My Mind is Working Overtime-Towards an Integrative Perspective of Psychological Detachment, Work-Related Rumination, and Work Reflection

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Aug 20;16(16):2987. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16162987.


In the literature on occupational stress and recovery from work, several facets of thinking about work during off-job time have been conceptualized. However, research on the focal concepts is currently rather diffuse. In this study we take a closer look at the five most well-established concepts: (1) psychological detachment, (2) affective rumination, (3) problem-solving pondering, (4) positive work reflection, and (5) negative work reflection. More specifically, we scrutinized (1) whether the five facets of work-related rumination are empirically distinct, (2) whether they yield differential associations with different facets of employee well-being (burnout, work engagement, thriving, satisfaction with life, and flourishing), and (3) to what extent the five facets can be distinguished from and relate to conceptually similar constructs, such as irritation, worry, and neuroticism. We applied structural equation modeling techniques to cross-sectional survey data from 474 employees. Our results provide evidence for (1) five correlated, yet empirically distinct facets of work-related rumination. (2) Each facet yields a unique pattern of association with the eight aspects of employee well-being. For instance, detachment is strongly linked to satisfaction with life and flourishing. Affective rumination is linked particularly to burnout. Problem-solving pondering and positive work reflection yield the strongest links to work engagement. (3) The five facets of work-related rumination are distinct from related concepts, although there is a high overlap between (lower levels of) psychological detachment and cognitive irritation. Our study contributes to clarifying the structure of work-related rumination and extends the nomological network around different types of thinking about work during off-job time and employee well-being.

Keywords: burnout; employee well-being; mental health; perseverative cognition; psychological detachment; rumination; thriving; vitality; work engagement; work reflection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Burnout, Professional / etiology
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Stress
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Problem Solving
  • Rumination, Cognitive*
  • Work Engagement*
  • Young Adult