands
associated with (re)switching attention between tasks and regulating one’s negative reactions to
hindered goal progress: Lin et al., 2013; Muraven & Baumeister, 2000). Given this, the
difference in the interaction effect of belongingness on the relationship between stress and job
satisfaction and that between depletion and job satisfaction seems to suggest that the positive
experience of belongingness may perhaps be more relevant in counteracting the effects of
depletion (e.g., by boosting self-regulatory capacity: Blackhart et al., 2011) than buffering the
negative effects of stress. Thus, future researchers have the opportunity to probe if other factors
can counteract the negative effects of stress by addressing the eliciting condition of stress (i.e.,
time pressure) in case of intrusions. Perhaps people’s style of managing their daily schedule or
their level of trait polychronicity (i.e., tendency of doing multiple things simultaneously) could
be relevant variables to explore in such instances (e.g., Pachler et al., 2018; Parke et al., 2018).
Given their widespread occurrence in the workplace, understanding the consequences of
work intrusions has theoretical and practical significance. By expanding the research focus onto
work intrusions’ social aspect, we provide a comprehensive view of this workplace phenomenon
and also contribute to the recent research that has started exploring the positive effects of work
intrusions. We do this while not ignoring the task-based aspect of work intrusions and its
negative effects uncovered by prior research. The result is a balanced view of work intrusions
that sets the stage for more research on the social aspect and the bright side of work intrusions.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 36
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EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 47
Percentage of Within-Individual Variance among Daily Variables
Work intrusions (Lunch-time)
Self-regulatory resource depletion
Job satisfaction (End of workday)
Note. % Within-individual variance was computed as σ2 / (τ2 + σ2 )
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 48
Means, Standard Deviations, and Within-Individual Correlations
1. Work intrusions (Lunch-time)
2. Self-regulatory resource depletion
3. Belongingness (Lunch-time)
4. Stress (Lunch-time)
5. Job satisfaction (End of workday)
Note. Level-1 n = 1147; Level-2 n = 111. Correlations represent the group-mean centered
relationships among the daily variables. * p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 49
Results of Multi-Level Path Analysis for the Model in Figure 1
(End of workday)
Work intrusions (Lunch-time)
Self-regulatory resource depletion
Self-regulatory resource depletion
Stress X Belongingness
Lagged Controls (prior day values)
Prior self-regulatory resource
Prior job satisfaction
Through self-regulatory resource depletion
-.011* [-.023 to -.003]
(at high belongingness)
-.002 [-.015 to .005]
(at low belongingness)
-.019* [-.038 to -.006]
Indirect effect difference
.017* [.004 to .038 ]
.009* [.002 to .021]
Note. Level-1 n = 1147; Level-2 n = 111; γ values reflect unstandardized coefficients. For the indirect effects, values in the
brackets reflect 95% confidence interval. * p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 50
Figure 1. Within-individual, positive and negative effects of daily work intrusions (i.e., work
interruptions by other people) on job satisfaction. Solid lines represent the hypothesized model,
and dotted lines represent the relationships related to the alternate mediating mechanism of stress.
In line with recommendations by ESM scholars (e.g., Beal, 2015), we controlled for (a) lagged
versions of all three mediators and the outcome (i.e. their values from the previous day), (b) linear
trends (by controlling for study day and weekday), and (c) cyclical trends (by controlling for the
sine and cosine of the weekday variable). For ease of representation, we do not show these lagged
and temporal control variables in the above figure. Also, the three mediators were allowed to
covary to capture any unaccounted covariance among them.
EFFECTS OF DAILY WORK INTERRUPTIONS 51
Figure 2. Moderating effect of belongingness on the within-individual relationship between self-
regulatory resource depletion and job satisfaction. The x-axis (self-regulatory resource depletion)
reflects a range of 2 standard deviation (i.e., ±1 SD from the mean for higher and lower levels of
self-regulatory resource depletion). The y-axis (job satisfaction) similarly reflects a range of
approximately 2 SDs. The interaction pattern corresponds to the predictions of self-regulation
theory. That is, the relationship between self-regulatory resource depletion and job satisfaction is
negative and significant at lower levels of belongingness (γ = - .126, S.E. = .032, p < .001), and
not significant at higher levels of belongingness (γ = - .016, S.E. = .030, p = .591).