The Recovery Experience Questionnaire: Development and
Validation of a Measure for Assessing Recuperation and Unwinding
University of Konstanz
Bowling Green State University
Drawing on the mood regulation and job-stress recovery literature, four self-report measures for
assessing how individuals unwind and recuperate from work during leisure time were developed
(Study 1). Conﬁrmatory factor analyses with a calibration and a cross-validation sample (total
N ⫽ 930) showed that four recovery experiences can be differentiated: psychological detachment
from work, relaxation, mastery, and control (Study 2). Examination of the nomological net in a
subsample of Study 2 (N ⫽ 271) revealed moderate relations of the recovery experiences with
measures of job stressors and psychological well-being; relations with coping and personality
variables were generally low (Study 3). Potential applications for the future use of these short
4-item measures in longitudinal and diary research are discussed.
Keywords: job stress, recovery, unwinding, scale development
Individuals who face stressful work situations ex-
perience poor psychological well-being and tend to
suffer from health problems (De Lange, Taris,
Kompier, Houtman, & Bongers, 2003; Sonnentag &
Frese, 2003). For example, individuals exposed to
job stressors have an increased likelihood for devel-
oping burnout and other symptoms of poor well-
being (Demerouti, Bakker, & Bulters, 2004; Garst,
Frese, & Molenaar, 2000). In addition, stressful work
situations might negatively affect job performance
Processes related to recovering and unwinding
from job stressors can be relevant for individuals’
health, well-being, and job performance (deCroon,
Sluiter, & Blonk, 2004; Eden, 2001). However, past
research on recovery and recuperation from job stress
mainly focused on general effects of off-job episodes
such as vacations (Fritz & Sonnentag, 2006;
Westman & Eden, 1997) or examined speciﬁc off-job
activities such as social, physical, or low-effort ac-
tivities (Sonnentag, 2001; Strauss-Blasche,
Reithofer, Schobersberger, Ekmekcioglu, & Marktl,
2005). Because the underlying psychological experi-
ences associated with recovery gained little research
attention so far (for an exception see Fritz & Son-
nentag, 2005), it remains unexplored why speciﬁc
off-job activities are associated with recovery.
Probably, it is not a speciﬁc activity per se that
helps to recover from job stress but its underlying
attributes such as relaxation or psychological dis-
tance from job-related issues. Persons may differ
with respect to the speciﬁc activities they experience
as recovering while the underlying psychological ex-
periences crucial for recovery may be relatively uni-
form across persons. For example, one person might
recover from job stress by going for a walk while the
other recovers by reading a book. Although the ac-
tivities are different, the underlying processes (e.g.,
relaxation) are rather similar. Going beyond the spe-
ciﬁc activities and examining the underlying experi-
ences is crucial for getting more insight into the
psychological processes leading to recovery. To this
end, it is necessary to have reliable and valid mea-
sures available that capture the core functional as-
pects of such recovery experiences. In this paper, we
present a new instrument that assesses speciﬁc recov-
ery experiences, namely psychological detachment
from work, relaxation, mastery, and control. In addi-
tion, we examine the relation between these recovery
experiences and potential predictors (work situation
Sabine Sonnentag, Department of Psychology, University
of Konstanz; Charlotte Fritz, Department of Psychology,
Bowling Green State University.
We are grateful to Kerstin Breustedt, Gabriele Bruns,
Maike Debus, Julia Go¨bber, Astrid Kassner, Undine Kruel,
Eva J. Mojza, Kim Pru¨␤, Holger Roth, Jeannine Sennewald,
and Gudrun Smith for their involvement in data collection
and to Carmen Binnewies, Jana Ku¨hnel, Jennifer McInroe,
Eva J. Mojza, as well as to Lois Tetrick and three anony-
mous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of
Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-
dressed to Sabine Sonnentag, Department of Psychology,
University of Konstanz, Postbox D 42, D- 78457 Konstanz,
Germany. E-mail: email@example.com
Journal of Occupational Health Psychology
2007, Vol. 12, No. 3, 204 –221
Copyright 2007 by the American Psychological Association
1076-8998/07/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/1076-89184.108.40.206
variables, coping, and personality) as well as poten-
tial consequences (psychological well-being).
Conceptualizations of Recovery
Recovery refers to a process during which individ-
ual functional systems that have been called upon
during a stressful experience return to their prestres-
sor levels (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). The recovery
process can be seen as a process opposite to the strain
process. It results in restoration of impaired mood
and action prerequisites and is often also reﬂected in
a decrease in physiological strain indicators.
To develop an understanding of successful recov-
ery experiences we draw on theories on recovery
processes (Effort-Recovery Model; Conservation of
Resources Theory) as well as on the mood regulation
literature. The Effort-Recovery Model (Meijman &
Mulder, 1998) holds that effort expenditure at work
leads to load reactions such as fatigue or physiolog-
ical activation. Under normal conditions, once the
individual is no longer exposed to the work or similar
demands, load reactions are reversed and recovery
occurs. According to this model, it is an important
precondition for recovery that the functional systems
taxed during work will not be called upon any longer.
The Conservation of Resources Theory (Hobfoll,
1998) assumes that people strive to obtain, retain, and
protect their resources. Resources can be external
entities such as objects or ﬁnancial assets as well as
internal attributes such as personal characteristics or
energies. Stress threatens these resources and as a
consequence may harm health and well-being. To
recover from stress, individuals have to gain new
resources and restore threatened or lost resources.
Stress recovery on a day-to-day basis particularly
refers to internal resources such as energy or positive
mood. Thus, the Effort-Recovery Model and the
Conservation of Resources Theory suggest two com-
plementary processes by which recovery occurs.
First, it is important to refrain from work demands
and to avoid activities that call upon the same func-
tional systems or internal resources as those required
at work. Second, gaining new internal resources such
as energy, self-efﬁcacy or positive mood will addi-
tionally help to restore threatened resources.
Research on mood regulation offers a more spe-
ciﬁc insight into the processes that are relevant for
recovery. Because stressful work conditions often
lead to impaired mood (Fuller et al., 2003), mood
repair is one of the core functions of recovery. Re-
search on mood regulation identiﬁed a range of dif-
ferent strategies individuals pursue to improve their
mood including both cognitive and behavioral ap-
proaches (Parkinson, Totterdell, Briner, & Reynolds,
1996; Thayer, Newman, & McClain, 1994).
Parkinson and Totterdell (1999) suggested a clas-
siﬁcation of mood regulation strategies comprising
diversionary strategies and engagement strategies.
Diversionary strategies aim at avoiding a negative or
stressful situation and at seeking distraction from it.
Engagement strategies are characterized by confront-
ing or accepting the negative or stressful situation.
Diversionary strategies seem to be most relevant and
promising for stress recovery because engagement
strategies keep the individual cognitively occupied
with the stressful situation and its potential effects
which make recovery less likely.
Among others, diversionary strategies comprise
psychological detachment from work (i.e., mentally
switching off), relaxation-oriented strategies, and
mastery-oriented strategies (Parkinson & Totterdell,
1999). These divisionary strategies, particularly de-
tachment from work and relaxation-oriented strate-
gies, should be useful for recovery because they
imply that no further demands are made on functional
systems called upon during work. Mastery-oriented
strategies should support the recovery process by
building up new internal resources (e.g., self-
efﬁcacy). In addition, because control is a crucial
external resource that provides the opportunity to
gain internal resources (Hobfoll, 1998), we propose
that the experience of control is one important recov-
Although being physically away from the work-
place might be important for recovery, it may not be
sufﬁcient (Hartig, Johansson, & Kylin, 2007). We
propose that becoming psychologically detached
from work is a crucial aspect of any recovery process.
Etzion, Eden, and Lapidot (1998) introduced the term
detachment to describe an “individual’s sense of be-
ing away from the work situation” (p. 579). Detach-
ment implies not to be occupied by work-related
duties such as receiving job-related phone calls at
home or actively engaging in job-related activities. In
our view, psychological detachment also means to
disengage oneself mentally from work. It implies to
stop thinking about one’s work and job-related prob-
lems or opportunities. Psychological detachment
from work goes beyond the pure physical absence
205RECOVERY EXPERIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
from the workplace during off-job time and abstain-
ing from job-related tasks. It implies leaving the
workplace behind oneself in psychological terms
(Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005).
According to the Effort-Recovery Model, recov-
ery occurs when no further demands are made on
the functional systems called upon during work
(Meijman & Mulder, 1998). When individuals psy-
chologically detach from work during off-job time,
the chances increase that demands on the func-
tional systems taxed during work are reduced.
However, when individuals do not detach and are
still thinking about job-related issues, the identical
functional systems are continuously challenged
and no full recovery can occur.
Empirical evidence suggests that psychological de-
tachment is related to recovery from job stress. For
example, Etzion et al. (1998) showed that detachment
exerts a moderating effect on the relation between
stressors and burnout. Using daily survey data, Son-
nentag and Bayer (2005) reported that individuals
experiencing psychological detachment from work
during leisure time reported better mood at the end of
Relaxation is a process often associated with lei-
sure activities. It is characterized by a state of low
activation and increased positive affect (Stone,
Kennedy-Moore, & Neale, 1995). Relaxation may
result from deliberately chosen activities aiming at
the relaxation of body and mind such as progressive
muscle relaxation (Jacobson, 1938) or meditation
(Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004).
Some degree of relaxation may also be achieved
when performing other activities such as taking a
light walk in a beautiful natural environment (Hartig,
Evans, Jamner, Davis, & Ga¨rling, 2003) or listening
to music (Pelletier, 2004). Many individuals expect
relaxation from activities that put few social demands
on them, that require little physical or intellectual
effort, and that present no challenge to them (Tinsley
& Eldredge, 1995). The potential for relaxation ex-
periences to reduce activation and to increase posi-
tive affect are important for recovery in two respects.
First, as Brosschot, Pieper, and Thayer (2005) sug-
gested, prolonged activation resulting particularly
from stressful work is an important mediating mech-
anism by which job stressors translate into illness.
Therefore, processes that reduce this prolonged acti-
vation are crucial in order to restore an organism’s
prestressor state. Second, Frederickson (2000) argued
that positive emotions can undo the effects of nega-
tive emotions. Positive affect resulting from relax-
ation experiences will be helpful in reducing negative
affect resulting from job stress. Empirical evidence
suggests that relaxation experiences help in reducing
stress-related complaints, in the short as well as in the
long run (Stone et al., 1995; Van der Klink, Blonk,
Schene, & Van Dijk, 2001).
Mastery experiences refer to off-job activities that
distract from the job by providing challenging expe-
riences and learning opportunities in other domains.
These activities offer opportunities for experiencing
competence and proﬁciency. Typical examples in-
clude taking a language class, climbing a mountain,
or learning a new hobby (Fritz & Sonnentag, 2006).
Also volunteer work in which one can demonstrate
one’s competencies can include aspects of mastery
experiences (Ruderman, Ohlott, Panzer, & King,
Mastery experiences challenge the individual with-
out overtaxing his or her capabilities. Attaining mas-
tery experiences is not necessarily effortless but re-
quires a certain degree of self-regulation. For
example, for experiencing mastery by taking a lan-
guage class, it is necessary to exercise some control
over oneself in order to drive to the course and to
overcome the impulse to spend a lazy evening at
home (cf. Vohs & Baumeister, 2004). Although mas-
tery experiences might put additional demands on the
individual, these experiences are expected to result in
recovery because they will help to build up new
internal resources such as skills, competencies, and
self-efﬁcacy (Bandura, 1997; Hobfoll, 1998). In ad-
dition, mastery experiences during off-job time will
help in improving positive mood (Parkinson &
First empirical evidence suggests that mastery ex-
periences during off-job time are related to recovery.
For example, mastery experienced during a vacation
was negatively related to exhaustion after the vaca-
tion (Fritz & Sonnentag, 2006). Similarly, the pursuit
of sport—an activity that is often associated with
mastery experiences—is related to an improvement
in affect (Rook & Zijlstra, 2006; Sonnentag & Natter,
Control During Leisure Time
Individuals have a general desire to control events
in their life (Kelley, 1971). Control can be described
206 SONNENTAG AND FRITZ
as a person’s ability to choose an action from two or
more options. Here, we will focus on the degree to
which a person can decide which activity to pursue
during leisure time, as well as when and how to
pursue this activity.
Personal control seems to be associated with pos-
itive reactions (Burger, 1989). It can lead to a posi-
tive reevaluation of potentially stressful situations
and is associated with lower distress and higher psy-
chological well-being (Lazarus, 1966). Using an ex-
perience-sampling approach, Larson (1989) found
that the experience of control during the day was
positively related to happiness. Thus, individual well-
being is increased when one feels in control of im-
portant life domains (Bandura, 1997).
In contrast, the perception that one’s ability to
react to and inﬂuence the social world is reduced can
be associated with higher levels of psychological
distress (Rosenﬁeld, 1989). This experience of low
control can further result in negative self-evaluations
and decreased self-worth which again can be associ-
ated with anxiety or depression (Rosenﬁeld, 1989).
The experience of control during leisure time may
satisfy one’s desire for control by increasing self-
efﬁcacy and feelings of competence, which in turn
promote well-being. In this sense, control may act as
an external resource that enhances recovery from
work during off-job time. In addition, control during
leisure time gives the individual the opportunity to
choose those speciﬁc leisure activities that he or she
prefers and that may be especially supportive for the
recovery process. Increased levels of recovery may
then become evident in a person’s increased well-
being and potential for action regulation.
Accordingly, Grifﬁn, Fuhrer, Stansfeld, and
Marmot (2002) found that women experiencing low
control at home showed higher levels of depression
ﬁve years later than women high in control at home
while men experiencing low control at home showed
higher levels of depression as well as anxiety than
men with high control at home.
Potential Predictors and Consequences of
Job Stressors and Job Control as Potential
Predictors of Recovery Experiences
We propose that job stressors and job control are
associated with recovery experiences. Job stressors
are conditions in the work situation that make action
regulation more difﬁcult (Frese & Zapf, 1994). Typ-
ical job stressors include workload (time pressure,
overtime), role ambiguity, and situational constraints.
Job control refers to an individual’s discretion to
determine the timing and methods of his or her ac-
tions (Jackson, Wall, Martin, & Davids, 1993) and is
seen as a resource in the action regulation process
(Frese & Zapf, 1994).
We expect negative relations of job stressors with all
four recovery experiences. First, individuals facing job
stressors such as time pressure or overtime might ﬁnd it
difﬁcult to detach from work during off-job time. When
experiencing job stressors, that is when being con-
fronted with problems and time constraints at work,
individuals will be more likely to keep thinking about
their job in order to develop solutions for these difﬁ-
culties. In addition, they will anticipate problems and
constraints for the next working day. Empirical evi-
dence suggests that stressful job situations are nega-
tively related to psychological detachment from work
during off-job time (Cropley & Purvis, 2003; Grebner,
Semmer, & Elfering, 2005).
Second, job stressors will be negatively related to
relaxation experiences off the job. Research has
shown that exposure to stressors is associated with
prolonged activation (Brosschot et al., 2005). For
example, employees exposed to high job stress
showed elevated heart rate and systolic blood pres-
sure after work (Vrijkotte, Van Doornen, & De Geus,
2000). This higher level of activation caused by job
stressors will make it more difﬁcult to arrive at a state
of relaxation during off-job time.
Third, job stressors increase fatigue (Zohar,
Tzischinski, & Epstein, 2003) which makes it more
difﬁcult to engage in self-regulatory processes
(Muraven, Tice, & Baumeister, 1998). Because ac-
tivities that result in mastery experiences require a
certain degree of effort and self-regulation, job stres-
sors and associated fatigue will make it less likely to
experience mastery off the job because it is more
difﬁcult to initiate and uphold the respective activi-
ties. Accordingly, research showed that job stressors
are negatively related to the engagement in active
leisure activities such as sport (van Hooff, Geurts,
Kompier, & Taris, 2007).
Job stressors may also decrease the experience of
control outside work. For example, high work de-
mands in terms of long work hours or work brought
home leaves less time available for leisure activities.
This reduces the amount of time the individual can
have control over during off-work time. In addition,
as mentioned above, job stressors such as time pres-
sure or situational constraints may increase fatigue
(Zohar et al., 2003). This may reduce the amount of
internal resources available for self-regulation and
207RECOVERY EXPERIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
decision making. As a result, the individual may
perceive to have lower control during leisure time
although the “objective” level of control may be
With respect to job control we expect a less uni-
form pattern of relations. We hypothesize negative
relations between job control and psychological de-
tachment and relaxation, and positive relations with
mastery and control. Job control means having deci-
sion latitude about how to do one’s work. This im-
plies that often several options about how to proceed
are available. Therefore, one will be more inclined to
continue thinking about one’s job after work and
psychological detachment from work will be more
difﬁcult. Similarly, because high job control will
stimulate continuous thinking about work during off-
job time, relaxation will be more difﬁcult (Brosschot
et al., 2005).
Job control enables individuals to take an active
approach toward their environment that is reﬂected in
the pursuit of learning activities (Taris & Kompier,
2005) and other proactive behaviors (Frese, Kring,
Soose, & Zempel, 1996). Because of spillover pro-
cesses across different life domains (Edwards &
Rothbard, 2000) such an active approach should gen-
eralize beyond the job domain and result in the en-
actment of more mastery experiences also during
off-job time. Moreover, job control enables individ-
uals to adapt their working strategies and effort ex-
penditure to their current state (Taris et al., 2006). As
a consequence, they will be less fatigued after work
and will ﬁnd it less difﬁcult to engage in effortful
activities that provide the opportunities for mastery
Perceiving and experiencing job control will make
it more likely that an individual will also try to exert
control during off-job time (Meissner, 1971). This
means that perceptions of control may “spill over”
into the nonwork domain and that experiencing job
control will be associated with high levels of expe-
rienced control during off-job time.
Coping Styles as Potential Predictors of
We assume that coping styles are related to recov-
ery experiences. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) deﬁned
coping as “constantly changing cognitive and behav-
ioral efforts to manage speciﬁc external and/or inter-
nal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding
the resources of the person” (p. 141). As coping
refers to an individual’s attempts to deal with stress,
recovery activities can be seen as a way of time-
delayed coping with job stress. However, the con-
cepts are not identical. Whereas coping refers to the
stressor and to the way individuals deal with it,
recovery refers to the way they restore their internal
One categorization of coping styles refers to the
differentiation between problem-focused and emo-
tion-focused coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).
Problem-focused coping includes problem-solving
behaviors and aims at directly addressing and chang-
ing the stressor or other aspects of the situation.
Examples of problem-focused coping include active
coping, planning, suppression of competing activi-
ties, restraint coping, and seeking of instrumental
social support (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989).
Emotion-focused coping refers to attempts to manage
cognitions or emotions directly, without changing the
environment. Examples include seeking of emotional
social support, positive reinterpretation, acceptance,
or denial. Carver et al. (1989) suggested a third
category including less successful coping attempts
such as focus on emotions and disengagement.
We propose that some, but not all, coping styles
are associated with recovery experiences. Speciﬁ-
cally, we do not expect a signiﬁcant relation between
problem-focused coping and psychological detach-
ment from work or relaxation. One might argue that
seeking solutions for work-related problems or stres-
sors keeps individuals cognitively busy with the
problem so that psychological detachment and relax-
ation would be impeded. However, as problem-
solving attempts—probably already during working
time—are successful individuals will ﬁnd it easier to
detach themselves from work during off-job time and
to relax. We expect that problem-focused coping will
show positive, albeit weak, relations with mastery
and control. Individuals who actively address stres-
sors might also approach their off-job time more
actively. Therefore, they will engage more in activi-
ties that provide mastery experiences and will expe-
rience more control. With respect to emotion-focused
coping we propose a positive relation with all four
recovery experiences. As individuals try to manage
their cognitions and emotions related to job stress,
they will try to seek experiences that give them some
relief and improve their positive mood. However,
particularly with respect to mastery and control we
do not expect strong associations. When it comes to
the coping styles that Carver et al. (1989) assumed to
be less useful such as disengagement or focus on
emotions, the similarity between disengagement and
psychological detachment from work is obvious.
208 SONNENTAG AND FRITZ
Therefore, we hypothesize a positive relation be-
tween disengagement and psychological detachment.
With respect to the other three recovery experiences
or focus on emotions, we do not propose any signif-
Personality as a Potential Predictor of
We propose that some, but not all, of the Big Five
personality dimensions are related to recovery expe-
riences. We mainly postulate relations between con-
scientiousness and emotional stability on the one
hand and recovery experiences on the other. Except
for one speciﬁc relation we do not expect openness to
experience, agreeableness, and extraversion to be re-
lated to the recovery experiences.
Conscientiousness refers to the extent to which an
individual is orderly, self-disciplined, achievement-
oriented, and reliable (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Costa
& McCrae, 1992). As conscientious individuals take
their jobs seriously, they might also think about their
jobs during off-job time. For example, they might
reﬂect about how to do their work during the upcom-
ing workday. It will be more difﬁcult for them to
psychologically detach from work and relax during
off-work time. At the same time, because they are
achievement-oriented, they might not limit their am-
bitions and self-discipline to their jobs but will also
deliberately pursue activities that offer mastery ex-
periences in other life domains.
Emotional stability is an individual’s tendency to
experience positive emotional states and to show
good emotional adjustment to stressful events (Costa
& McCrae, 1992). It is necessary for regulating one’s
feelings and reactions to stress. Therefore, individu-
als high in emotional stability will not be bothered
much by stressful events encountered at work. They
will ﬁnd it easier to psychologically detach them-
selves from work and relax during off-job time. As
emotionally stable individuals have a more positive
approach toward their lives, they will also be more
inclined to seek challenging experiences during off-
job time. As they are more tolerable toward stressful
situations, they will be more willing to accept the
demanding nature of activities associated with mas-
tery experiences. Therefore, we hypothesize that
emotional stability will be positively related to mas-
tery experiences. In addition, we propose a positive
relation between emotional stability and control dur-
ing off-job time. As time off the job is often associ-
ated with additional stressors from the family do-
main, individuals high on emotional stability might
feel less emotionally affected by these stressors and
experience more control.
Openness to experience describes individuals in
terms of their creativity, ﬂexibility, and willingness
to take risks (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Because indi-
viduals high on openness to experience are curious
and search for new learning opportunities, we expect
that they will look for opportunities to engage in
mastery experiences. Therefore, we hypothesize a
positive relation between openness to experience and
mastery. We do not expect that openness to experi-
ence will be related to any of the three other recovery
Agreeableness is an individual’s tendency to be
kind, gentle, and to get along well with others in
social settings (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Therefore,
agreeableness should be related to the quality of
interpersonal relations during off-job time. However,
it should be independent of the four recovery expe-
Extraversion refers to the extent to which individ-
uals are sociable, assertive, and energized by social
interactions (Costa & McCrae, 1992). We assume
that both extravert and introvert individuals have the
potential to psychologically detach from work, to
relax, to experience mastery and control—although
the speciﬁc activities by which they reach these ex-
periences may largely differ.
Psychological Well-Being as a
As recovery experiences help in unwinding from
stress, they will contribute to psychological well-
being. Here we focus on indicators of (impaired)
well-being (e.g., burnout, health complaints, and de-
pressive symptoms), need for recovery, life satisfac-
tion, and sleep.
Unfavorable work situations are associated with
impaired psychological well-being such as health
complaints (Leitner & Resch, 2005), burnout
(Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001), or depressive
symptoms (Dormann & Zapf, 2002). We propose
that recovery experiences are negatively related to
these three indicators of impaired psychological
well-being. Work causes strain reactions in the
individual that will accumulate and in the long
term may develop into health complaints, burnout,
or depressive symptoms if they are not reversed
(Meijman & Mulder, 1998). Recovery experiences
have the potential to “undo” these strain reactions.
209RECOVERY EXPERIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
Therefore, we hypothesize that the recovery expe-
riences are negatively related to health complaints,
burnout, and depressive symptoms.
Need for recovery is a speciﬁc aspect of impaired
well-being and refers to the desire for being tempo-
rarily relieved from demands in order to recuperate
and to replenish internal resources (Sluiter, Van der
Beek, & Frings-Dresen, 1999). Individuals who
chronically experience a high need for recovery feel
that the time regularly available for recovery is not
sufﬁcient for restoring their internal resources. We
hypothesize that recovery experiences are negatively
related to need for recovery.
Life satisfaction is a subjective global judgment of
a person’s quality of life (Diener, Emmons, &
Larson, 1985). Research showed that life satisfaction
is not only inﬂuenced by top-down processes with
personality factors affecting life satisfaction, but also
by bottom-up processes with domain-speciﬁc satis-
factions impacting on life satisfaction (Heller,
Watson, & Ilies, 2004). Individuals with favorable
recovery experiences will tend to be more satisﬁed
with their leisure time which in turn will be positively
related to life satisfaction. Empirical research sug-
gests that recovery-related experiences are related to
life satisfaction (Strauss-Blasche, Ekmekcioglu, &
Marktl, 2002). Therefore, we hypothesize that recov-
ery experiences are positively related to life satisfac-
Sleep in itself is important for recovery. During
sleep, many functions of the organism are restored. In
addition, positive recovery experiences should re-
duce the strain level built up during the working day
and should in turn enhance sleep quality. For exam-
ple, when not sufﬁciently detaching from work and
when keeping thinking about work-related issues,
sleep onset and sleep quality will be impaired. Sim-
ilarly, when relaxation after work is missing, activa-
tion will continue which will make it more difﬁcult to
fall asleep. Mastery and control will give the individ-
ual a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that
will have a positive impact on sleep quality.
Table 1 summarizes the hypothesized relations be-
tween recovery experiences and potential predictors
Study 1: Item Generation and Item Review
Our ﬁrst study aimed at generating and reviewing
items to assess recovery experiences. For all four
dimensions (i.e., psychological detachment, relax-
ation, mastery, control), we generated items that
should tap the respective construct. For generating
these items, we referred to the description of the
constructs as outlined in the introduction of this ar-
ticle, reviewed the literature on recovery and on
mood regulation, and used brainstorming techniques
to cover a broad range of experiences that reﬂect
these constructs. In total, we generated 47 items, 8
items for psychological detachment, 11 items for
relaxation, 16 items for mastery, and 12 items for
To examine content validity of these items we
provided 16 advanced psychology students with de-
scriptions of the four dimensions and presented the
items to them in a random order. Five students
(31.3%) were in their third year of psychology major,
two students (12.5%) were in their fourth year of
psychology major, ﬁve students (31.3%) were in their
ﬁfth year of psychology major, and four participants
(25%) were even more advanced psychology stu-
dents. The students were asked to classify each item
into one of the four dimensions or to an additional
“other” category. To reduce the workload for each
individual rater, eight raters classiﬁed a ﬁrst set of 23
items, eight other raters classiﬁed a second set of 24
All items that were classiﬁed to the correct a priori
category by at least 75% of the raters were retained.
Based on this decision rule, a total of 35 items re-
mained: 6 items for psychological detachment, 9
items for relaxation, 11 items for mastery, and 9
items for control. Because psychological detachment
had only six items remaining, we kept the two orig-
inal items that did not meet the 75% decision rule.
Both items were correctly classiﬁed by 62.5% of the
raters. Thus, we used 37 items for further scale de-
Study 2: Examining Construct Validity
Sample and Procedure
Because recovery opportunities and recovery ex-
periences may largely vary between jobs, we sampled
employees from a variety of different jobs. To recruit
study participants, we ﬁrst contacted managers of a
broad range of different organizations in various
business sectors. After the managers expressed inter-
est in participation, we approached the employees
either by mail or in person at their workplace, pre-
sented the study and asked for participation.
We contacted a total of 1409 persons by mail and
420 persons directly at their workplace. All these
potential participants were provided with the survey
material and a cover letter describing the study. Per-
210 SONNENTAG AND FRITZ
sons approached by mail also received a prestamped
envelope addressed to the researchers. Surveys com-
pleted by the persons contacted directly were col-
lected by a member of the research team. From the
persons contacted by mail, 755 questionnaires were
returned (response rate of 53.6%). From the persons
directly contacted, 236 questionnaires were returned
(response rate of 56.2%). A total of 991 question-
naires were returned, for an overall response rate of
Most participants were women (71%). Partici-
pants’ mean age was 38.3 years (SD ⫽ 12.3), mean
job tenure was 15.1 year (SD ⫽ 11.2). Among all
participants, 24.0% had a supervisory position. Of the
total sample, 58.0% had children with an average of
1.8 children. Participants came from a broad variety
of private and public organizations with 26.7% work-
ing in the public administration, 18.3% as teachers in
schools, 11.0% in call centers, 9.6% in hospitals,
9.3% in nursing homes, 6.0% in public relation agen-
cies, 4.5% in retail companies, and 4.1% in insurance
organizations. The remaining participants came from
a manufacturing company, banks, hotels, travel agen-
cies, and other service organizations. The percentage
of participants working irregular hours was 18.6%.
Data on psychological detachment from N ⫽ 148
teachers participating in this study were also used in
another study (Sonnentag & Kruel, 2006).
The survey included a total of 37 items assessing
recovery experiences (psychological detachment: 8
items, relaxation: 9 items, mastery: 11 items; control:
9 items). Participants were asked to respond to the
items with respect to their free evenings (e.g., “Dur-
ing time after work, I kick back and relax”) on a
5-point scale from1 (I do not agree at al) to5(I fully
agree). Moreover, we assessed gender, age, number
of children, job tenure and occupation. In a sub-
sample (N ⫽ 271), we additionally measured a range
of other variables to examine the nomological net of
the recovery experience measures (see Study 3).
Strategy for Analyzing Data
To examine the construct validity of our recovery
experience measures, we used a cross-validation ap-
proach and randomly split the overall sample (N ⫽
991) into two subsamples. Because of missing val-
ues, sample size in each of the two subsamples was
N ⫽ 465. We used the ﬁrst subsample for ﬁnding the
best-ﬁtting model (calibration sample) and then
cross-validated this model with the second subsample
Hypothesized Relations Between Recovery Experiences, Potential Predictors, and Potential Outcomes
detachment Relaxation Mastery Control
Job situation variables
Job stressors ⫺⫺⫺⫺
Job control ⫺⫺⫹⫹
Problem-focused coping 0 0 ⫹⫹
Emotion-focused coping ⫹⫹⫹⫹
Other coping strategies ⫹ 000
Agreeableness 0 0 0 0
Openness 0 0 ⫹ 0
Extraversion 0 0 0 0
Emotional stability ⫹⫹⫹⫹
Health complaints ⫺⫺⫺⫺
Depressive symptoms ⫺⫺⫺⫺
Need for recovery ⫺⫺⫺⫺
Life satisfaction ⫹⫹⫹⫹
Sleep problems ⫺⫺⫺⫺
Note. ⫹⫽hypothesized positive relation; ⫺⫽hypothesized negative relation; 0 ⫽ no relation hypothesized.
211RECOVERY EXPERIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
By using calibration sample data, we submitted a
covariance matrix based on the 37 items derived from
Study 1 to a set of Conﬁrmatory Factor Analyses.
First, we separately ﬁtted single-factor models for
each of the four constructs and then ﬁtted two-factor
models for all possible pairs of constructs (relaxation
vs. mastery, relaxation vs. psychological detachment,
relaxation vs. control etc.). Subsequently, we deleted
items that (a) had very high cross-loading on another
than the intended factor, (b) showed high across-
factor correlated measurement errors, and (c) low
loadings on the intended factor (modiﬁcation indices
exceeding 25.00 and factor loadings below 0.50).
This procedure resulted in a set of 20 items. We
conducted a Conﬁrmatory Factor Analysis with these
20 items by specifying a four-factor structure. Anal-
ysis showed a reasonable, although not very good ﬁt
⫽ 631.13; df ⫽ 164; GFI ⫽ .88; NNFI ⫽ .96;
CFI ⫽ .95; RMSEA ⫽ .078; SRMR ⫽ .055). To
arrive at a better model ﬁt and at shorter, more
parsimonious scales, we again removed some items
based on the above speciﬁed criteria. The ﬁnal model
comprised 16 items with an acceptable ﬁt (
317.15; df ⫽ 98; GFI ⫽ .92; NNFI ⫽ .97; CFI ⫽ .97;
RMSEA ⫽ .069; SRMR ⫽ .045). We compared this
four-factor model with alternative one-factor, two-
factor, and three-factor models. Table 2 shows the ﬁt
indices of the best-ﬁtting two-factor models and best-
ﬁtting three-factor models. The four-factor model
showed a signiﬁcantly better ﬁt than the one-factor
⫽ 2131.66; ⌬df ⫽ 6; p ⬍ .001), all
two-factor models (⌬
ⱖ 1713.31; ⌬ df ⫽ 5; p ⬍
.001), and all three-factor models (⌬
⌬df ⫽ 3; p ⬍ .001).
In the next step, we further examined this factor
structure with the cross-validation sample. We ﬁrst
tested a model with the 20 items used in the calibra-
tion sample. This 20-item model resulted in a reason-
able but slightly worse ﬁt than analysis with the
calibration sample (
⫽ 705.82; df ⫽ 164; GFI ⫽
.87; NNFI ⫽ .95; CFI ⫽ .96; RMSEA ⫽ .084;
SRMR ⫽ .060). The four-factor model with 16 items
resulted in an acceptable ﬁt (
⫽ 403.60; df ⫽ 98;
GFI ⫽ .90; NNFI ⫽ .96; CFI ⫽ .96; RMSEA ⫽ .082;
SRMR ⫽ .049) although the RMSEA slightly devi-
ated from the recommended value of .080. Again,
this four-factor model showed a better ﬁt than the
one-factor model (⌬
⫽ 2597.16; ⌬df ⫽ 6; p ⬍
.001), all two-factor models (⌬
ⱖ 2033.05; ⌬df ⫽
5; p ⬍ .001), and all three-factor models (⌬
704.46; ⌬df ⫽ 3; p ⬍ .011).
Table 3 displays items wordings, factor loadings,
and alphas for both subsamples. Taken together, the
conﬁrmatory factor analyses showed that the four
recovery experience scales represent distinct con-
structs and show good reliability. Table 4 shows that
the correlations among the latent variables were mod-
erate. Only relaxation and control were rather highly
correlated. For further analyses we used the un-
weighted means of all scale items as indicators for
the respective scales.
Goodness of Fit Statistics
df GFI NNFI CFI RMSEA SRMR
One-factor model 2448.80 104 .60 .72 .75 .22 .15
Best ﬁtting two-factor model
2030.46 103 .65 .77 .80 .20 .14
Best ﬁtting three-factor model
863.65 101 .81 .91 .92 .13 .06
Four-factor model 317.15 98 .92 .97 .97 .07 .05
One-factor model 3000.76 104 .55 .67 .71 .25 .16
Best ﬁtting two-factor model
2436.65 103 .60 .74 .78 .22 .18
Best ﬁtting three-factor model
1108.06 101 .77 .89 .91 .15 .07
Four-factor model 403.60 98 .90 .96 .96 .08 .05
Note. GFI ⫽ goodness-of-ﬁt index; NNFI ⫽ nonnormed ﬁt index; CFI ⫽ comparative ﬁt index; RMSEA ⫽ root mean
square error of approximation; SRMR ⫽ standardized root mean square residual.
Psychological detachment and relaxation items loading on the ﬁrst factor and mastery and control items loading on the
Relaxation and control items loading on the ﬁrst factor, psychological detachment items loading on the
second, and mastery items loading on the third factor.
Relaxation and control items loading on the ﬁrst factor and
psychological detachment and mastery items loading on the second factor.
212 SONNENTAG AND FRITZ
Study 3: Examining the Nomological Net
Study 3 aimed at analyzing the nomological net of
the four recovery experience measures by examining
their relations with potential predictors and conse-
Two subsamples from Study 2 participated in this
study. Subsample 1 comprised 134 persons (47% men).
Mean age was 40.9 years (SD ⫽ 10.4); mean job tenure
was 18.4 years (SD ⫽ 11.2). About a third (32.1%) of
the ﬁrst subsample held a supervisory position. Of all
participants in this subsample, 53% had children with
an average of 2.0 children. Most participants came from
local public administration organizations (86.8%). The
other participants worked in travel agencies (7.8%) and
retail organizations (5.4%). Subsample 2 comprised 137
persons (60.6% men) with a mean age of 38.6 years
(SD ⫽ 9.6) and mean job tenure of 15.3 years (SD ⫽
9.4). Of these 137 persons, 30% worked in a supervi-
sory position. About a half (52.6%) of the participants
had children with an average of 1.8 children. Partici-
pants worked in the ﬁeld of local public administration
(79.9%), in a technical service company (7.5%), travel
agencies (7.6%), and retail organizations (6.0%).
Factor Loadings and Alphas for Recovery Experience Measures
detachment Relaxation Mastery Control
I forget about work. 0.96 (0.05)
I don’t think about work at all. 0.88 (0.05)
I distance myself from my work. 0.85 (0.04)
I get a break from the demands of work. 0.69 (0.04)
I kick back and relax. 0.74 (0.04)
I do relaxing things. 0.52 (0.03)
I use the time to relax. 0.70 (0.03)
I take time for leisure. 0.61 (0.03)
I learn new things. 0.60 (0.04)
I seek out intellectual challenges. 0.79 (0.04)
I do things that challenge me. 0.64 (0.04)
I do something to broaden my horizons. 0.60 (0.03)
I feel like I can decide for myself what
to do. 0.79 (0.05)
I decide my own schedule. 0.60 (0.03)
I determine for myself how I will spend
I take care of things the way that I want
Cronbach’s alpha .84 .85 .79 .85
.85 .85 .85 .85
Note. Factor loadings with standard errors in parentheses. Upper rows give estimates from the calibration sample, lower
rows give estimates from the cross-validation sample.
213RECOVERY EXPERIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
There were no mean differences in the four recov-
ery experience scales, neither between these two sub-
samples nor between these two subsamples and par-
ticipants who only participated in Study 2. Overall,
also the correlational patterns did not differ between
the various subsamples. However, the correlation be-
tween relaxation and control in the two subsamples
was somewhat higher, r ⫽ .64, N ⫽ 271, than in the
larger sample (excluding the two subsamples), r ⫽
.51, N ⫽ 719, z ⫽ 2.72, p ⬍ .01.
In both subsamples we assessed job stressors and
job control. We additionally measured coping and
personality variables in subsample 1, and psycholog-
ical well-being in subsample 2. We decided not to
measure all variables in both subsamples in order not
to impose heavy time demands on our participants
when completing the surveys. Table 5 displays
means, standard deviations, correlations, and alphas
for all study variables. Higher scores indicate a
higher degree of the phenomenon under study.
Work situation variables. We assessed job stres-
sors and job control with measures developed by
Semmer (1984; cf. Zapf, 1993). To cover different
job stressors, we assessed time pressure, role ambi-
guity, situational constraints, and hours of overtime.
We measured time pressure with ﬁve items (e.g.,
“How often is a fast pace of work required of you?”)
using a 5-point scale from 1 (almost never)to5(very
often). For assessing role ambiguity we used ﬁve
items (e.g., “How often do you receive contradictory
instructions from different supervisors?”) with a
5-point scale from 1 (almost never)to5(very often).
We measured situational constraints with ﬁve items
describing two contrasting workplaces (e.g., “Person
A must spend a lot of time in order to get information
and/or materials to pursue his or her work activity.”
“Person B always has the necessary information
and/or materials at his or her disposal.”). On a 5-point
scale from 1 (my job is exactly like that of Person B)
to5(my job is exactly like that of Person A), partic-
ipants had to indicate which of the descriptions most
adequately characterized their work situation. We
assessed hours of overtime with one single item. We
measured job control with ﬁve items (e.g., “Can you
yourself decide on which way to carry out your
work?”) using a 5-point scale from 1 (very little)to5
(to a very large extent).
Coping. We assessed coping in subsample 1 with
the COPE measures (Carver et al., 1989) in their
German version (Vollrath & Torgersen, 2000). We
measured four coping strategies representing prob-
lem-focused coping (active coping, planning, re-
straint coping, use of instrumental social support),
two coping strategies representing emotion-focused
coping (denial, use of emotional social support), and
three other coping attempts (focus on emotions, be-
havioral disengagement, mental disengagement). All
coping strategies were assessed with four items each
on a 4-point scale from 1 (never)to4(often).
Personality. We assessed the Big Five personal-
ity factors in subsample 1 with the German Version
(Lang, Lu¨dtke, & Asendorpf, 2001) of the Big Five
Inventory (John & Srivastava, 1999) and measured
conscientiousness with nine items, emotional stabil-
ity with seven items, openness to experience with 10
items, extraversion with eight items, and agreeable-
ness with eight items on 5-point scales from1 (not at
Psychological well-being. In subsample 2 we as-
sessed health complaints, burnout, depressive symp-
toms, need for recovery, life satisfaction, and sleep
problems as indicators of (poor) psychological well-
being. We measured health complaints with 12 items
from the General Health Questionnaire (Goldberg,
1972; e.g., “Did you experience a lack of self-
conﬁdence during the last two weeks?”) on a 4-point
scale from 1 (not at all)to4(much more than usual).
We measured burnout with the Oldenburg Burnout
Inventory (Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, &
Schaufeli, 2001) and assessed emotional exhaustion
(e.g., “After my work I usually feel worn out and
weary”) and disengagement (e.g., “I usually talk
about my work in a derogatory way”) with eight
items each on a 4-point scale from1 (fully disagree)
to4(fully agree). We assessed depressive symptoms
with eight items developed by Mohr (1986; e.g., “I
am often in a sad mood”). We used a 7-point re-
Correlations Between the Latent Variables
detachment Relaxation Mastery Control
detachment .42 .19 .41
Relaxation .46 .30 .71
Mastery .21 .34 .28
Control .37 .65 .25
Note. Correlations above the diagonal are from the cali-
bration sample. Correlations below the diagonal are from
the cross-validation sample. All correlations are signiﬁcant
at p ⬍ .01.
214 SONNENTAG AND FRITZ
sponse scale from 1 (almost always)to7(never) that
was reversed for correlational analysis. Need for re-
covery was measured with 11 items (van Veldhoven
& Broersen, 2003; e.g., “At the end of a working day
I am really feeling worn-out”) using a 4-point scale
from 1 (never)to4(always). For measuring life
satisfaction we used ﬁve items from the Satisfaction
With Life Scale (Diener et al., 1985; e.g., “In most
ways my life is close to my ideals”) to be answered
on a 7-point scale from 1 (fully disagree)to7(fully
agree). We measured sleep problems with nine items
from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (Buysse,
Reynolds, Monk, Berman, & Kupfer, 1989) using a
4-point scale from 1 (not at all)to4(three times or
more per week).
Table 5 shows the relations between all study
variables. Time pressure was negatively related to all
recovery experience variables with the exception of
mastery. Role ambiguity and situational constraints
were negatively related to psychological detachment
and control. Hours of overtime were negatively re-
lated to psychological detachment and relaxation but
not to mastery or control. Job control was positively
related to control during off-job time. Taken together,
analysis largely conﬁrmed our hypotheses for job
stressors and partially for job control.
Correlations between coping and recovery experi-
ences were low and mostly nonsigniﬁcant. There were
some signiﬁcant correlations, namely between active
coping and the experience of mastery and control. Re-
straint coping was positively related to psychological
detachment and mastery. Seeking instrumental social
support showed a positive relation with relaxation and
control. Seeking emotional social support was nega-
tively related to psychological detachment and posi-
tively related to relaxation and control. Mental disen-
gagement was positively related to relaxation. These
generally low correlations between coping and recovery
experiences provided partial support for our hypotheses
and overall demonstrated that there is only limited over-
lap between the way an individual responds to a stres-
sors (i.e., coping) and how he or she experiences recov-
ery off the job.
Most correlations between the personality variables
and the recovery experience constructs were low and
nonsigniﬁcant indicating that personality seems not to
be a core predictor of how individuals experience their
off-job time. Openness to experience and extraversion
were positively related to mastery. Emotional stability
was positively correlated with psychological detach-
ment, mastery, and control. Overall, most of our hy-
potheses on the relation between personality and recov-
ery experiences were supported.
We found moderate relations between recovery
experiences and well-being measures. Psychological
detachment and control showed negative relations
with health complaints, emotional exhaustion, de-
pressive symptoms, need for recovery, and sleep
problems. Relaxation showed negative relations with
health problems, emotional exhaustion, need for re-
covery, and sleep problems. Mastery was negatively
related to emotional exhaustion, depressive symp-
toms, and need for recovery. All recovery experience
measures showed positive relations with life satisfac-
tion. Except for the burnout dimension disengage-
ment, the overall pattern of correlations supported
In this article we presented measures for assessing
recovery experiences. Conﬁrmatory factor analyses
showed that four distinct recovery experiences can be
differentiated (psychological detachment, relaxation,
mastery, control). The scales have good internal con-
sistencies and are short so that they can be used in
future research without putting high time demands on
Correlational analyses showed that job stressors
were related to three of the four recovery experi-
ences. The rather high negative correlation between
time pressure and psychological detachment is in line
with earlier research (Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005)
suggesting that time pressure and the associated high
workload make it particularly difﬁcult to switch off
from work during leisure time. Relaxation was re-
lated to aspects of quantitative workload, but not to
other job stressors. It might be that particularly pro-
longed activation because of time pressure and over-
time hinders relaxation during off-job time, whereas
other job stressors do not necessarily result in pro-
longed activation but impede other aspects of recov-
ery by depleting self-regulatory resources (Sonnentag
& Jelden, 2005). Unexpectedly, job stressors were
not related to mastery experiences. It might be that
individuals do not react uniformly to job stressors.
Some individuals might feel that job stressors hinder
them to enjoy mastery, whereas others might delib-
erately try to counteract the negative effects of job
stressors by engaging in activities that provide the
opportunity for positive experiences and mastery.
Job control was not related to psychological de-
tachment, relaxation, or mastery. One might specu-
215RECOVERY EXPERIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
late that the association between job control and
recovery experiences is a more complex one. For
example, in jobs with high control there might exist
some recovery opportunities even during working
time (Taris et al., 2006), in turn making detachment
and relaxation at home more likely. However, as job
control often implies the possibility and the necessity
to make decisions, at the same time recovery off the
job might be impaired.
Correlations between coping measures and recov-
ery experiences were generally low and mostly non-
signiﬁcant. One reason for the low correlations might
be that our coping measures were rather broad and
did not focus on coping with job-related matters
whereas the recovery experiences, particularly psy-
chological detachment, more closely referred to job-
related recovery. However, problem-focused coping
was related to the recovery experience control which
might reﬂect a person’s general tendency to actively
approach everyday situations and problems. Interest-
ingly, both social support measures were related to
relaxation. It might be that social support is particu-
larly helpful in calming down after work. It will be an
interesting question for future research to examine in
more detail if social support at work or social support
at home is more closely related to relaxation.
Means, Standard Deviations, Zero-Order Correlations, and Alphas of Study 3 Variables
1. Psychological detachment
3.00 0.97 .89
3.29 0.80 .33 .87
3.04 0.71 .16 .24 .82
3.70 0.77 .33 .64 .30 .87
Job situation variables
5. Time pressure
3.03 0.96 ⫺.49 ⫺.31 ⫺.04 ⫺.32 .89
6. Role ambiguity
2.40 0.66 ⫺.19 ⫺.03 ⫺.02 ⫺.21 .33 .69
7. Situational constraints
2.59 0.69 ⫺.15 ⫺.11 ⫺.08 ⫺.21 .34 .57 .70
8. Hours of overtime
4.51 6.06 ⫺.23 ⫺.18 ⫺.05 ⫺.11 .42 .00 ⫺.01 –
9. Job control
3.68 0.66 .11 .02 .08 .16 .07 ⫺.29 ⫺.20 .29 .77
10. Active coping
2.84 0.54 ⫺.03 .12 .26 .18 .08 ⫺.10 ⫺.12 .15 .19
2.90 0.56 .10 .02 .14 .13 .10 ⫺.04 .09 .21 .27
12. Restraint coping
2.69 0.91 .17 .16 .02 .17 .11 .01 .15 .03 .05
13. Instrumental social
2.48 0.67 ⫺.07 .33 .09 .18 ⫺.05 ⫺.06 ⫺.09 ⫺.02 .07
14. Emotional social support
2.56 0.74 ⫺.19 .33 .07 .18 .03 .01 .05 .03 .06
1.24 0.36 ⫺.00 .13 .05 .07 ⫺.04 .12 ⫺.04 ⫺.19 ⫺.18
16. Focus on emotions
2.27 0.85 ⫺.07 .16 .03 .13 .00 .18 .12 ⫺.19 ⫺.17
1.49 0.45 ⫺.02 ⫺.05 ⫺.14 ⫺.10 .02 .15 .11 ⫺.19 ⫺.23
18. Mental disengagement
2.24 0.56 ⫺.06 .22 ⫺.02 .06 .03 .28 .20 ⫺.27 ⫺.25
3.64 0.52 .13 ⫺.02 .06 .07 ⫺.14 ⫺.16 ⫺.11 .05 .11
3.46 0.60 .03 .04 .35 .06 .08 .00 .10 .20 .18
3.45 0.64 .06 .07 .22 .15 .04 ⫺.09 ⫺.11 .22 .19
3.73 0.60 ⫺.09 ⫺.12 .12 .07 ⫺.04 ⫺.06 ⫺.03 .02 .14
23. Emotional stability
3.30 0.61 .30 .12 .21 .24 ⫺.18 ⫺.24 ⫺.24 .14 .22
24. Health complaints
2.01 0.54 ⫺.47 ⫺.24 ⫺.15 ⫺.25 .32 .40 .41 .08 ⫺.32
25. Emotional exhaustion
2.41 0.57 ⫺.56 ⫺.34 ⫺.25 ⫺.41 .44 .33 .45 .06 ⫺.22
2.05 0.54 ⫺.16 ⫺.09 ⫺.11 ⫺.13 .02 .40 .42 ⫺.09 ⫺.47
27. Depressive symptoms
2.81 1.04 ⫺.40 ⫺.16 ⫺.18 ⫺.18 .16 .44 .42 ⫺.05 ⫺.35
28. Need for recovery
2.19 0.58 ⫺.52 ⫺.27 ⫺.24 ⫺.38 .34 .34 .44 .08 ⫺.18
29. Life satisfaction
4.58 1.28 .37 .22 .24 .21 ⫺.22 ⫺.40 ⫺.37 ⫺.06 .21
30. Sleep problems
1.79 0.54 ⫺.25 ⫺.18 ⫺.02 ⫺.21 .12 .26 .29 ⫺.04 ⫺.21
Note. Alphas are displayed on the diagonal.
N ⫽ 267–271; all correlations r ⱖ 兩.12兩 are signiﬁcant with p ⬍ .05.
N ⫽ 134; all correlations r ⱖ 兩.17兩 are signiﬁcant with p ⬍
N⫽ 137; all correlations r ⱖ 兩.17兩 are signiﬁcant with p ⬍ .05.
Range: 1 to 5.
Range 1 to 4.
Range 1 to 7.
216 SONNENTAG AND FRITZ
As predicted, correlations between personality and
recovery experience measures were generally low.
The signiﬁcant correlations between emotional sta-
bility and the recovery experiences might indicate
that poor recovery from work may partly result from
low emotional stability or negative affectivity. How-
ever, the correlations were only moderate in size
suggesting that poor recovery experiences do not
only reﬂect low emotional stability.
Recovery experiences were related to most of the
indicators of psychological well-being. These ﬁnd-
ings might indicate that poor recovery harms psycho-
logical well-being. It might also be that individuals
suffering from impaired well-being are less likely to
enjoy positive recovery experiences.
Among all four recovery experiences, psycho-
logical detachment showed the strongest relations
with impaired well-being. This ﬁnding might
indicate that psychological detachment is the most
relevant recovery experience. Overall, our analyses
demonstrated that recovery experiences, particu-
larly psychological detachment and control were
associated with job stressors and well-being.
Although any causal inferences from these
cross-sectional ﬁndings are premature, our study
suggests that it is promising to examine the rela-
tions between an unfavorable work situation,
poor recovery and impaired well-being in more
detail. For example, one might speculate that job
stressors lead to poor recovery experiences that in
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
.10 .28 .63
.33 .36 ⫺.02 .79
.15 .20 ⫺.01 .77 .85
⫺.17 ⫺.27 ⫺.02 ⫺.02 ⫺.03 .71
⫺.09 ⫺.12 ⫺.00 .22 .25 .10 .73
⫺.37 ⫺.24 ⫺.01 ⫺.00 .01 .28 .35 .72
⫺.30 ⫺.13 .15 .06 .21 .34 .25 .33 .66
.14 .07 ⫺.13 .16 .12 ⫺.06 ⫺.08 ⫺.07 ⫺.09 .69
.27 .31 .07 .23 .23 ⫺.07 .03 ⫺.11 .02 .23 .78
.45 .26 ⫺.08 .32 .29 ⫺.00 .05 ⫺.32 ⫺.09 .31 .37 .85
.43 .24 .07 .08 .07 ⫺.11 ⫺.13 ⫺.34 ⫺.11 .24 .35 .28 .75
.29 .14 .04 .02 ⫺.13 ⫺.11 ⫺.21 ⫺.42 ⫺.25 .40 .13 .40 .18 .79
--------------⫺.54 ⫺.49 ⫺.55 ⫺.65 ⫺.44 .88
-------------- .220.127.116.11.44⫺.27 .79
217RECOVERY EXPERIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
turn negatively affect well-being (cf. Geurts &
Our studies have some limitations. First, the four
recovery experience measures might not comprise all
potentially relevant recovery experiences. One might
argue that the general affective valence of a recovery
activity represents an important aspect of any recov-
ery experience. That is, the potential of a recovery
experience to enhance positive emotions might be
particularly important (Fredrickson, 2000). Instead of
conceptualizing positive affective valence as a sepa-
rate recovery experience, we think that ﬁnding plea-
sure in off-job activities is a higher-order concept that
cannot be easily differentiated from other recovery
experiences. Empirical studies on mood regulation
suggest that pleasure is associated with experiences
such as relaxation or distraction (Thayer et al., 1994;
Totterdell & Parkinson, 1999).
Similarly, the degree to which a recovery activity
provides opportunities for social contact and connect-
edness might be important. Scholars in the ﬁeld of
social psychology have argued that social inclusion is
one core striving of human beings (Baumeister &
Leary, 1995). Also with respect to recovery pro-
cesses, the relevance of social activities has been
demonstrated (Fritz & Sonnentag, 2005). Therefore,
future research may put more emphasis on the social
embeddedness of recovery. However, when doing so,
we suggest keeping in mind that social contact and
connectedness might not only be a source of social
support and recovery, but potentially also of social
undermining and interpersonal conﬂict.
The correlations between the latent variables re-
laxation and control were rather high. Therefore, one
might question if relaxation and control represent two
distinct constructs. However, conﬁrmatory factor
analyses showed that the 4-factor model ﬁtted the
data better than a 3-factor model. In addition, al-
though the correlational patterns of the relaxation and
the control scale with other variables showed simi-
larities, they were far from being identical suggesting
that it makes sense to differentiate between relaxation
Finally, it has to be noted that the sample sizes in
Study 3 were relatively small. Therefore, particularly
the nonsigniﬁcant correlations should be interpreted
with great caution. A replication with a larger sample
is clearly desirable.
Suggestions for Future Research and
The correlations found between low psychological
detachment and impaired well-being might suggest
that psychological detachment from work during off-
job time is crucial for protecting one’s well-being.
However, this conclusion is premature—not only be-
cause our data do not warrant any causal interpreta-
tion. Not detaching from work does not necessarily
imply that thinking about work is negative per se.
Positively reﬂecting about one’s work (e.g., thinking
about a recent success or about an inspiring goal)
might even improve well-being (Fritz & Sonnentag,
2005). It can be promising for future research to
assess in greater detail the type and quality of work-
related thoughts during off-job time.
Our relaxation items refer to experiences that can
be initiated both by deliberate relaxation exercises
(e.g., progressive muscle relaxation) and by other
activities such as taking a walk or listening to calm
music. It could be interesting for future research to
differentiate between purposeful relaxation practices
and other experiences that have a strong relaxational
component and to explore their role in the recovery
In Study 3, we focused on zero-order correlations
between recovery experiences and a range of other
variables. Future research may examine more com-
plex patterns of relations. For example, recovery ex-
periences might be conceptualized as a moderator in
the relation between job stressors and impaired well-
being with poor recovery experiences increasing the
association between job stressors and poor well-
being. Moreover, personality might be examined as a
moderator in the relations between job stressors and
recovery experiences. For example, one could argue
the job stressors are particularly related to poor psy-
chological detachment in persons low on emotional
One important application would be to use the
recovery measures in longitudinal research. Future
studies should examine if recovery experiences can
predict changes in well-being and job performance
over time. Moreover, as our scales are short, they can
also be easily adapted for use in diary studies. Such
studies could examine recovery processes at the day
level and could therefore shed more light onto short-
er-term processes related to the maintenance of pos-
itive mood and performance capability. For example,
the recovery experience scales can be applied when
extending research on episodic models of perfor-
mance (Beal, Weiss, Barros, & MacDermid, 2005). It
218 SONNENTAG AND FRITZ
would be particularly interesting to examine if recov-
ery experiences can explain day-level variations in
performance. Another option could be to integrate the
recovery experience measures in studies on physio-
logical processes related to activation and unwinding
(Semmer, Grebner, & Elfering, 2004; Sonnentag &
To conclude, the recovery experience question-
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assess individuals’ unwinding and recuperation pro-
cesses. It can be a useful tool in the endeavor to better
understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of
job stressors on the individual. In addition, and
maybe more importantly, it can serve as an instru-
ment that identiﬁes experiences helpful in protecting
individuals’ well-being and performance capability.
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Received May 22, 2006
Revision received November 17, 2006
Accepted November 20, 2006
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