, Volume 80, Issue 7, pp 599-613,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 14 Feb 2007

Workdays, in-between workdays and the weekend: a diary study on effort and recovery

Abstract

Objectives

Effort-recovery theory (Meijman and Mulder in Handbook of work and organizational psychology, Psychology Press/Erlbaum, Hove, pp 5–33, 1998) proposes that effort expenditure may have adverse consequences for health in the absence of sufficient recovery opportunities. Thus, insight in the relationships between effort and recovery is imperative to understand work-related health. This study therefore focused on the relation between work-related effort and recovery (1) during workdays, (2) in-between workdays and (3) in the weekend. For these three time periods, we compared a group of employees reporting relatively low levels of work-related effort (“low-effort group”) and a group of employees reporting relatively high levels of work-related effort (“high-effort group”) with respect to (1) activity patterns, (2) the experience of these activity patterns, and (3) health and well-being indicators.

Methods

Data were collected among university staff members. Participants (Nhigh-effort group = 24 and Nlow-effort group = 27) completed a general questionnaire and took part in a 7-day daily diary study covering five weekdays and the following weekend. Differences between the two effort-groups were examined by means of analysis of variance.

Results

Compared to the low-effort group, the high-effort group (1) engaged less often in active leisure activities during the week and worked more overtime in the weekend, (2) considered both work and home activities as more effortful, but not as less pleasurable, and (3) reported higher levels of sleep complaints (weekdays only) and fatigue, more preoccupation with work (weekdays only) and lower motivation to start the next workweek during the weekend.

Conclusions

Work-related effort is associated with various aspects of work time and (potential) recovery time in-between workdays and in the weekend. High levels of work-related effort are associated with activity patterns that are less beneficial in terms of recovery, with higher effort expenditure during and after work time, and with diminished health and well-being.