The virtues of rest

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Linna building, auditorium K 103, address: Kalevantie 5

Doctoral defence of MA Psych Marjaana Sianoja

The virtues of rest: Recovery from work during lunch breaks and free evenings

The field of science of the dissertation is Psychology.

The opponent is Professor Sabine Sonnentag (University of Mannheim, Germany). Professor Ulla Kinnunen acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is English.

The virtues of rest: Recovery from work during lunch breaks and free evenings

The aim of this dissertation was to identify the best ways to recover from work stress during lunch breaks and free evenings, and to examine how recovery from work relates to well-being over one year.

Taking lunch breaks regularly and spending lunch breaks outside the office building were related to successful recovery. Also taking longer lunch breaks was beneficial (the typical lunch break length varied between 20 and 40 minutes). Psychological detachment (i.e., not thinking about work) and having control over how the break was spent were particularly helpful strategies in advancing recovery during breaks. Whether the employees spent the break alone or with others did not seem to matter in terms of recovery.

Engaging in a 15-minute park walk or relaxation exercise was related to better concentration and less fatigue in the afternoon than spending breaks in a typical manner. Additionally engaging in a relaxation exercise decreased strain in the afternoon. When employees engaged in the park walks, they rated their breaks as more enjoyable. The relaxation exercises in turn increased detachment from work during the breaks. It is important to note that the park walks were slow-paced walks during which employees were instructed to walk alone or refrain from conversation, and fully focus on the surrounding natural environment. The relaxation exercises combined progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and acceptance of thoughts and feelings.

It is also important to detach from work during free time after work. Poor detachment, that is, thinking about work during free evenings predicted increase in sleep difficulties and emotional exhaustion over one year. This association was found after taking the level of workload into account. Additionally, in a cross-sectional setting, detachment buffered against the effect of workload on emotional exhaustion.

This dissertation was part of a research project called “Recovery from work stress: integrating perspectives of work and environmental psychology” conducted at the University of Tampere and funded by the Academy of Finland. The project included two studies: A questionnaire study with 1722 employees and an intervention study with 97 employees from several Finnish organizations. Employees were mainly working in knowledge intensive or emotionally demanding jobs. The most common fields were education, public administration, media, and information technology.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2395, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2018. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1904, Tampere University Press 2018.

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