Current Perspectives on Job-Stress Recovery: Volume 7


Table of contents

(13 chapters)

For decades research on occupational stress and well-being has been dominated by studies that demonstrated the negative effects of job stressors and lack of resources on employee health and well-being. Although this body of research is highly important and informative, it offers only limited insight into the processes that offset and “undo” the stress process. During recent years, researchers have paid increasing attention to such processes that reduce and reverse the effects of stress (i.e., recovery processes). This 7th volume of Research in Occupational Stress and Well Being is devoted to this growing research area on job stress recovery. The volume includes seven excellent chapters that provide state-of-the-art overviews on this theme, identify research gaps, and provide inspiring suggestions for further research.

This chapter describes methodological issues that are relevant for research on recovery. We aim to provide an overview of methodological approaches that have been or can be used in recovery research, and to provide methodological guidelines that researchers may use in assessing the process of recovery. We argue that studies on recovery must be explicit about recovery settings, recovery processes (i.e., activities and experiences) and recovery outcomes. We describe typical operationalizations of these three perspectives and focus in more detail on potential measures of recovery outcomes. We give an overview of research designs including experiments and quasi-experiments, diary studies, and longitudinal field studies. We conclude by pointing to remaining challenges for researchers in the area of recovery.

Drawing from research on personal resources (e.g., Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998; Fredrickson, 1998) and the episodic nature of work (Beal, Weiss, Barros, & MacDermid, 2005), we examine research and theory relevant to the study of momentary recovery in the workplace. Specifically, we propose that the nature of within workday breaks influences the levels of psychological resources, which in turn influence various workplace outcomes. First, we discuss the momentary approach to studying workplace breaks and consequent resource levels. In doing so, we distinguish between two types of breaks, respites and chores; and we detail two types of psychological resources, regulatory and affective resources. Consequences of psychological resource levels on emotional exhaustion and performance are considered. We also explore possible moderators of the proposed relationships; we discuss job and individual characteristics, and motivation to perform. Finally, we conclude the chapter with a brief discussion on future research and possible applications of the momentary approach to work recovery in organizations.

The aim of this chapter is to provide a literature review on daily recovery during non-work time. Specifically, next to discussing theories that help us understand the process of recovery, we will clarify how recovery and its potential outcomes have been conceptualized so far. Consequently, we present empirical findings of diary studies addressing the activities that may facilitate or hinder daily recovery. We will pay special attention to potential mechanisms that may underlie the facilitating or hindering processes. Owing to the limited research on daily recovery, we will review empirical findings on predictors and outcomes of a related construct, namely need for recovery. We conclude with an overall framework from which daily recovery during non-work time can be understood. In this framework, we claim that daily recovery is an important moderator in the process through which job characteristics and their related strain may lead to unfavorable states on a daily basis.

Recovery seems to be one of the most important mechanisms explaining the relationship between acute stress reactions and chronic health complaints (Geurts & Sonnentag, 2006). Moreover, insufficient recovery may be the linking mechanism that turns daily stress experiences into chronic stress. Given this role recovery has in the stress process, it is important to ask in which contexts and under what circumstances recovery takes place.

In this chapter, we discuss the impact of business trips on travelers and their families from the perspective of respite, thus embedding business trips in stress theories. We begin by reviewing the literature on respite and recovery. Focusing on the role of travelers’ resources, we relate the phenomenon of business trips to conservation of resources (COR) and job demands-resource (JD-R) theories. We then discuss the negative and positive characteristics and outcomes of business trips. We offer evidence from interviews with business travelers regarding the special characteristics and consequences of business trips. We summarize by addressing the question of whether business trips are a special kind of respite.

This chapter summarizes the knowledge on sleep and restitution. Sleep constitutes the recuperative process of the central nervous system. The use of the brain during wakefulness will lead to depletion of energy in the cortical areas locally responsible for activity. The level of depletion is monitored and sleep is initiated when critical levels are reached. The attempts to initiate sleep are perceived as sleepiness or fatigue. The ensuing sleep then actively restores brain physiology to normal levels. This also results in restored alertness, memory capacity, and mood. Also, peripheral anabolic processes (secretion of growth hormone and testosterone) are strongly enhanced and catabolic process (secretion of cortisol and catecholamines) are strongly suppressed. In the long run, reduced or impaired sleep leads to metabolic diseases, depression, burnout, and mortality. Stress and irregular hours are among the main causes of disturbed sleep.

The importance of anabolism and regeneration is related to lack or loss of control. This chapter discusses the psychophysiological basis for such relationships. In the threat of lost control, energy mobilisation is activated and regeneration is inhibited – since regeneration (repairing) has low priority in emergency situations. This pattern can be traced on several psychophysiological levels, from the brain to most of the cells in the body. Such a mechanism explains why the body becomes vulnerable and increasingly sensitive to load when threat of lost control is excessive and long lasting. In several empirical examples, various indicators of anabolism and regeneration have paralleled improvement versus deterioration in psychosocial conditions, in particular lack or loss of control. In these studies, indicators of anabolism and regeneration (such as concentration of sex hormones with anabolic and regenerative functions in blood and saliva) have been followed in subjects going through deteriorating versus improving life conditions. The demand-support model is used as a theoretical basis for the discussion.

Torbjörn Åkerstedt, Ph.D. in psychology, 1979, is professor of behavioral physiology at Stockholm University and director of the Stress Research Institute, affiliated to Karolinska institute. He has been President of the Scandinavian Research Society, the European Sleep Research Society, and Secretary General of the World Federation of Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine Societies. He has published more than 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals. The focus of his work has been on sleep regulation, sleep quality, sleepiness and risk, effects of shift work, and stress on sleep and sleepiness.

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Research in Occupational Stress and Well Being
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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