Dynamics of recovery processes in individual employees and dual-earner couples
Recovery from job-related stress during off-job time is essential for employee well-being, health and performance (e.g., Koch, Hahn, & Binnewies, 2013). Recovery is a process opposite to the stress process as it undoes strain reactions (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). Research on recovery has proliferated over the past decade, complementing organizational stress research by taking factors outside work into account. The effort-recovery model (Meijman & Mulder, 1998) as one of the central theoretical models in recovery research postulates that short-term stress reactions are reversible and recovery can occur when the stressors are removed from the individual. If recovery does not occur, stress reactions accumulate to chronic health impairments that are not reversible. Hence, regular recovery from job-related stress is a resilience factor in the development of stress-related health impairments.
An increasing number of studies shows that work-free evenings or weekends contribute to employee well-being (Hahn, Binnewies, & Haun, 2012; Sonnentag, Binnewies, & Mojza, 2008). However, up to now, research mainly focused on recovery processes within individual work days or during one single weekend without considering longer-term recovery trajectories over several days or weeks. On the one hand, it is likely that outcomes of recovery (such as reduced negative affect or increased vigor) impact on subsequent recovery processes (cf. Sonnentag & Geurts, 2009). For example, an employee who feels vigorous after a work-free weekend may be more likely to engage in sports activities which may in turn result in positive recovery outcomes (cf. Sonnentag & Jelden, 2009). A positive trajectory of recovery processes should become apparent. On the other hand, negative recovery trajectories may also be plausible. Empirical research demonstrates that people find it difficult to recover from job-related stress when they are exposed to high levels of stressors or when they are already exhausted (Sonnentag, Arbeus, Mahn, & Fritz, 2014; Sonnentag & Jelden, 2009); that is, in situations, when recovery is particularly necessary. As a consequence, employees may find themselves in a downward spiral in which stress-related health impairments lead to incomplete recovery which in turn results in even more severe health impairments. In the course of several days or weeks stress reactions should increase and recovery processes should decrease.
The aim of the dissertation project is to investigate recovery processes over the course of several work days and work weeks to test the theoretical propositions of the effort recovery model. Work-related as well as nonwork-related factors that influence the positive or negative trajectory of recovery processes shall be identified. Specifically, the research project aims to find contextual as well as individual resilience factors that are able to break through the assumed downward spirals and initiate positive gain spirals. One very important contextual influence factor can be the stress and recovery processes of employees’ romantic partners. Many studies with dual-earner couples demonstrate that both partners mutually influence each other’s stress and recovery experiences; that is, crossover processes of stress and recovery occur between partners (Bakker & Demerouti, 2013; Bakker, Westman, & van Emmerik, 2009; Hahn, Binnewies, & Dormann, 2014; Hahn & Dormann, 2013). Examining the trajectory of crossover processes between partners can complement the investigation of individual recovery trajectories.
Daily diary studies over the course of one work week as well weekly diary studies over the course of several weeks can be used to examine the research questions of the planned dissertations project. Latent Growth Modeling (Bollen & Curran, 2006) can be used to analyze such recovery trajectories.
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