Social Activities Do not Distract Everyone from Work A Diary Study of Work-Related Perseverative Cognition

  •  Annie Foucreault    
  •  Julie Menard    


Work-related perseverative cognition (WPC) involves rumination about the past and worry about the future regarding workplace issues. Such cognition impedes workers’ daily recovery and well-being as it fosters prolonged activation of psychological stressors during leisure time. Considering these detrimental effects, it is important, for both theoretical and practical considerations to highlight coping strategies that individuals can use to reduce daily WPC. Previous studies have led to contradictory results regarding the potential of social activities to decrease daily WPC. The aim of this study was to bring new insights on these results by examining how the benefits from time spent on social activities (i.e., reducing WPC) vary according to an individual’s level of neuroticism. A total of 48 daytime workers from a Canadian university completed evening diaries on 10 days during two consecutive workweeks (316 data points). Participants recorded the number of minutes spent on social activities after each workday and the extent to which a series of WPC had crossed their mind during the evening. Results from Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) analyses revealed that time spent on social activities was associated to a daily decrease of WPC for workers low in neuroticism but to an increase of WPC for those high in neuroticism. This study suggests that workers high in neuroticism may be less likely to benefit from social activities. The discussion focuses on why potentially protective mechanisms associated with social activities may not be helpful to them. Practical implications based on individuals’ level of neuroticism are offered.

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