Organisational psychologists, Human Resource Practitioners, managers, business owners, and organisational leaders all have one thing in common. They want to know how to motivate, inspire, and engage employees or workers. There has been an abundance of research and books written on this topic as a result.
One thing that they have forgotten along the way is in many (though not all) cases, is recovery.
Engagement Is Not Enough
Research says this oversight may be counter-productive. If we ignore recovery we may actually be losing some of the gains achieved by engagement in both the short (lowered productivity) and long (burnout) term.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing Dr Sonnentag from Germany speak about Recovery at the International Positive Psychology Conference in Los Angeles.
I thought I’d share some of her insights as they may have a profound impact on your life, your loved ones’ lives, your staff and colleagues lives, even on the way you run your organisation or business.
Recovery in the workplace involves what you do each day, yes each and every day, to recover from workplace stress.
Recovery does not involve merely taking a vacation once or more a year. And it does not involve having a weekend off once in a while or only working part of the weekend.
Holidays Are Not Counted As Recovery
Well this is not entirely true. Holidays are a form of recovery but they are not enough as they often happen infrequently.
While holidays can reduce your stress levels and help you recover, it is not long before we feel the same as we did before the holiday. Sonnentag’s research says it is usually only about 2-4 weeks until we are back to where we started.
Ouch! All that money spent flying to Hawaii, sipping cocktails, and lying in a hammock is redundant after 2-4 weeks?!
Weekends are Sacred!
Weekends ensure the effectiveness of the next day’s work and the next week’s work.
Sonnentag found that when we do not recover each day during the week and over the weekend, the following day and week we are less effective. So while we may feel that we are able to get more done if we work more, we not only become less effective in the extra time we spend working – we are also less effective the next day or week. Ouch again! So our engagement levels actually drop in the days following overwork.
So why not treat yourself to time off and let yourself and your boss know that this will improve your engagement and performance in the short and long term!?
The Importance of Recovery
A few years ago I was told by a researcher (not mentioning any names) that their research suggested that work-life balance was not as important as engagement, as people who are passionate about their jobs would work longer hours and enjoy those hours more, needing less of the “life” side of work-life balance.
I had no idea of Sonnentag’s research at the time. I was, however, disturbed that a psychologist would tell organisations this. I expressed that this was dangerous to tell organisational leaders who could then encourage or at least ignore long working hours (impacting people’s personal, social, and family lives – which we all know are so important and essential to our lives).
Beyond Engagement: Rest
Sonnentag’s research encourages employers to look beyond engagement to factors that may be affecting even highly engaged workers. It says to organisational leaders that finding and grooming talented workers into roles that they feel engaged in is not enough. Ensuring workers are adequately rested is an organisational issue not just a personal, familial, and social one.
Enjoying Life Helps With Work Performance
Finally we have research to prove that enjoying life actually helps with work performance!
Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week is not just a fantasy of one lucky man. Research confirms that the less we work, the more effective we are. Great news.
Enjoy your time outside of work today, tomorrow, and every day. It is not only good for you, it’s good for your workplace.
I would love to hear how you recover from work daily.
Fritz, C., Sonnentag, S., Spector, P. E., & McInroe, J. (2010). The weekend matters: Relationships between stress recovery and affective experiences. Journal of Organizational Behavior.
Kühnel, J., & Sonnentag, S. (2011). How long do you benefit from vacation? A closer look at the fade-out of vacation effects. Journal of Organizational Behavior.