Excuse me, do you have a minute? An exploration of the dark- and bright-side effects of daily work interruptions for employee well-being

J Appl Psychol. 2021 Dec;106(12):1867-1884. doi: 10.1037/apl0000875. Epub 2021 Feb 18.


Work intrusions-unexpected interruptions by other people that interrupt ongoing work, bringing it to a temporary halt-are common in today's workplaces. Prior research has focused on the task-based aspect of work intrusions and largely cast intrusions as events that harm employee well-being in general and job satisfaction in particular. We suggest that apart from their task-based aspect, work intrusions also involve a social aspect-interaction with the interrupter-that can have beneficial effects for interrupted employees' well-being. Using self-regulation theory, we hypothesize that while work intrusions' self-regulatory demands of switching tasks, addressing the intrusion, and resuming the original task can deplete self-regulatory resources, interaction with the interrupter can simultaneously fulfill one's need for belongingness. Self-regulatory resource depletion and belongingness are hypothesized to mediate the negative and positive effects of work intrusions onto job satisfaction, respectively, with belongingness further buffering the negative effect of self-regulatory resource depletion on job satisfaction. Results of our 3-week experience sampling study with 111 participants supported these hypotheses at the within-individual level, even as we included stress as an alternate mediator. Overall, by extending our focus onto the social component of work intrusions, and modeling the mechanisms that transmit the dark- and the bright-side effects of work intrusions onto job satisfaction simultaneously, we provide a balanced view of this workplace phenomenon. In the process, we challenge the consensus that work intrusions harm job satisfaction by explaining why and when intrusions may also boost job satisfaction, thus extending the recent research on work intrusions' positive effects. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Workplace*