SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS
— “Thinking about your leisure activities shouldn’t necessarily be dismissed as ‘day dreaming’ because it appears to be linked to higher task performance.” — Traditionally, this area of research focuses on the relationships between individuals’ family lives and their work. In contrast, I focus on leisure rather than family. Leisure activities are becoming increasingly relevant to those in employment and employers alike. We know from research that younger generations value leisure more highly than previous generations. Younger generations are also having relationships that are shorter and begin later in life. When you combine this with the trend for starting a family later in life, we can see that there is greater opportunity for leisure to play an important role. It may therefore be time for employers to include leisure activities in their consideration of the wellbeing of their employees, not to mention in their efforts to attract high-quality new recruits. A workplace offering flexible working practices that facilitates our leisure roles as well as our family roles may be an inviting prospect for individuals now joining the job market. Leisure was a vibrant topic of research in the 1980s and ’90s when researchers assumed that the increasing levels of automation of work would rapidly lead to vast increases in time available for leisure. This expectation led to an interest in how to maintain a sense of purpose and wellbeing within society without the structure of paid work. Additionally there was an optimistic sense of opportunity for humans to engage in more creative and innovative behaviour, particularly those behaviours that would enhance our collective wellbeing. As time has passed it has become clear that despite some gains in leisure time over the past few decades, the changes have not approached the levels that had been forecasted. As a result, leisure and its interactions with work is a topic that has been relatively neglected. My recent research focuses on ‘serious’ leisure and asks whether it enriches or depletes us in our working lives. Serious leisure describes a situation where an individual engages in an activity that is linked to their sense of identity (ie they
might describe themselves as a climber or an actor). Additionally, an individual who has a serious leisure activity will build skills and knowledge relevant to the activity, persevere with the activity despite moments that are difficult or unpleasant and have plans to continue engaging in the activity into the future. This can be contrasted with ‘casual’ leisure, where an individual may enjoy engaging with an activity at a superficial level but does not intend to develop themselves within it or continue to engage in it if difficulties arise. Any activity can be serious or casual, depending on the way you engage with it, and not everyone has an activity they would consider ‘serious’. My research uses online diaries, which allow individuals to record the time they spend in their casual and serious leisure activities. One such study checked in with people each day over 10 days to find out more about the daily effects of time spent in leisure activities. Most research on leisure compares different people to each other, whereas this research design allows us to identify the effects of fluctuations in leisure activity on the same person over time.
‘positive leisure reflection’. Specifically, I am interested in whether reflecting on the good sides of your leisure activity may boost positive mood during the work day. Preliminary findings on this research indicate that thinking about your leisure activities shouldn’t necessarily be dismissed as unprofessional or merely ‘day dreaming’ because this behaviour appears to be linked to higher task performance and more helping behaviours on the days individuals reflect more than usual. These findings were recently presented at the European Association of Work and Organisational Psychology Biannual Conference.
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My co-investigators (Dr Karoline Strauss, ESSEC Business School, France and Professor John Arnold at the SBE) and I examined whether changes in individuals’ average leisure time was related to increased psychological resources, such as positive mood and confidence. We found that when individuals spent more time than usual on their serious leisure activities, they reported higher levels of confidence. We also found that this increase in confidence was linked to higher task performance as well as higher levels of proactive behaviours in the workplace. Casual leisure, in contrast, did not appear to have the same effects. We will be presenting this work at the Academy of Management Annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia this August. I am currently investigating the performance and wellbeing impacts of
Ciara Kelly is Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour and a member of the Centre for Professional Work and Society. Ciara can be reached on email@example.com
Loughborough University School of Business and Economics Bi-Annual Magazine