Doctoral dissertation

Anniina Virtanen: Teachers’ Recovery Processes: Investigating the role of different breaks from work for well-being and health among Finnish teachers

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The overall aim of the doctoral dissertation of Master of Arts (Psychology) Anniina Virtanen was to gain new knowledge about recovery processes during different types of recovery settings among teachers: breaks during the working day, off-job time in the evenings and weekends, and a one-week vacation.

Special attention was paid to internal recovery occurring during withinworkday breaks, which has received far less research attention than has external recovery during leisure time. Another important focus was the role of ageing in recovery, which has so far been little studied. The main theoretical framework utilized in the study is the DRAMMA model (Newman, Tay, & Diener, 2014), which proposes six recovery experiences (i.e., psychological experiences which aid recovery): detachment from work, relaxation, autonomy, mastery, meaning and affiliation. In her dissertation, Virtanen approached recovery from work through these experiences in particular.

The target group of the study consisted of Finnish teachers, a highly stressed occupational group. Virtanen's research is based on data collected on a research project entitled “New Lessons in Recovery: Investigating the Role of Different Breaks from Work for Healthy, Happy and Creative Ageing Teachers”, which was ongoing during the years 2017-2019.

The data gathered during the research project come from three sub-studies: a cross-sectional questionnaire study (N = 909), a one-week diary study (N = 107), and a four-week intervention study (N = 76). The participants of all substudies were teachers and school head teachers, most of whom worked in comprehensive schools and/or secondary schools.

The dissertation consists of four articles. Firstly, utilizing the questionnaire data, Virtanen focused on relationships between leisure-time recovery experiences and well-being among younger and older teachers. Experiences of detachment, relaxation, control, mastery, meaning and affiliation were related to better well-being. Age moderated the relationships between control, mastery, and relaxation and vitality and life satisfaction. Older teachers benefitted more from experiences of control and mastery, whereas younger teachers benefitted more from relaxation during off-job time.

The second article, also based on the questionnaire data, focused on relationships between two break recovery experiences (detachment and relaxation) and well-being. Among subject teachers (i.e. teachers teaching only one or few school subjects), age moderated the relationship between break detachment and relaxation and exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy at work. Older subject teachers benefitted more from detachment and relaxation during breaks than their younger counterparts.

In the third article based on diary data, Virtanen investigated recovery experiences as mediators between daily emotional job demands and affect in the afternoon and in the evening. The results suggest that break detachment and meaning act as mediators between these demands and affect both in the afternoon and in the evening. Also, affiliation during breaks was associated with higher afternoon positive affect, but daily emotional job demands were not related to break affiliation. In addition to the original publications, this dissertation includes additional results concerning recovery-promoting activities during breaks. The results showed that almost all break activities examined, except for eating or drinking, were related to several break recovery experiences.

In the fourth intervention study, Virtanen examined with the help of a smartphone-based intervention whether it is possible to strengthen and prolong the positive effects of a holiday on well-being. The results showed that most recovery experiences and wellbeing indicators increased during the holiday, but the effects were short-lived. Among active app users, creativity at work increased from baseline to after the holiday, whereas among non-users it decreased. The fading of beneficial holiday effects on lower negative affect was slightly slower among active app users. The results suggest that a smartphone-based recovery intervention has potential to support beneficial holiday effects.

All in all, the dissertation shed new light on teachers’ daily recovery both across working days and evenings after work as well as after a one-week holiday. The results can be translated into practical guidelines to improve teachers’ working conditions, to facilitate recovery both during the working day and during leisure, and to enhance and prolong the beneficial effects of vacations. Possible practical implications include recovery training and interventions targeted specifically at teachers.

The doctoral dissertation of Master of Arts (psychology) Anniina Virtanen in the field of psychology titled
Teachers’ Recovery Processes: Investigating the role of different breaks from work for well-being and health among Finnish teachers will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Tampere University at 12 o'clock on Friday 3 December, 2021. The venue is Main building auditorium D11, address: Kalevantie 4. Assistant professor Madelon van Hooff from Radboud University, The Netherlands, will be the opponent while docent Jessica de Bloom will act as the custos. 

The event can be followed via remote connection from this link.

The dissertation is available online at
http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-2189-5

 

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