How Reattaching to Work Can Boost Productivity

We’ve all heard about the personal and professional benefits of detaching from work. Attending a mid-day meditation session to clear your mind, taking in fresh air at lunch or powering down devices once you leave the office are all methods for managing stress and staying focused in today’s always-on work environments. However, can “reattaching” to work be just as important for performance as detaching?

That’s the finding of a new study from Portland State University, published in the Journal of Management and based on a survey of employees from a range of industries, including the finance, health and energy sectors. According to Charlotte Fritz, associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology at PSU, reattachment involves employees mentally connecting to their workload at the beginning of the day or the start of their shift, which she says can “activate work-related goals, which then further creates positive experiences which allow people to be more engaged at work.”

Reattachment activities vary but could include making a list of tasks during breakfast, mentally rehearsing a conversation with a supervisor during a commute or reviewing goals for the day while waiting in line for coffee, she says.

“We know that detachment from work during non-work hours is important … [and] now we need to think about helping people mentally reconnect to work at the beginning of their work shift or day so they can create positive outcomes during their work day and be immersed in their work,” Fritz says. “It’s not enough to just show up.”

Reattachment is strongly related to engagement, she adds–and engaged employees lead to better business outcomes and higher retention rates.

The researchers suggest organizations actively promote the concept of reattachment–have daily planning meetings at the start of each day, create model to-do checklists for employees to use or allow workers extra time at the start of each day to plan and prepare.

“Organizations need employees who are highly engaged, and reattachment is key,” Fritz says.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at