Professor dr. Arnold B. Bakker; Professor of Work and Organizational Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Past President of EAWOP.

Diary studies

Research on daily fluctuations in happiness and work engagement acknowledges that individuals who are generally happy with their job and engaged in their work may not be equally happy and engaged every day. Indeed, an increasing number of studies has shown that daily fluctuations in job satisfaction and work engagement are considerable, and that these fluctuations can be predicted and be used to predict important employee and organizational outcomes (Bakker & Xanthopoulou, 2009; Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti & Schaufeli, 2009). Moreover, it is conceivable that short-term indicators (or within-person changes) of occupational well-being are better predictors of performance in organizations than long-term indicators (between-person differences).

The performance episodes model (Beal, Weis, Barros, & MacDermid, 2005) offers an explanatory theoretical framework for these findings. In contrast to traditional performance models that regard within-person differences as error variance, their performance episodes model focuses on an individual’s variability in performance over short periods of time. Their main argument is that individuals perform better when fully concentrated on the task at hand. Specifically, Beal and his colleagues propose that resource allocation to the task is crucial for successful performance. If employees cannot allocate all of their resources to the task at hand, for example because they are constantly interrupted by telephone calls, they cannot perform optimally. Thus, replenishing and conserving (self-regulatory) resources is critical for successful performance during performance episodes and during a day (see Beal et al., 2005). For example, a financial investment manager will perform best when she is energetically engaged with information about the stock market. Similarly, a general practitioner may deliver the best care to patients to whom he listens empathically – a situation that is most likely when he dedicates all his energy to his work. If ongoing task performance is interrupted, for example by a colleague who wants to discuss his weekend experiences, or by the beep of an incoming e-mail message, the focus will shift from the task to the colleague and e-mail message, and the energy is no longer invested in the task.

From the book "A day in the life of a happy worker" (Arnold Bakker & Kevin Daniels, in press; Psychology Press).

More on daily happiness: Daily Happiness Book.