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Jan 13, 2022

Want to be more proactive at work? Don’t skip those fun after-work activities.

The modern workplace is in a state of constant flux. 

Employees who are proactive at work—those who are self-starters, future-focused, and change-oriented are increasingly desired by organizations in all industries. This has led researchers to consider what factors promote employees to be proactive at work. My research is the first to demonstrate that the activities we pursue after work impacts the extent to which we are proactive at work the next day. 

We tracked 183 full-time employees in a variety of industries over a period of 10 working days. Our research found that off-work evening activities that encourage learning, such as volunteering or developing a new skill (mastery experiences), were predictive of proactivity at work the next day. Moreover, these activities foster positive emotions and an increased sense of competence. 

How we spend our time after work carries important implications on our proactivity at work the next day.

Having the autonomy to determine evening activities also contributed to increased proactivity at work the next day, due to increased self-efficacy. In contrast, spending the evening on those dreaded chores or “hassle” activities, led to lower proactive behaviors at work the next day, as these activities decreased positive emotions in the morning. 

The main takeaway? How we spend our time after work carries important implications on our proactivity at work the next day. Tonight, why not pick up that hobby you’ve been putting aside? Work might just thank you for it tomorrow.

Bonnie Hayden Cheng is Chief Resilience Officer of Human at Work, and Associate Professor and Director of the MBA Program at HKU’s Business School. Bonnie is passionate about helping leaders and their teams build resilience and prioritize wellness, and is a leading expert in work stress and its impact on wellness. If you’d like to learn what goes into creating high-performing, happy and healthy teams, reach out to Bonnie and she’ll share how we do it.