Work-Life Boundaries and Well-Being: Does Work-to-Life Integration Impair Well-Being through Lack of Recovery?

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Boundary management, Boundary enactment, Recovery, Well-being, Exhaustion, Work-life balance

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Against the backdrop of increasingly blurred boundaries between work and nonwork, the purpose of this study was to investigate the implications of employees’ work-to-life boundary enactment for well-being. Using border/boundary theory (as reported by Ashforth, Kreiner, & Fugate (Academy of Management Review 25(3):472–491, 2000) and Clark (Human Relations 54(6):747–770, 2000)) and the effort-recovery model (as reported by Meijman & Mulder (Handbook of work and organizational psychology vol. 2 55–53, 1998)), we developed a research model that links work-to-life integration enactment to exhaustion and impaired work-life balance via lack of recovery activities (as reported by Sonnentag, Journal of Applied Psychology 88(3):518–528, 2003). The model was tested using structural equation modeling. Our sample consisted of N = 1916 employees who were recruited via an online panel service. Results showed that employees who scored high on work-to-life integration enactment reported less recovery activities and in turn were more exhausted and experienced less work-life balance. Our study contributes to the existing literature on boundary management by investigating the well-being implications of work-to-life boundary enactment and by suggesting and testing recovery as an underlying mechanism. In doing so, we link boundary enactment with existing theory of the work-life interface. Based on our review of existent research on boundary management and well-being, we disentangle previous contradictory findings. Understanding of the well-being implications of boundary enactment and underlying mechanisms can help human resource professionals and practitioners to devise and implement organizational policies and interventions that enable employees to develop boundary management strategies that are sustainable in that they do not impair employees’ well-being.

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Journal of Business and Psychology, v. 33, p. 727-740