After-work activities matter: work “proactivity” affected

By Bonnie Hayden Cheng | Wednesday, 03 Apr 2019

At the end of a working day, people often engage in preferred activities to recover from work stress, such as reading, practising hobbies, new interests, or engaging in activities that distract them from thoughts of work, such as cooking or going to the gym.

Does participating in these activities have any effect on your behaviours at work the next day? A team of psychologists tracked 183 full-time employees from a range of IT and telecommunication organizations in China across 10 workdays. Employees reported their nightly activities, their psychological states in the morning, and their proactive behaviours at the end of each work day.

It was found that employees who participated in activities that include learning or challenging opportunities, such as learning a new language or volunteering (mastery experiences) in the evening, were more likely to be proactive at work the next day, as these activities made employees feel better (positive affect), and employees felt like they were able to take on these proactive roles at work (role breadth self-efficacy).

Employees who had the ability (i.e. agency) to organise their activities in the evening were more likely to be proactive at work the next day, because they had a stronger desire for control, and felt higher levels of role breadth self-efficacy.

Interestingly, employees who spent the evening doing hassle activities, such as attending to chores, were less likely to be proactive at work the next day, because they were less likely to feel positive affect the next morning.

Employees who engaged in relaxing activities during the evening, or who mentally detached themselves from thoughts of work, were not likely to engage in next day proactive behaviours.

What does this mean for employees? Well, this research tells us that the way we spend our evening has different effects on our proactivity at work the next day. Employees who engage in activities associated with mastery or agentic experiences are more likely to be proactive at work the next day. In contrast, having relaxing experiences or being mentally detached from work relates only to feelings of serenity that do not affect proactivity.

For those of us who spend our evenings engaged in hassle activities, we may need to deliberately involve in more beneficial experiences to counterbalance the negative effect of these hassles on energy levels, which may help with proactivity at work the next day. Enjoy your evening, be proactive tomorrow!


Kan Ouyang, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics
Bonnie Hayden Cheng, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Wing Lam, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Sharon K. Parker, Curtin University


Ouyang, K., Cheng, B. H., Lam, W., Parker, S. K. (in press, 2019). Enjoy your evening, be proactive tomorrow: How off-job experiences shape daily proactivity. Journal of Applied Psychology

Bonnie Hayden Cheng

Associate Professor, Department of Management and Marketing, Faculty of Business, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Proactivity productivity Happy hour

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