Research has increasingly shown that an employee’s ability to mentally detach and disengage from work during non-work hours is important for their well-being because it fosters higher life satisfaction and lower burnout.

But a new study in the Journal of Management that I co-authored with Sabine Sonnentag, Kathrin Eck, and Jana Kuhnel suggests the opposite is just as important: employees who mentally reattach to work in the morning are more engaged at work.

We need to think about helping people mentally reconnect to work at the beginning of their day, so they can be immersed in their work. It’s not enough to just show up.

Our study showed that planning and mentally simulating the upcoming workday activates work-related goals. During reattachment, employees think about what will happen during the day, the tasks that have to be accomplished, any potential challenges that might arise, as well as the support and resources they might need to accomplish their goals. (Our study surveyed 151 participants from a broad range of industries, including finance, the energy sector, public administration, information and communication, and health sector.)

Through reattachment, employees are able to activate work-related goals, which allows people to be more engaged at work. Engagement is a sense of energy, of feeling absorbed, feeling dedicated to work, and those are all very important motivational experiences that translate to positive outcomes for both employees and organizations. When they reattach, employees are more satisfied with work, more committed to work, enjoy work tasks more, perform better, and help out more with extra tasks.

Reattachment to work can vary from day to day and will depend on the person and their job. Here’s how both individuals and employers can foster reattachment:

What individuals can do to reattach at the beginning of a work day:

Employees can think about specific tasks that need to be done over breakfast or in the shower, mentally go over a conversation with a supervisor during their commute, or run through their to-do list while standing in line for a coffee.

What companies can do to help employees smoothly transition into the workday:

It could be allowing them a few quiet minutes at the start of the day, initiating a short planning conversation about the upcoming workday, encouraging them to prioritize their most important goals, offering short checklists, or even providing them with more autonomy on the job to complete specific tasks.

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.


  • Charlotte Fritz, PhD

    Associate Professor in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Portland State University

    Dr. Charlotte Fritz is an Associate Professor in Industrial / Organizational Psychology and a faculty member within the Occupational Health Psychology Graduate Training Program at Portland State University. She has studied employees in a variety of industries and countries to better understand what keeps employees happy, healthy, engaged, and productive. Specifically, she examines the interplay between employee experiences at work and those outside of work. For example, how do experiences outside of work (e.g., sleep, mental disengagement from work, relaxation, or mastery experiences) during different types of work breaks (i.e., vacations, weekends, evenings) impact employees in the workplace? Which work experiences and practices impact employee even outside of work? How can employees be supported (e.g., by their supervisors or spouses) in recovery from work demands? How does replenishing energy outside of work impact employee well-being, engagement, and performance in the workplace?