Recovery from Work Stress
Antecedents, Processes & Outcomes

By Marjo Pennonen
January 2012
Tampere University Press
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.

ISBN: 9789514486012
177 pages

$87.50 Paper original

The one-year longitudinal questionnaire study examined recovery from work stress among a sample of Finnish employees (Time I N = 527; Time II N = 274) from a variety of different jobs by using variable and person-oriented approaches. The general aim was to get a picture of the antecedents, processes and outcomes of recovery from a psychological perspective. The antecedents of recovery were examined in terms of psychosocial work characteristics (job demands and resources). Recovery processes were examined by recovery experiences (psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery, and control during off-job time) and off-job time activities (work-related, household, low-effort, social, and physical activities). The consequences of recovery covered psychological outcomes (need for recovery, job burnout, work engagement, and sleep problems). The main results of four studies showed, first, that the factor structure of the Finnish Recovery Experience Questionnaire (REQ) was valid in the employee sample studied. Second, psychological detachment fully mediated the effects of job demands on fatigue at work and mastery partially mediated the effects of job resources on work engagement.

Third, psychological detachment and mastery were protective mechanisms against increased need for recovery in a situation of lack of job control, and relaxation protected against increased job exhaustion under high time demands. In addition, recovery experiences – psychological detachment and mastery in particular – had direct links to occupational well-being. Fourth, eight latent groups of need for recovery were identified, of which five groups had stable (low, moderately low, average, moderately high and high) need for recovery across one year and three showed change (mostly decreasing) in the level of need for recovery.

Employees in the favorable (low and moderately low) need for recovery groups (38%) reported having more favorable work characteristics and better functioning recovery experiences and they spent more time on physical and social off-job activities than those in the unfavorable (high and moderately high) groups (23%). Fifth, five patterns of recovery experiences were identified. Over 70% of the employees belonged to a pattern with reasonably high stable levels of all four recovery experiences across the one-year follow-up. This pattern suffered least from job burnout and sleep problems. Of the four remaining patterns, those with experiences of high levels of mastery and control during off-job time had highest work engagement, and among those with decreasing levels of all recovery experiences job exhaustion increased across time. The study findings suggest that recovery experiences and the patterns of them play a significant role in maintaining well-being at work.

In addition, recovery experiences merit consideration both as mediating and moderating mechanisms in the work characteristics–psychological outcomes relationship. Besides recovery experiences, work characteristics and offjob activities are significant antecedents in maintaining need for recovery over time. With respect to practical implications this study illustrates that individuals should search situations where they have possibilities to optimize their recovery experiences and thus maximize their recovery processes.


Acta Universitatis Tamperensis No. 1668


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