Motivational drivers and psychological detachment in shaping the work–home interface for Saudi women

Maha Alsuwailem (Department of Business Administration, College of Business Administration, Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
Yseult Freeney (Irish Institute of Digital Business, DCU Business School, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 7 February 2024

Issue publication date: 30 April 2024




This study examines the role of Saudi women’s work motivational drivers on work–home conflict (WHC) and work–home enrichment (WHE). It considers the moderating role of psychological detachment from work during the evening between one workday and the next and how it impacts on the mediating role of WHC and WHE on work performance.


Drawing on self-determination theory and enrichment and depletion perspectives on the work–home interface, the study employs a quantitative lagged study over a period of three consecutive working days, with data collected from 358 Saudi women working in academia.


Moderated mediation structural equation modelling (MMSEM) analysis reveals that intrinsic motivation is significantly, positively related to WHE and home–work enrichment (HWE), whereas extrinsic motivation is only significantly and positively related to home–work conflict (HWC). Results show that detaching from work weakens the positive association between intrinsic motivation and HWE. In line with predictions, WHE is significantly, positively related to citizenship behaviour towards both individuals and organizations, whilst HWE is significantly related to citizenship behaviour towards individuals only. HWC is only significantly related to citizenship behaviour towards the organisation.

Social implications

The research highlights the enriching experiences for Saudi women, who have the opportunity to pursue a career and highlight benefits of their ongoing empowerment.


This research brings a unique motivational perspective to work–life research and addresses a shortcoming of work–life research in considering an understudied culturally distinct population. It emphasises on the enriching experiences of Saudi women who have the opportunity to pursue a career, highlighting the benefits of their ongoing empowerment.



Alsuwailem, M. and Freeney, Y. (2024), "Motivational drivers and psychological detachment in shaping the work–home interface for Saudi women", Career Development International, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 267-285.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Maha Alsuwailem and Yseult Freeney


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Working women find themselves pulled in several directions and the conflicts experienced are often identified as a reason for their underrepresentation at senior levels of organisations (Kossek et al., 2021). Given that tensions between work and home roles are argued to hold women back, they are typically explored through a work–life conflict lens (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985) – or depletion perspective (Rothbard et al., 2021) – where resources are considered to be finite. The idea that the domains of work and home are competitively engaged in an ongoing struggle for resources has elicited criticism from several quarters and, thus, the potential for both domains to enrich each other has come into sharper focus (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006). This enrichment perspective argues that resources can multiply and expand, and that work and home domains are synergistic. Whilst many employees are challenged in combining work and family roles, the necessary overlap between the two domains can provide mutual enrichment, improving general quality of life (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006). Research evidences the different consequences of both positive and negative work–home interactions for a person’s work, their family and personal well-being (Lapierre et al., 2018), though most research has its roots in the depletion perspective (Rothbard et al., 2021).

Work–life research typically focuses on sources of conflict as arising through demands at the job and organisational level as well as the demands arising from caring responsibilities at home (Hauser et al., 2018), with almost no attention given to an individual’s motivational disposition. This is puzzling since motivation for work may influence both work–life conflict and enrichment for many reasons. For one, when external reward becomes the primary motivation, individuals who heavily invest in work to earn more income at the expense of their personal life may engage in “excessive availability for work” (Cooper and Lu, 2019). Conversely, when intrinsically motivated, people enjoy their work and are more likely to be engaged, leading to increased efficiency (Bakker and Demerouti, 2008), which can positively impact work–life balance through time available for pursuits outside work. Whilst motives have been considered as the drivers of work–life interactive experiences (Roche and Haar, 2020), few studies have empirically tested the relationships between intrinsic and extrinsic motives and enriching and depleting work–home interactive experiences and none have adopted enrichment and conflict variables simultaneously (Rothbard et al., 2021).

Whilst the subject of women and work–life balance is certainly not a new topic, it persists as one of global interest because it is theorised as a significant impediment to achieving gender equality at work (Syed et al., 2018). Given the global relevance of the work–home interface, which is undoubtedly affected by cultural norms (Allen et al., 2015), public policy and gender-role ideology (Kossek et al., 2021), overlooking cultural differences due to a dominance of the Western-centric samples is problematic. Arab countries, especially are significantly underrepresented (Lages et al., 2015), undermining work–life literature by failing to incorporate different cultures that present valuable insights into how individuals experience work–life issues (Sprung and Jex, 2017). We tackle this by studying working women in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia provides a unique context because Islamic affiliations strongly influence the way of life (Tlaiss and Al Waqfi, 2022), thus presenting a valuable context in which to scrutinise the role of motivation in work–life enrichment and conflict. Characterised as conservative, Saudi Arabia is a complex society where women citizens are discouraged from working (Al-Asfour et al., 2017). Although empowerment of Saudi women is slowly increasing, including their participation in the workforce (Dukhaykh and Bilimoria, 2021), women still confront societal demands that fuel conflict between their career advancement and private lives (Tlaiss and Al Waqfi, 2022). Yet, numerous assumptions underlying the theory on work–life interactions fail to recognise differences across cultures (Chandra, 2012). This is particularly true for differences in cultural and societal traditions (Syed et al., 2018); with much work–life research assuming women can opt to pursue a career if they wish. Women in the Western societies largely have a choice to work and are not excluded from workplaces or stigmatised by society for working. The work–life theory also assumes that men and women work alongside each other and, at least to some extent, have some knowledge of gendered experiences of working and dealing with competing demands across work and home domains (Rothbard, 2001). The freedom to work and to choose desirable jobs influences motivation for work, whilst comparative work experiences (e.g. men versus women) influence how workers experience both conflict and enrichment (Carlson et al., 2023).

These are factors that cannot be assumed in the Saudi context. First, in Saudi society there are expectations for women to prioritise family duties (Al-Asfour et al., 2017). The pursuit of a career may be perceived as a deviation from expected gender roles, fuelling tensions within the family and social sphere. Second, the Saudi society has traditionally upheld strict gender segregation in most workplaces (Aldossari and Calvard, 2021), which limits women’s access to certain career opportunities. Women typically work only with other women and have limited opportunities compared to male peers. These factors likely shape women’s experiences of work and consequently, deplete or enrich their home life. Moreover, cultural differences that result in working women being the exception rather than the norm (Aldossari and Calvard, 2021) raise the question of why these women work and, in turn, how such motives shape work–life experiences. For instance, women motivated by money may face additional challenges in pursuing high-paying or prestigious positions due to societal norms and limited opportunities available to them (Al-Asfour et al., 2017). Thus, they may experience more frustration and conflict as a result. In contrast, when women work for intrinsically motivated reasons, often where career aspirations align with cultural values and societal expectations, they may experience greater harmony between their family and work roles. This alignment can contribute to enrichment between the work and family (Rothbard et al., 2021).

To resolve these issues, we invoke the self-determination theory (SDT; Deci et al., 2017) and Ten Brummelhuis and Bakker’s (2012) work–home resources (WHR) theory, to examine how motivation shapes WHCE experiences and performance at work. We examine these relationships empirically over a three-day period, considering the impact of evening psychological detachment at home after work as a moderating effect on these relationships. Our contributions to the work–life interface literature are a two-fold. First, our study addresses a gap regarding insights into the experiences of an emerging working population in an understudied cultural context, responding to calls by scholars (Sprung and Jex, 2017), who point to the growing importance of cultural differences in understanding the work–life interface. This research surfaces fruitful insights regarding Saudi women’s work–life interface, where, despite their struggles, they largely experience enrichment over conflict when they work.

Second, our research extends on work byLo Presti et al. (2022) in considering both conflict and enrichment concurrently. Whilst adopting such a balanced perspective (Lo Presti et al., 2022), it advances empirical evidence for the significant role of autonomous versus controlled motivations in fostering enriching and depleting work–life interactions. Whilst scholars (Menges et al., 2017) have argued that motives shape work–life interaction experiences, few studies have empirically tested these relationships. Our findings extend understanding of the role of psychological detachment from work, specifically, how detachment tempers enriching experiences arising from intrinsic motivation for a role and highlights the need for scholars to incorporate motives into our understanding of depletion and enrichment experiences.

Theory development

Research on work–home interactions has been predominated by the depletion perspective, where incompatibility of pressures associated with competing roles leads to conflict (Rothbard et al., 2021). WHC is differentiated further into work interference with home (WHC) and home interference with work (HWC) and may result due to time conflict, strain or psychological preoccupation or role conflicts across domains (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985). As with WHC, WHE is typically operationalised by domain direction, and the crossover of positive experiences can be bi-directional across both work and home domains (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006). Positive work experiences can assist employees to perform their home/family responsibilities more effectively. For example, job complexity can enhance problem-solving skills, which can be transferred to enhance parenting skills (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006). Recognising workers for a job well done can boost their positive emotions, which they transfer home allowing them to care better for family (Stephens et al., 1997). Similarly, strategies gained at home may improve employees’ work roles through increased efficiency (HWE). For example, workers can develop empathy and an ability to adopt different perspectives at work through parenting or being involved in community activities (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006), whilst support at home may strengthen self-efficacy for work (Voydanoff, 2001).

Predictors and outcomes of WHCE

Predictors of WHC arise primarily from within the workplace; antecedents with the largest correlations tend to be job demands and work stress (Michel et al., 2011). In contrast, the primary antecedents for HWC are generated from family stress and lack of spousal support (Grzywacz and Marks, 2000). According to Michel et al.’s (2011) meta-analysis, WHC antecedents include autonomy, job demands and overload, supervisor and organisational support, whilst HWC antecedents include spousal support, family demands, number of children and parental demands. Lapierre et al. (2018) meta-analysis indicates that contextual and personal characteristics both have relationships with WHE, though personal characteristics included were limited to involvement, engagement and centrality. Overall, empirical research shows that predictors of both work–home conflicting and enriching processes are dominated by environmental characteristics (Hauser et al., 2018), with much less attention given to the individual-level variables.

Work–home resources (WHR) theory

The WHR theory draws an integral picture of work–home conflict and enrichment, describing WHC as a process where demands in one domain deplete resources and obstruct accomplishments in the other domain, whilst WHE is described as a process of resource accumulation where work and home resources increase personal resources which, in turn, can be utilised to improve home and work outcomes (ten Brummelhuis and Bakker, 2012; Hauser et al., 2018). The WHR model claims to be universally applicable to countries and cultures (ten Brummelhuis and Bakker, 2012), though it has rarely been tested outside western contexts. According to WHR, WHC reflects a process whereby contextual demands from home and work affect individuals’ level of personal resources negatively, resulting in diminished outcomes in the other domain (ten Brummelhuis and Bakker, 2012). Conversely, WHE reflects a process whereby contextual resources from home and work affect the individual’s personal resources in a positive way, leading to improved outcomes in the other domain (Hauser et al., 2018). One understudied personal resource is the extent to which employees find work intrinsically rewarding. For example, enjoyment of work associated with the experience of intrinsic motivation may be particularly important for Saudi women, where it may counterbalance some of the strain linked to the stigma they face from family and wider society for opting to work.

Self-determination theory (SDT) and WHCE

The self-determination theory distinguishes between autonomous and controlled motivation types (Deci et al., 2017). According to Gagné and Deci (2005), intrinsic (autonomous) motivation refers to engaging in an activity for the inherent satisfaction and enjoyment it brings. By contrast, extrinsic motivation, which is outcome-oriented, is separated from the activity and driven by incentives, such as higher pay, higher status or enhancement of self-esteem.

Ten Brummelhuis et al. (2011) argue that intrinsic motivation should be treated as a personal resource that fuels resource acquisition, generating resource gain spirals, thus underpinning the WHE process. The positive spillover effects involved in enrichment can involve affect or mood, capital or development (Carlson et al., 2006), all of which are influenced by intrinsic motivation. When someone is intrinsically motivated, they experience positive emotions, which they transfer to their home life (Rothbard, 2001). For Saudi women, the decision to work is not always viewed positively at home or amongst wider social circles, causing stress (Aldossari and Calvard, 2021) and so the experience of intrinsic motivation may be essential in counteracting strain and enabling them to perform in the workplace. We contend that when a woman’s family perceives work as positive rather than negative, it facilitates HWE because the home is happier (affect), is more open to new perspectives (development) and allows the woman to be more focused on work without worrying about judgement (efficiency). As Saudi women become more intrinsically motivated and involved in the workforce, it can lead to a redefinition of traditional gender roles, resulting in increased support and acceptance from family members, facilitating HWE. We argue that the sense of fulfilment and accomplishment associated with overcoming challenges faced by Saudi women to work fuels positive spillover involved in WHE and HWE (Carlson et al., 2006). Thus, we hypothesise:


Intrinsic motivations (Day 1) will be positively related to WHE (Day 2; H1a) and HWE (Day 2; H1b).

There are reasons why being extrinsically motivated increases the likelihood that work and home conflict with each other. When employees work for extrinsic reasons, they work to achieve positive reinforcement or to avoid punishment from managers (Howard et al., 2017). Working to fulfil extrinsic motives can be more depleting because it takes more effort to undertake the activity due to less interest or joy in the task (ten Brummelhuis et al., 2011) and greater fear of criticism or job loss (Gagné et al., 2015). Consequently, employees drain their own resources to meet demands associated with extrinsic motivation and are more likely to experience pressure or distress (Kuvaas et al., 2017), which can transfer to home life, resulting in WHC. In the Saudi society, women pursuing financial rewards may be viewed negatively by society as it defies cultural norms (Al Asfour et al., 2017), such that women who prioritise financial and status ambitions over family obligations may face social stigma and criticism for deviating from traditional gender roles. This gives rise to tension at home, amplifying HWC. We also contend that when extrinsically motivated, there is less immersion in work and therefore, more scope for domestic issues to disrupt concentration, a key factor in HWC (Geurts et al., 2005). Thus, we argue that extrinsic motivation fuels both WHC and HWC:


Extrinsic motivations (Day 1) will be positively related to WHC (Day 2; H2a) and to HWC (Day 2; H2b).

Much research points to the positive impact of intrinsic motivation on favourable performance outcomes (Cerasoli et al., 2014). We are interested in both in-role and extra-role performance for two reasons. Firstly, self-reported performance provides us with some indication of active participation in the workplace on the part of Saudi women. Secondly, at an empirical level, whilst the work–life interface theory sets out the impact of enrichment and conflict on performance (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006), this remains understudied in empirical research (McNall et al., 2010). Limited research has shown that cross-domain enrichment effects arising from intrinsic motivation, in the form of WHE, have been shown to enable in-role (Graves et al., 2007) and extra-role performance (Zhang et al., 2018).

When employees experience WHE, effort invested in work is reinforced by the rewards or resources accumulated (ten Brummelhuis and Bakker, 2012), that is, employees enjoy a more positive mood, gain skills that are also beneficial at home and accumulate psychological capital that fuels further investment in work (Carlson et al., 2011). Skills gained at home may enhance HWE because they help individuals to solve problems by freeing up cognitive resources that family issues would have consumed (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006). In line with previous research, we argue that WHE and HWE equip Saudi women with abilities to strive for goals, where they are more likely to capitalize on resources and enhance their in-role and extra-role job performance (Carlson et al., 2011).


WHE (3a) (HWE (3b)) will be positively related to performance, such that HWE (WHE) will mediate the relationship between intrinsic motivation and (i) OCBI, (ii) OCBO and (iii) in-role performance.

In contrast, extrinsic motivation is linked to poorer performance due to less perseverance (Ryan and Deci, 2000). Employees who experience WHC do not perform as well at work due to depleted resources at their disposal (ten Brummelhuis and Bakker, 2012). They attempt to conserve their remaining resources to avoid further loss and, consequently, expend less effort on tasks. Studies suggest that energy and time investment are required for OCB, where going above and beyond is energy depleting and time-consuming (Nielsen et al., 2012). Therefore, an employee seeks to preserve their energy rather than allocating it to discretionary behaviours. Therefore, we argue:


WHC (4a) (HWC (4b)) will be negatively related to performance, such that HWC (WHC) mediates the relationship between extrinsic motivations and (i) OCBI, (ii) OCBO and (iii) in-role performance.

The moderating role of psychological detachment

Scholars investigating the work–home interface emphasise the value of recovery for protecting well-being (Sonnentag et al., 2017). Recovery influences experiences the next day (Sonnentag et al., 2017), since employees perform effectively only when they have sufficient energy or resources to carry out work. Psychological detachment from work is one form of recovery, described as an individual’s sense of being away from work, having ceased thinking about work-related issues (Sonnentag and Bayer, 2005). Psychological detachment is vital for Saudi women since, after work, they enter a complex system involving significant obligations in the family environment (Zaki et al., 2016). The “ideal” Saudi woman (Le Renard, 2008, p. 613) must put the nucleus and extended family first, requiring considerable effort, not least with the generous, large gatherings they must often host in the evenings (Zaki et al., 2016). We argue that, to support enrichment and avoid conflict between home and work, detachment from work for Saudi women is necessary. By engaging in detachment, they can reduce their resource losses, protecting their energy and allowing them to replenish resources for future demands (Molino et al., 2015). Therefore, we argue:


Psychological detachment will moderate the positive relationship between intrinsic motivations and (i) work–home and (ii) HWE, such that the positive relationship will be stronger when psychological detachment is high.

In relation to the relationship between extrinsic motivation and WHC, when employees finish work drained of energy and experience conflict (Molino et al., 2015), this negatively impacts both work and home over the course of the next day because individuals have insufficient resources with which to approach work or family-related responsibilities. The role of psychologically distancing oneself from work in the evening is vital since it gives individuals the opportunity to restore drained personal resources, generating renewed resources during evening time (Sonnentag and Fritz, 2007). When people are unable to switch off, detachment is hampered because they remain active during downtime. This activation requires further resources and hinders the replenishment of personal resources. Therefore, with psychological detachment, there are weaker relationships between extrinsic motivations and WHC and HWC. Thus, we hypothesise:


Psychological detachment will moderate the negative relationship between extrinsic motivations and (i) work–home and (ii) home–work conflict, such that the negative relationship will be weakened by a greater detachment.


Sample and procedure

The study was approved by the [second author’s institution’s] research ethics committee. Data were collected from 358 women working in Princess Nourah University (PNU) over three consecutive days. Whilst the study depended on volunteers, every effort was made to achieve a representative group from across the university ( Schreurs et al., 2022). The sample consists of administrative staff members (58%) and faculty members (42%). More than two-thirds (68%) have, on average, three children. Only 25% reported that their husband/family were happy for them to work.


A daily survey collected data over three days to capture the effects of evening psychological detachment on spillover processes (see Sonnentag et al., 2022). On Day 1, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation variables were assessed. On Day 2, we measured WHCE spillover experiences and previous night detachment and on Day 3, we measured performance. In line with Schreurs et al. (2022), subscales were retained in full, with no items dropped. The measures can be found in the supplementary files.

Motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, was measured using the nine-item Motivation at Work Scale (MWSS; Gagné et al., 2015). Responses ranged from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (5).

WHE was measured using the 18-item multidimensional scale (Carlson et al., 2006), with the following subscales: development, effect and mood and capital and efficiency. Responses ranged from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree”(5).

Work–home conflict was measured with the eight-item SWING scale (Geurts et al., 2005). Four items were measured for each direction. Responses ranged from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (5).

Performance and organisational citizenship behaviours were measured using nine items from Williams and Anderson’s (1991) task-performance scale and Lee and Allen’s (2002) OCB-scale. Responses ranged from “not at all” (1) to “to a great extent” (4).

Psychological detachment was measured using Sonnentag and Fritz’s (2007) recovery subscale. Responses ranged from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (5).

Data analysis strategy

The hypotheses were analysed using Mplus (8.3; Muthén and Muthén, 1998–2017) to carry out confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and moderated mediation structural equation modelling (MMSEM) with maximum-likelihood method of estimation. The indirect effects were tested using 5,000 bootstrapped bias-corrected replications to obtain 95% confidence intervals (CI) (Preacher and Hayes, 2008).


A nine-factor measurement model consisting of the study variables demonstrated adequate fit to the data: χ2(860) = 1689.270, RMSEA = 0.05 SRMR = 0.054, CFI = 0.922, TLI = 0.914. We compared the target model to several alternative nested models in which one or more factors were collapsed. The target model had significantly better fit than all other models. Table 1 shows the means, standard deviations, Cronbach’s alpha and correlations for the study variables.

Following the CFA, we performed the MMSEM. Though there was no theoretical justification for inclusion of control variables, we confirmed that demographics were not significantly related to any of the model variables, and none were included in the MMSEM (Schreurs et al., 2022). The MMSEM results demonstrate acceptable fit to the data, χ2(870) = 1821.257, root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = 0.05, standardised root mean square residual (SRMR) = 0.10, comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.91 and Tucker Lewis Index (TLI)= 0.90. Figure 1 shows that the regression standardises coefficients and Table 2 shows direct, indirect and moderation effects of the path analysis. Further output of the analysis can be found in Table A1 and Figure A1 in the supplementary files.

Hypothesis 1 proposed that intrinsic motivation would be positively related to WHE (1a) and HWE (1b). The results show that intrinsic motivation is positively related to both WHE and HWE (β = 0.38, p < 0.001 for WHE; β = 0.43, p < 0.001 for HWE). Therefore, hypotheses H1a and H1b are supported.

Hypothesis 2 proposed that extrinsic motivation would be positively related to WHC (2a) and HWC (2b). The results provide partial support for the hypotheses; extrinsic motivation related positively to only HWC (β = 0.14, p = 0.020). Therefore, H2a is rejected and H2b is accepted.

Hypothesis 3a proposed that WHE would be positively related to (1) OCBI, (2) OCBO and (3) in-role performance, such that WHE would mediate the relationship between intrinsic motivation and all three aspects of performance. Bootstrapping, based on a random sample of 5,000, was used to calculate confidence intervals for the indirect effect. Results support the mediating role of WHE on Day 2 on the relationship between Day 1 intrinsic motivation and Day 3 OCBI and OCBO. For OCBI, the indirect effect was 0.11 and its 95% confidence intervals were 0.02 and 0.21, respectively, and for OCBO, the indirect effect was 0.14 and its 95% confidence intervals were 0.06 and 0.25 respectively. Therefore, H3a is accepted for (1) OCBI and (2) OCBO.

Hypothesis 3b proposed that HWE would be positively related to (1) OCBI, (2) OCBO and (3) in-role performance, where HWE would mediate the relationship between intrinsic motivation and all three indicators of performance. Results support the mediating role of HWE only on the relationship of Day 1 intrinsic motivation and Day 3 OCBI (H3b(1)). This suggests partial mediation for OCBI where the indirect effect was 0.09 and its 95% confidence intervals were 0.01 and 0.17, respectively. Therefore, H3b is accepted only partially for OCBI (see Table 2).

H4a proposed that WHC would be negatively related to performance, such that WHC would mediate the relationship between extrinsic motivation and (1) OCBI, (2) OCBO and (3) in-role performance. Results show that WHC was unrelated to any of these performance related outcomes. H4a is not supported.

H4b proposed that HWC would be negatively related to (1) OCBI, (2) OCBO and (3) in-role performance, such that HWC would mediate the relationship between extrinsic motivation and the three aspects of performance. The results show that HWC only mediated the relationship between extrinsic motivation and (1) OCBO (β = 0.05, p < 0.05), where the indirect effect was 0.02 and its 95% confidence interval fell between 0.01 and 0.06. However, H4b is not supported, given we expected a negative indirect effect and found a positive indirect effect.

H5a proposed that psychological detachment would moderate the relationship between intrinsic motivations and WHE, such that it would strengthen the relationship between intrinsic motivation and WHE. No moderation effect between intrinsic motivation and WHE was found. However, detachment moderated the relationship between intrinsic motivation and HWE (b = −0.143, p = 0.002), though detachment weakened rather than strengthened the effect (see Figure 2). Hypothesis H5a is therefore not supported. Hypothesis H5b proposed that psychological detachment would moderate the relationship between extrinsic motivation and both directions of WHC, such that psychological detachment would weaken the negative relationship between extrinsic motivations and WHC. The moderation effects were insignificant. Therefore, H5b is rejected.


Our findings show that intrinsic motivation sparks an enrichment process, whilst extrinsic motivation is more likely to fuel conflict experiences. In relation to WHE experiences and performance, contrary to our hypotheses, associations were found with regard to OCB only. In line with predictions, WHE was significantly and positively related to both OCBI and OCBO, whilst HWE was significantly related to OCBI only. We found, also contrary to our hypotheses, that HWC mediated the relationship between extrinsic motivation and OCBO but not OCBI. One tentative explanation for these findings is that perhaps women who experience higher levels of HWC have reduced time available for certain extra-role activities and end up prioritising their core work tasks instead. It could be that they strategise to make the most of their time at work, focussing on OCBO because it increases their visibility in the organisation. This could be, especially, true for extrinsically motivated employees who are more concerned about security, status and reward. Indeed, Bolino et al. (2013) highlighted the darker side of OCB where employees adopt OCBO as an impression-management tactic. It could be that those experiencing more HWC, especially extrinsically motivated women in Saudi Arabia, enjoy less support to spend time and invest energy at work, and so they may look for ways to be seen as making a valuable contribution to the organisation to protect the external rewards they seek from work.

A further unexpected finding was that psychological detachment did not moderate the relationships between motivation and WHCE as expected, though we did find that it weakened the relationships between intrinsic motivation and HWE. That is, the association between intrinsic motivation and HWE diminished the more women detached from work psychologically. This finding suggests that employees who are highly engaged in their work (akin to being intrinsically motivated), find that a lack of detachment can be beneficial (Fritz and Sonnentag, 2005); whilst too much detachment can reduce engagement and performance (see Sonnentag et al., 2017). In the context of Saudi Arabia, women who detach psychologically from work completely may be cutting off their family’s exposure to their working lives, thus reducing HWE that arises from being intrinsically motivated at work. However, examining the home–work interface specifically, higher degrees of detachment from work in the evening may eliminate opportunities for the joy women get from their work to spark HWE. For instance, without sharing happy work experiences, women might not feel tangible support for their work or if work challenges are not shared, people at home do not have the chance to influence how they might be resolved.

Theoretical contributions

Our findings contribute to the literature in two ways. First, our research provides a fresh perspective on enrichment and depletion processes and highlights the role that an individual’s motivation for her job plays, where almost all extant research on conflict processes focuses on demands spilling over from one domain to another (Hauser et al., 2018). Extending on work by Roche and Haar (2020), our longitudinal findings shift the focus away from characteristics in the respective home and work domains (Michel et al., 2011) towards a consideration of the worker’s motivation for work as a key driver of WHCE experiences. What is novel here is that why people work is significant in sparking enrichment and conflict processes. Explaining such experiences through a motivational lens adds to our understanding of how these domains compete or complement each other. Ultimately, our findings point to the significance of work enjoyment as triggering enrichment, whilst working for external reasons is associated with a depleting process between work and home domains.

Secondly, our study explored WHCE processes amongst a rather unique sample of Saudi women. This is valuable given that the Saudi society is evolving continuously (Tlaiss and Al Waqfi, 2022). Saudi women’s new roles in terms of the work–life interface are of great importance within the context of role accumulation and related research. The study offers particularly powerful insights into Saudi women’s working experiences. Surprisingly, despite their multiple demanding family and societal roles, Saudi women experience greater enrichment than conflict, pointing to the scope for positive spillover and add to our understanding of how Saudi women might persist with their careers (see Dukhaykh and Bilimoria, 2021). Therefore, empirical WHCE research should shift focus from the conflict to the enrichment perspective. This is particularly important in countries like Saudi Arabia, where women’s participation in the workforce is nascent and where cultural shifts required to support women’s advancement would benefit by embracing a more positive outlook regarding dual roles for women in the society.

Practical implications

Since intrinsic motivation is evidenced as key to experiencing enrichment, managers and HR practitioners should pay more attention to enjoyment of work (Mitchell et al., 2020). It is important to design jobs that promote intrinsic motivations, to make space for fun at work and to shape work environments that are independent of external regulations (Van Den Broeck et al., 2013). Following Gagné and Deci’s (2005) suggestions, autonomous work motivation is supported by work environments that are challenging, interesting and allow for choice. Moreover, the findings show how intrinsically motivated employees require little detachment from work to facilitate positive HWE spillover. Employees might reflect on their achievements at work by sharing them with family members or incorporating cognitive habits into their leisure time to reflect on the positive aspects of their work (Daniel and Sonnentag, 2014). Further, our findings suggest that managers should encourage setting aside late afternoon for activities which are intrinsically beneficial to well-being, aiding the transfer of positive energy from work to home (Benedetti et al., 2015).

This study assists the extraordinary empowerment phase of Saudi women and how HR managers can play a significant role in the further advancement of their careers (Tlaiss and Al Waqfi, 2022). However, HR managers cannot do this alone, with research already evidencing the paradox of needing to advance supportive practices whilst still being stifled by cultural norms (Tlaiss and Al Waqfi, 2022). Our findings highlight how Saudi women have benefitted by a change in approach, evidenced by significantly higher levels of enrichment experienced over conflict. The findings illustrate that training, education and being able to work largely results in enriching career and life experiences for Saudi women and that organisations and wider society will benefit from this shift in cultural norms. Managers can play a role in emphasising the enriching benefits for society by supporting women’s careers, but it also requires the support of women’s families. Awareness campaigns that adopt enrichment perspectives and point to the benefits for family life of having women pursue careers are a first step towards supporting Saudi women’s empowerment.

Limitations and future directions

Our study has its limitations. All measures were self-reported and so we recommend that future studies combine self-reports and other ratings (e.g. rating employee’s performance supervisors and colleagues). Our research was limited in only assessing the extremes of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for work and their implications on WHCE spillover experiences. The remaining behavioural regulations of the SDT continuum have specifiable consequences for performance and well-being (Ryan and Deci, 2000) and may influence WHCE experiences differently, whilst motives for family domain activities should also be taken into consideration.

Additionally, future studies should include other forms of recovery experiences (e.g. control, relaxation and mastery experience (Fritz and Sonnentag, 2005) into models of the WHCE processes. It is plausible that avoiding psychological detachment is only positive when sharing work experiences at home provides support or some form of relaxation, and again, where family members are open to women’s work experiences. Our unexpected findings present the possibility of optimal levels of detachment that support enrichment but prevent conflict. Thus, future research might explore curvilinear patterns or indeed further boundary conditions. Longitudinal analysis that captures changes over time would allow scholars to better answer the questions around reverse causality, whilst we contend that WHCE experiences influence performance, in line with the established theory (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006), it is possible that they mutually influence each other.

In relation to cultural differences, the role of autonomy warrants exploration in the context of Saudi Arabia, where working women may report higher levels of need satisfaction than women in the Western cultures, who may take their careers for granted. It would be important to capture how the attitudes held by male family members influence enrichment and depletion processes. Finally, understanding whether causality orientations (Hagger and Hamilton, 2021) differ for Saudi women may have important implications for the design of work, which increasingly focuses on nurturing autonomy, competence and relatedness needs (Deci et al., 2017) and which may support career fulfilment. As more Saudi women embark on careers, we should continue to learn from their experiences and support enriching work–home experiences for them, ultimately benefiting them and also the wider society.


Hypothesised model

Figure 1

Hypothesised model

Moderation effect of detachment on intrinsic motivations and home–work enrichment relationships

Figure 2

Moderation effect of detachment on intrinsic motivations and home–work enrichment relationships

Path diagram with standardised coefficients

Figure A1

Path diagram with standardised coefficients

Means, standard deviations and correlations of all study variables

1. Int Mot T13.860.76(0.88)
2. Ext Mot T12.600.830.04(0.83)
3. WHC T22.220.60−0.120.13(0.76)
4. HWC T21.890.77−
5. WHE T23.740.520.560.10−0.32−0.12(0.91)
6. HWE T23.730.620.480.04−0.27−0.200.55(0.94)
7. OCB-I T33.800.640.28−0.09−0.26−0.040.410.37(0.80)
8. OCB-O T33.230.660.48−0.04−0.12−0.120.500.360.54(0.80)
9. Perform T34.060.710.390.08−0.04−0.050.330.290.430.50(0.84)
10. Detach T33.180.95−0.220.01−0.32−−0.14−0.08(0.89)
11. Age36.228.010.20−0.070.03−−0.05−0.15
12. Fam support1.710.93−0.030.03−0.020.01−0.02−−

Note(s): M = Mean, SD = Standard deviation. T1 = Day 1, T2: Day 2 and T3: Day 3. Cronbach’s alpha on diagonal

Source(s): The authors (Maha Alsuwailem & Yseult Freeney)

Direct, indirect and moderation effects of the path analysis model

EffectIntrinsic motivation T1
EffectOCBI_T2OCBO_T3Job perform_T2WHC_T2HWC_T2WHE_T2HWE_T2
Indirect by WHE_T20.1090.1430.065
Indirect by HWE_T20.0850.0020.002
Moderation effect of Detachment_T20.0160.143
Conditional effect of Detachment_T2
+1 SD0.0570.0330.0330.573
−1 SD0.1140.0660.0620.287
EffectExtrinsic motivation T1
EffectOCBI_T2OCBO_T3Job perform_T2WHC_T2HWC_T2WHE_T2HWE_T2
Indirect by WHC_T2−0.01100.004
Indirect by HWC_T20.0080.024−0.001
Moderation effect of Detachment_T2−0.008−0.033

Note(s): T1 = Day 1, T2 = Day 2 and T3 = Day 3. Coefficients are unstandardised regression weights. SD = standard deviation. Bolded estimates display significant coefficients (p < 0.05)

Source(s): The authors (Maha Alsuwailem & Yseult Freeney)

Tests of alternative CFA model specifications

9-Factor model (target model)1689.2708600.050.0540.9220.914
9-Factor model (enrichment dimensions collapsed into one factor for each direction)3005.6988660.0830.0580.7980.779
8-Factor model (motivations collapsed into one factor)3739.5678770.0950.1030.7290.708
7-Factor model (conflict and enrichment directions collapsed into one factor)4858.9518810.1120.0950.6240.596
7-Factor model (citizenship behaviours and performance collapsed into one factor)3570.5188810.0920.0670.7460.727

Source(s): The authors (Maha Alsuwailem & Yseult Freeney)

Supplementary file 1 Survey measures

Scales adopt five-point Likert from Strongly disagree through to Strongly agree unless stated otherwise.

Motivation (Gagné et al., 2015)

I work to get others’ approval (e.g. supervisor, colleagues, family, clients …).

I work because others will respect me more (e.g. supervisor, colleagues, family, clients …).

I work to avoid being criticized by others (e.g. supervisor, colleagues, family, clients …)

I work because others will reward me financially only if I put enough effort in my job (e.g. employer, supervisor …).

I work because others offer me greater job security if I put enough effort in my job (e.g. employer, supervisor …).

I work because I risk losing my job if I do not put enough effort in it.

I work because I have fun doing my job.

I work because what I do in my work is exciting.

I work because the work I do is interesting.

Day 2

Home–work conflict (Geurts et al., 2005)

The situation at home makes me so irritable that I take my frustrations out on my colleagues.

I do not fully enjoy my work because i worry about my home situation.

  • I have difficulty concentrating on my work because I am preoccupied with domestic matters

Problems with my spouse/family/friend affect my job performance.

Home–work enrichment (Carlson et al., 2006)

Helps me to gain knowledge and this helps me be a better worker.

Helps me acquire skills and this helps me be a better worker.

Helps me expand my knowledge of new things and this helps me be a better worker.

Puts me in a good mood and this helps me be a better worker.

Makes me feel happy and this helps me be a better worker.

Makes me cheerful and this helps me be a better worker.

Requires me to avoid wasting time at work and this helps me be a better worker.

Encourages me to use my work time in a focused manner and this helps me be a better worker.

Causes me to be more focused at work and this helps me be a better worker.

Work–home conflict (Guerts et al., 2005)

I am irritable at home because my work is demanding.

I do not fully enjoy the company of your spouse/family/friends because I worry about my work.

I have to cancel appointments with my spouse/family/friends due to work-related commitments.

My work schedule makes it difficult for me to fulfil my domestic obligations.

Work–home enrichment (Carlson et al., 2006)

Helps me to understand different viewpoints and this helps me be a better family member.

Helps me to gain knowledge and this helps me be a better family member.

Helps me acquire skills and this helps me be a better family member.

Puts me in a good mood and this helps me be a better family member.

Makes me feel happy and this helps me be a better family member.

Makes me cheerful and this helps me be a better family member.

Helps me feel personally fulfilled and this helps me be a better family member.

Provides me with a sense of accomplishment and this helps me be a better family member.

Provides me with a sense of success and this helps me be a better family member.

Psychological detachment (Sonnentag and Fritz, 2007)

I did not think about work at all.

I distanced myself from my work.

I got a break from the demands of work.

Day 3. In-role performance and OCB (Williams and Anderson, 1991; Lee and Allen, 2002)

Adopts four-point scale from “not at all” to “to a great extent”

Willingly give your time to help others who have work-related problems.

Show genuine concern and courtesy toward coworkers, even under the most trying business or personal situations.

Give up time to help others who have work or nonwork problems.

Keep up with developments in the organization.

Attend functions that are not required but that help the organisational image.

Offer ideas to improve the functioning of the organisation.

Fulfil responsibilities specified in job description.

Meet formal performance requirements of the job.

Engage in activities that will directly affect his/her performance evaluation.


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Corresponding author

Yseult Freeney can be contacted at:

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