It's the Little Things That Matter: An Examination of Knowledge Workers' Energy Management

    Published Online:

    Recently, Pfeffer (2010) called for a better understanding of the human dimension of sustainability. Responding to this call, we explore how individuals sustain an important human resource—their own energy—at work. Specifically, we focus on strategies that employees use at work to sustain their energy. Our findings show that the most commonly used strategies (e.g., switching to another task or browsing the Internet) are not associated with higher levels of human energy at work. Rather, strategies related to learning, to the meaning of one's work, and to positive workplace relationships were most strongly related to employees' energy.


    • Ashford S. J. , Lee C. , Bobko P. (1989). Content, causes and the consequences of job insecurity: A theory-based measure and substantive test. Academy of Management Journal, 32(4), 803–829.AbstractGoogle Scholar
    • Atwater L. , Carmeli A. (2009). Leader-member exchange, feelings of energy, and involvement in creative work. The Leadership Quarterly, 20, 264–275. Google Scholar
    • Baker W. , Cross R. , Wooten M. (2003). Positive organizational network analysis and energizing relationships. In Cameron K. S.Dutton J. E.Quinn R. (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship (pp. 328–342). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Google Scholar
    • Bostic T. J. , Rubio D. M. , Hood M. (2000). A validation of the subjective vitality scale using structural equation modeling. Social Indicators Research, 52, 313–324. Google Scholar
    • Brown G. (1999). The energy of life. New York: Free Press. Google Scholar
    • Byron K. (2005). A meta-analytic review of work-family conflict and its antecedents. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 67, 169–198. Google Scholar
    • Cable News Network. (2008). Sleeping at work: More of us are doing it. Retrieved May 11, 2010, from Google Scholar
    • Caldwell L. L. (2005). Leisure and health: Why is leisure therapeutic? British Journal of Guidance and Counseling, 33, 7–26. Google Scholar
    • Carmeli A. , Ben-Hador B. , Waldman D. A. , Rupp D. E. (2009). How leaders cultivate social capital and nurture employee vigor: Implications for job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 1553–1561. Google Scholar
    • Cohen-Meitar R. , Carmeli A. , Waldman D. A. (2009). Linking meaningfulness in the workplace to employee creativity: The intervening role of organizational identification and positive psychological experiences. Creativity Research Journal, 21, 361–375. Google Scholar
    • Dababneh A. , Swanson N. , Shell R. L. (2001). Impact of added rest breaks on the productivity and well being of workers. Ergonomics, 44, 164–174. Google Scholar
    • Dutton J. E. (2003). Energize your workplace: How to build and sustain high-quality connections at work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Google Scholar
    • Eden D. (2001). Vacations and other respites: Studying stress on and off the job. In Cooper C. L.Robertson I. T. (Eds.), International review of industrial and organizational psychology (Vol. 16, pp. 121–146). New York: Wiley. Google Scholar
    • Elsbach K. D. , Hargadon A. B. (2006). Enhancing creativity through “mindless” work: A framework of workday design. Organization Science, 17, 470–483. Google Scholar
    • Fortune Magazine (2006). How I work. Retrieved May 11, 2010, from Google Scholar
    • Fritz C. , Sonnentag S. (2005). Recovery, health, and job performance: Effects of weekend experiences. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 187–199. Google Scholar
    • Fritz C. , Sonnentag S. , Spector P. E. , McInroe J. (2010). The weekend matters: Relationships between stress recovery and affective experiences. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31, 1137–1162. Google Scholar
    • Grant A. M. (2007). Relational job design and the motivation to make a prosocial difference. Academy of Management Review, 32, 393–417.LinkGoogle Scholar
    • Grant A. M. , Campbell E. M. , Chen G. , Cottone K. , Lapedis D. , Lee K. (2007). Impact and the art of motivation maintenance: The effects of contact with beneficiaries on persistence behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 103, 53–67. Google Scholar
    • Griffin M. A. , Neal A. , Parker S. K. (2007). A new model of work role performance: Positive behavior in uncertain and interdependent contexts. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 327–347.LinkGoogle Scholar
    • Heaphy E. D. , Dutton J. E. (2008). Positive social interactions and the human body at work: Linking organizations and physiology. Academy of Management Review, 33, 137–162.LinkGoogle Scholar
    • Hobfoll S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44, 513–524. Google Scholar
    • Hobfoll S. E. (1998). Stress, culture, and community: The psychology and physiology of stress. New York: Plenum Press. Google Scholar
    • Hobfoll S. E. , Shirom A. (2001). Conservation of resources theory: Applications to stress and management in the workplace. In Golembiewski R. T. (Ed.), Handbook of organizational behavior, 2nd ed. (pp. 57–80). New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc. Google Scholar
    • Hochschild A. (1990). The second shift. New York: Avon Books. Google Scholar
    • Iwasaki Y. (2003). Examining rival models of leisure coping mechanisms. Leisure Sciences, 25, 183–206. Google Scholar
    • Joudrey A. D. , Wallace J. E. (2009). Leisure as a coping resource: A test of the job demand-control-support model. Human Relations, 62, 195–217. Google Scholar
    • Kaplan S. (2001). Meditation, restoration, and the management of mental fatigue. Environment and Behavior, 33, 480–506. Google Scholar
    • Kark R. , Carmeli A. (2009). Alive and creating: The mediating role of vitality in the relationship between psychological safety and creative work involvement. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30, 785–804. Google Scholar
    • Lin B. C. , Fritz C. (2011). Give me a break: Relationships between recovery during lunch breaks and employee well-being (Working Paper). Portland, OR: Portland State University. Google Scholar
    • Loehr J. , Schwartz T. (2003). The power of full engagement: Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and renewal. New York: Free Press. Google Scholar
    • McNair D. M. , Lorr M. , Droppleman L. F. (1992). Manual for the profile of mood states. San Diego, CA: Educational and Industrial Testing Service. Google Scholar
    • Mojza E. J. , Lorenz C. , Sonnentag S. , Binnewies C. (2010). Daily recovery experiences: The role of volunteer work during leisure time. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 15, 60–74. Google Scholar
    • Pfeffer J. (2010). Building sustainable organizations: The human factor. Academy of Management Perspectives, 24, 34–45.AbstractGoogle Scholar
    • Pratt M. G. , Ashforth B. E. (2003). Fostering meaningfulness in working and at work. In Cameron K. S.Dutton J. E.Quinn R. E. (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 309–327). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler. Google Scholar
    • Pronk N. P. , Crouse S. F. , Rohack J. J. (1995). Maximal exercise and acute mood response in women. Physiology & Behavior, 57, 1–4. Google Scholar
    • Pugh S. D. (2001). Service with a smile: Emotional contagion in the service encounter. Academy of Management Journal, 44, 1018–1027.LinkGoogle Scholar
    • Quinn R. W. (2007). Energizing others in work relationships. In Dutton J. E.Ragins B. R. (Eds.), Exploring positive relationships at work: Building a theoretical and research foundation (pp. 73–90). New York: Routledge. Google Scholar
    • Quinn R. , Dutton J. E. (2005). Coordination as energy-in-conversation: A process theory of organizing. Academy of Management Review, 30, 36–57.LinkGoogle Scholar
    • Ryan R. M. , Frederick C. M. (1997). On energy, personality and health: Subjective vitality as a dynamic reflection of well-being. Journal of Personality, 65, 529–565. Google Scholar
    • Schor J. (1992). The overworked American: The unexpected decline in leisure. New York: Basic Books. Google Scholar
    • Scott B. A. , Judge T. A. (2006). Insomnia, emotions, and job satisfaction: A multilevel study. Journal of Management, 32, 622–645. Google Scholar
    • Shraga O. , Shirom A. (2009). The construct validity of vigor and its antecedents: A qualitative study. Human Relations, 62, 271–291. Google Scholar
    • Sonnentag S. (2003). Recovery, work engagement, and proactive behavior: A new look at the interface between nonwork and work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 518–528. Google Scholar
    • Sonnentag S. , Binnewies C. , Mojza E. J. (2008). “Did you have a nice evening?” A day-level study on recovery experiences, sleep, and affect. Journal of Applied Psychology, 3, 674–684. Google Scholar
    • Sonnentag S. , Fritz C. (2007). The recovery experience questionnaire: Development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 204–221. Google Scholar
    • Spreitzer G. M. (1995). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: Dimensions, measurement, and validation. Academy of Management Journal, 38, 1442–1465.LinkGoogle Scholar
    • Spreitzer G. M. (1996). Social structural characteristics of psychological empowerment. Academy of Management Journal, 39, 483–504.LinkGoogle Scholar
    • Spreitzer G. , Sutcliffe K. , Dutton J. , Sonenshein S. , Grant A. M. (2005). A socially embedded model of thriving at work. Special Issue: Frontiers of Organization Science, Part 2 of 2, 16, 537–549. Google Scholar
    • Storseth F. (2007). Affective job insecurity and risk taking at work. International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, 7, 189–204. Google Scholar
    • Taylor W. C. (2005). Transforming work breaks to promote health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 29, 461–465. Google Scholar
    • Thayer R. E. , Newman R. , McClain T. M. (1994). Self-regulation of mood: Strategies for changing a bad mood, raising energy, and reducing tension. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 910–925. Google Scholar
    • Thoits P. A. , Hewitt L. N. (2001). Volunteer work and well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 42, 115–131. Google Scholar
    • Trougakos J. P. , Beal D. J. , Green S. G. , Weiss H. M. (2008). Making the break count: An episodic examination of recovery activities, emotional experiences, and positive affective displays. Academy of Management Journal, 51, 131–146.LinkGoogle Scholar
    • Trougakos J. P. , Hideg I. (2009). Momentary work recovery: The role of within-day work breaks. In Sonnentag S.Perrewé P. L.Ganster D. C. (Eds.), Research in occupational stress and well-being (pp. 37–84). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Google Scholar
    • Tucker P. , Folkard S. , Macdonald I. (2003). Rest breaks reduce accident risk. Lancet, 361, 680. Google Scholar
    • U.S. Census Bureau. (2007). Families and living arrangements. Retrieved May 11, 2010, from Google Scholar
    • VandeWalle D. , Brown S. P. , Cron W. L. , Slocum J. W. (1999). The influence of goal orientation and self-regulation tactics on sales performance: A longitudinal field test. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 249–259. Google Scholar
    • Van Dieen J. H. , Oude Vrielink H. H. E. (1998). Evaluation of work-rest schedules with respect to the effects of postural workload in standing work. Ergonomics, 41, 1832–1844. Google Scholar
    • Watson D. , Clark L. A. (1994). The PANAS-X: Manual for the positive and negative affect schedule-expanded form. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa. Google Scholar
    • William T. (2006). Owner of a public relations firm. Fast Company, February, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2011, from Google Scholar
    • Wrzesniewski A. , Dutton J. (2001). Crafting a job: Employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 26, 179–201.AbstractGoogle Scholar
    Academy of Management
      Academy of Management
      555 Pleasantville Road, Suite N200
      Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510-8020, USA
      Phone: +1 (914) 326-1800
      Fax: +1 (914) 326-1900