Re-attaching to work is just as important as detaching

A small study published in the Journal of Management shows that having a re-attachment process is vital for their engagement throughout the workday.

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Everybody knows the importance of “powering down” at the end of the day – it’s good for you to stop thinking about work, stop answering email, and go about enjoying your night. As it turns out, a process for “re-attaching” to work soon after you wake up in the morning may be important too, new research shows.

small study co-authored by researchers at Portland State University and Germany’s University of Mannheim and published in the Journal of Management shows that having a re-attachment process is vital for their engagement throughout the workday.


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The study surveyed 151 employees from a wide variety of industries, including public administration, finance, health, communications, and energy.

How to re-attach

The re-attachment process is simpler and less time-consuming than it sounds. It’s simply “building a mental bridge to work early during the day, therefore activating work-related goals,” as researchers explain it. In other words, it’s thinking about work before you get there. Reattachment could include simply going over your upcoming day during your commute, reviewing your tasks to be accomplished while in line for coffee, or making mental to-do lists as you walk to your building.

We know that detachment from work during non-work hours is important because it creates positive outcomes like higher life satisfaction and lower burnout,” said Charlotte Fritz, a co-author and associate professor at PSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in a release. “Now we need to think about helping people mentally reconnect to work at the beginning of their work shift or day so they can create positive outcomes during their work day and be immersed in their work. It’s not enough to just show up.”

And that’s as easy as reattachment, or in layman’s terms, thinking about work before you’re actually there. While you’ve probably been doing this to some extent already, the good news is that it builds engagement, and you can always make an effort to slow down and do it more mindfully if you think you haven’t been doing it enough.

“Through reattachment, employees are able to activate work-related goals, which then further creates positive experiences which allow people to be more engaged at work,” Fritz said. “Engagement is a sense of energy, sense of feeling absorbed, feeling dedicated to work… organizations need employees who are highly engaged, and reattachment is key.”


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Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.