Business & Pleasure

chill outIf we take under consideration that our life is basically divided into work and leisure, we can easily realize that the interaction between these two dimensions is really important. 

This essay focuses on the contribution of leisure or recovery activities on the well being of employees. It is well known that modern life style produces high levels of stress and that work is an important source of it. As we are going to see in detail later on, high levels of work stress often result to the burnout phenomenon, which implies lack of well- being.  

Leisure refers to the time an individual spends when does not undertake work, household tasks and other essential activities such as studying, sleeping and eating. On the other hand, recreation refers to the activities undertaken during this time. Personal circumstances have a significant effect on the frequency and the types of activities people can participate in. It is important to note that intrinsic motivation and free- will are the most important dimensions of leisure. Relevant research has revealed that intrinsic motivation for psychological and physical rewards through leisure are positively correlated with both psychological and physical health.

On the other hand, passive leisure, which is related with escapism, is not psychologically beneficial because it contributes to boredom and even leads to apathy and depression.

Dumazedier and Latouche attempted to categorise activities of leisure time. They defined semileisure activities as those related with family life. According to them, pure leisure activities are both physical activities which require considerable effort, such as sports, as well as others which require very little effort, such as walks. Additionally, there are activities that stimulate the mind and involve participation and attendance to several kinds of artistic events and mental activity such as reading and playing board games. Other types of leisure activity involve socialization, voluntary memberiship in organizations and interest in civil or political activities.

Leisure is a product of industrial civilisation. Kerr (1991) conducted a study which revealed that the 77% of working Americans wanted more free time to spend with friends and family, while 72% of the same sample wanted more time for self- improvement. There is clear evidence that this need did not exist in such extent the previous decades.

The functions of leisure activities involve recuperation from fatigue, diversion which prevents boredom, creativity or “free development which liberates one from routine and makes possible the voluntary growth of physical, intellectual or social capacities” (Friedman, 1961). In addition, there are some social functions such as helping the individual to achieve societal and collective aims. In this way leisure promotes social coherence.

Active recreation has been increased in popularity during the last decades. The changes in the nature of work have played a crucial role on this increase. Since 1970’s there has been a gradual tendency towards more service- based employment, rather than manual labour or manufacture which was the case in the previous decades. Consequently, a need for recreational activities in which the participant can consume and release energy was created.

Additionally, as nowadays pressure and stress is commonplace people get involved with passive recreation, such as reading, listening to music, watching television and much more. The majority of the population splits their leisure time between indoor and outdoor activities.

It is true not standing any argument, that advances in technology extremely support home- based leisure market. Television, including video, satellite and digital TV, computers and Internet, interactive games to name a few, are of increasing popularity.

However, economic growth and the consuming nature of our society encourage activities such as shopping, eating out, countryside recreation and travelling to name a few. The increase of outdoor activities can be also considered as a result of faster, easier and less costly mobility. Nowadays, society perceives leisure time as an essential aspect of everyday life. There is much more awareness of the benefits of personal health and fitness. Furthermore, adventure and innovation is promoted with the attitude that the hard work and the exhausted rhythms of our daily lives should be rewarded. There are two central factors that motivate leisure; seeking interpersonal rewards and escaping from one’s personal or interpersonal world. The former promotes mental health, while the latter is connected with passive activities and it is not considered psychologically or physically rewarding. Active leisure promotes self- esteem and reduces depression because produces a sense of self- determination.

  THE BURNOUT PHENOMENON

Stress derived from work is usually responsible for great damage of the individual’s well- being. A quite common expression of this kind of stress is the phenomenon of burnout.

The term burnout did not exist before Freudenberger (1974) used it when studying the symptoms related to this phenomenon. Initially, he noticed that many employees -in the field of mental health care “fail, wear out, or become exhausted by making excessive demands on energy, strength, or resources”.

Maslach and Jackson’s essential contribution to the topic involves the proposal of a multi- faceted concept of burnout as well as the development of a standardised instrument, the Maslach Burnout inventory (MBI) that assesses the different dimensions of burnout.

According to Maslach, burnout can be described as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and reduced personal accomplishment, which can occur among individuals who work with people in some capacity”. As a result of this syndrome, the individual loses the interest and the positive feelings for his/her work and the people related to it. In addition, the individual does not get any satisfaction from his/ her work or his/her performance to it and develops a negative self- image.

Additionally, burnout can be characterized as a form of chronic working stress that exceeds the limits of personal endurance and the ability of the individual to cope with it.

 “Emotional exhaustion refers to feelings of being emotionally overextended and drained by one’s contact with other people. Depersonalisation refers to an unfeeling and callous response toward these people, who are usually, the recipients of one’s service or care. Reduced personal accomplishment refers to a decline in one’s feelings of competence and successful achievement in one’s work with people.” (Maslach & Jackson, 1982)

Burnout can be seen as a feeling of physical, emotional and psychological depletion, which follows the long- term exposure of the individual to emotional demanding situations. This phenomenon seems to be more salient when the employee starts a career having great expectations, which then fails to meet. The latter hypothesis can be related with Freudenberger’ s notion that burnout can be considered as the loss of one’s ideals and expectations. Consequently, he stated that this syndrome is analogous to a grief process that includes anger as well.  

In case one’s work is in conflict with his/her value systems (beliefs and attitudes) a feeling of confusion and compromising might arise. If this is long term then it possible that the individual’s self esteem will get damaged and in the same way his/her health.

Research has revealed that the syndrome usually appears to vulnerable personalities with salient ideological and altruistic concerns. These individuals cannot cope easily with the fact that are not always able to change the things they do not like, that they lose their autonomy in their work and they develop a sense of drowning through the “system”.

Interestingly, the lack of expectations from one’s work might prove to be just as stressful for some individuals as overload is for others. Burnout is a process rather than a static condition. When the qualifications or the contribution of an employee (education, abilities, effort, experience) exceed the benefits s/he gains from the organisational setting (financial reward, prospects for career development, equipment, acknowledgement, friendly environment, effective co- operation) a gap is created which leads to imbalance. Consequently, the probability of stressful situations increases, contributing to chronic stress which gradually becomes burnout. In other words, a feeling of frustration and hopelessness is created when one’s job fails to provide him/her with the expected rewards. If this situation is long- term, the individual experiences burnout. 

Several theoretical approaches and research findings have revealed that professional exhaustion is related to professional satisfaction. Professional satisfaction can be described as all the positive and negative attitudes a person holds for his/ her work. This term is multidimensional and has been related with work motivation and personal values. As we are going to see later on, professional satisfaction is related with certain patterns of leisure.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WORK AND LEISURE

During the last decades, there is a growing body of research regarding the relationship between work, leisure and well- being. Studies based on mortality statistics have indicated that work may affect the physical health, life expectancy and cause of death of marital partners.

Georges Friedman was a pioneer in studying the relationship between work and leisure. He claimed that leisure could often be an extension of occupational life. A very interesting study revealed that the most frustrating work tends to be associated with the most frustrated leisure. Factors such as socioccupational status, work conditions and the attitudes of employees affect the possiblity to be involved in certain activities. Satisfied employees tend to find certain semileisure activities, such as family festivals, less important. On the contrary, these employes were intersted in self improvement activities, involving a range of activities such as complementary education and reading literature. They also tend to be involved with associations of any kind. However, that is not true for political action groups which are more favored by employees who express unsatisfaction with their work.  

It seems to be widely accepted that the individual’s work situation has an effect on both his/her well- being, as well as the types of leisure the individual participates in. For instance, non- standard work schedules are usually combined with limited time spent in family roles such as childcare and household. As a result, these schedules are associated with greater conflict between work and family life.

Other factors rather than occupational ones seem to play a significant role in an individual’s well- being; these usually have to do with family status. Singles are more easily affected by occupational stress due to lack of an emotional support system. They tend to get bored easily and escape to alcohol and drugs. On the other hand, support systems can be abused by occupational stress. Forgetting family occasions, take out frustration to children or spouse, be uncommunicative are only some of the possible effects of burnout to family life.

Specific behaviour during leisure time contributes to the alleviation of the negative impact of stress experienced at work. Leisure time activities –including social and physical- are related to individual’s well being. Vacations and other off- job time act as restorative agents. It is during these times that resources are restored and recovery is achieved. Relevant research has revealed that physically active people hold lower stress levels. Regular exercise does not only have physical benefits but psychological as well. Opiate hormones- endorphins are released during exercise and produce a feeling of well- being. Additionally, a sense of power and achievement, reduction of anxiety and improvement of mood, result from physical activities. Despite, the definite benefits one receives from exercise, the 80% of the population is estimated to be unfit. The social aspects of leisure activities are of great importance as well. Social interaction is a motivator as well as a benefit of involvement with physical activity and has been found to be related to mental health and psychological well-being.

Interestingly, the most satisfied employees have maintained strong commitment to their work by sustaining a balance between work and non- work. These professionals tend to perceive family commitments and leisure pursuits to be at least as important as their careers. Similarly, participants with low levels of burnout (including those who have recovered from it) seemed to be committed to maintain equilibrium between work and other aspects of their lives. It is worth mentioning that the participants who have recovered had actually more leisure time, rather than simply held attitudes about balancing work and leisure. On the contrary, participants who reported the most dissatisfaction and disappointment seemed to fluctuate from one extreme to the other. Specifically, they had times that they showed excessive commitment to their work, which became the only source of satisfaction to them. During other periods they withdraw from their work in such an extent that it becomes insignificant part of their life.

Thus we can assume, that positive attitude towards one’s occupation, which is related to low burnout, is also related to effective patterns of leisure activities. It is demonstrated that participation in active leisure, including hobbies/ crafts, visiting friends and swimming, is positively correlated to psychological well- being and negatively associated with depression.

It seems that there is a two- way relationship between work and leisure. Enjoyment in leisure facilitates satisfaction and performance at work. Certain forms of leisure activities are positively associated with high levels of physical, mental and social health. It is considered as a coping strategy in every type of stressful situation. Among all, active leisure enables the individual to develop a sense of self- determination.

However, leisure itself is not enough. There are ways to use your free time negatively, by adopting for instance sedentary lifestyle for example or by having health damaging behaviors. Television watching and drinking are kinds of activities that provide temporary relief from stress by hiding from problems and negative feelings. As it is already mentioned, active leisure is essential because participation in various leisure activities is geared towards seeking intrinsic rewards through use of one’s cognitive, physical or social skills. To sum up, an active leisure life style contributes significantly to psychological well- being, self- esteem, life satisfaction and happiness and reduces depression. 


Διαβάστηκε 1801 φορές Τελευταία τροποποίηση στις Πέμπτη, 17 Μαΐου 2012 14:44
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