How to Fully Recover From Work


In this second part of my series of articles on recovery from work, you will learn:

– Why adequate and successful recovery from work is important,
– What the best recovery experiences are,
– What the underlying attributes of these experiences are,

– Why psychological detachment is crucial to long-term health and well-being.

Why is recovery so important?

According to researchers Meijman and Mulder (1998), recovery from work refers to the process of reducing or eliminating physical and psychological strain symptoms that have been caused by job demands and stressors.

At work, certain functional systems are called upon to get the job done.

For instance, if you are a researcher who reads a lot at work, your main work-related functional system is “reading”.

If you are a flight attendant, your main work-related functional system is “customer service.” 

Interestingly, even thinking about work can tax your work-related functional system.

Meijman and Mulder suggest that recovery may be achieved by allowing for functional systems called upon at work to return to their pre-stressor state/levels.

In order for recovery to occur, one must engage in suitable recovery experiences.

Researchers Sonnentag and Natter (2004) describes these as experiences that help one recovery from job stress; activities that an individual pursues to help restore his/her resources.

These experiences are ones that do not call upon work-related functional systems in any way.

These experiences allow for full recovery during leisure time.

The best recovery experiences

For this reason, it is important to realise which activities are resource-depleting and which are resource-replenishing.

Which are the best recovery experiences that are resource-replenishing?

According to Sonnentag (2001), resource-replenishing activities include:

– Social activities (e.g. meeting up with friends),
– Low-effort activities (e.g. watching TV),
– Physical exercise.

In fact, Sonnentag (2001) found that low-effort activities were a positive predictor of well-being at bedtime in teachers.

The best recovery experiences however are ones that have a few or even all of the following underlying attributes: psychological detachment, relaxation, control, and mastery.

However, the most important attribute underlying the best recovery experiences is believed to be psychological detachment.

Psychological Detachment

Detachment is said to be an individual’s sense of being away from the workplace. Though being physically away from work might be important for recovery, it may not be enough.

This experience goes beyond pure physical distance from one’s workplace.

As a result, Sonnentag and Bayer (2005) introduced the concept psychological detachment which focuses on the following:

a) not being involved in job-related tasks during off-job time, and

b) not thinking about job-related issues (Sonnentag and Fritz, 2007).

Psychological detachment from work is an important element in successful recovery.  

Researchers Sonnentag and Fritz (2007) found that employees who psychologically detach from work report higher levels of well-being.

Even more recent research has found that psychological detachment predicted lowered emotional exhaustion, low need for recovery, and high work engagement (Siltaloppi et al., 2009).

Such detachment is particularly important in stressful job conditions.

For these reasons, adequate recovery from work is important as it protects the health and well-being of workers in the long-run.

In fact, people who do not recover properly report more health complaints and higher levels of burnout (Elfering et al., 2002).


During my revision for my exams, I read and wrote all the time.

Thanks to this research, I was able to avoid burnout by recovering properly.

During my recovery, I would refrain from taxing my “reading” and “writing” functional systems. 

For me personally, the best recovery experiences were going to gym (or for a cycle), cooking, and socialising. 

This research has tremendously beneficial practical implications.

I hope this research will help you as much as it helped me.

Stay tuned for next week’s post where you will learn:

– Why thinking or worrying about work away from work is bad for you,
– Why watching T.V or relaxing on the sofa (i.e. low-effort activities) might not be the best thing for your recovery from work.

P.S. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter so you don’t miss out on the rest of the posts in this “recovery from work” series. 


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