Your hobby outside work could make you a better performer at work – most of the time

What you do outside work can positively influence your confidence at work, according to research by Dr. Ciara Kelly and her colleagues at the University of Sheffield’s Institute of Work Psychology. Specifically, it’s your hobbies – spending an intense amount of time on whatever it is you like to do in your free time (crafting, Dungeons and Dragons, Crossfit) can increase people’s confidence in their capability to do their job well.

However, it’s the hobbies that make a difference. For you to gain confidence, your hobbies have to be sufficiently different than the work you do. “Consider a scientist who is an avid rock climber,” says Dr. Kelly, in a release. “Since climbing is so far removed from their day-to-day work activities, they can still recover from the demands of their job and replenish their resources.”

Mix it up

If your hobby is too similar to your job, and uses the same skills, you won’t get the benefits. If you’re a professional writer whose hobby is writing a novel in her downtime, or a professional tennis player who plays tennis for fun, it cancels things out. In that case, having a hobby that is too close to people’s career can leave people feeling depleted of the skills they need to perform well at work.

So go hard after those hobbies – as long as your hobbies aren’t basically, um, work:

Says Dr. Kelly “A high commitment approach to hobbies can help us to build skills and experiences that improve our confidence in the workplace, so is beneficial – as long as the hobby doesn’t interfere with, or place the same demands experienced at work.”

And what about those who want to turn their hobbies into a new career? Go for it. But you might need new hobbies if you do so. In the words of the study authors, “our findings might suggest that people in this position should take up a different serious leisure activity.”

The study was published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior.