• Ali H.

Designing team recovery: When to detach from work?

In part one, we shared some thoughts on how team recovery experience is an essential factor of our future work, so here’s part two on building in team recovery. Research has identified psychological detachment as an important factor in people’s recovery experiences from work. Unsurprisingly, when people get the chance to switch off, they are more likely to return to work in a positive state the next day.

Psychological detachment is, in essence, the experience of not thinking about work. This can occur automatically through being immersed in another activity or through more intentional efforts.

It’s fair to say that people differ in the way that they detach from work. Some have a clear line between work and home life, even to the extent of separate calendars. Whilst others seamlessly integrate between the two. We also understand that high levels of work-related stressors are negatively associated with detachment during non-work time, limiting a person’s opportunity to recover from their workday. Ultimately, if we are activating the same body systems during work and non-work time, we are often in a state of constant ‘on’, which prevents us from reaching that optimal recovery state.

So, what does this mean practically ?

A key aspect is to explore individual variables. For example, in life, we will often go through our day to day with positive, negative, and neutral thoughts on specific work events. The difficulty here is that day to day variances might influence when we really need detachment. A more extended working day full of high hindrance demands would likely make it more difficult to detach. Still, equally, if the individual could detach, they would have a valuable opportunity to recover when they need it the most.

Interestingly, research has suggested that we don’t always need to detach and thinking positively about work has shown to produce similar affective states to psychological detachment. For example, if an individual was exposed to a day of positive work experiences, continued positive thoughts of the workday in non-work time could benefit the individual’s wellbeing.

Developing our teams to identify how and when they recover during non-work time could be a key aspect in our future hybrid ways.

Here’s some questions to consider

- Do you know if your team are happy to integrate between work and home?

- Do they have the skills to identify positive and negative work-related thoughts?

- Do they have the skills and ability to detach when they really need it?

- Do you facilitate detachment when your team need it?

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