Why You Need To "Reattach" To Work Every Morning

Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor

Kelly Gonsalves is the sex and relationships editor at mindbodygreen. Her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.

Image by Alberto Bogo / Stocksy

My partner has a very endearing Sunday night ritual. He'll sit down with his planner, sketch out his upcoming week, and create little weekly goals for the things he needs and wants to accomplish in the next seven days. It's a way for him to "prep" for his week and start the process of turning on his work brain before Monday morning actually hits. While I mostly find the habit charming and kind of dorky (everything is color-coded, and he looks so serious as he's drawing his little diagrams in bright shades of pinks and greens and orange), the research is actually on his side on this one: A new study just came out in the Journal of Management showing people who take the time to consciously "reattach" to work before starting actually tend to be more engaged and productive workers.

Past research has shown detaching from work mentally during your off hours is key to maintaining a healthy well-being and work-life balance. But this new study found reattaching to work is just as important. Researchers surveyed 151 people across different industries (finance, energy, public administration, information and communication, and health) in both the morning and afternoons for one full workweek, asking questions about what they did in the morning before getting to work, how much they thought about their goals and upcoming tasks, and then how they were feeling midday on the job. The findings showed people who spent time "mentally reattaching" to their work lives before actually stepping into the workplace spent more time on those tasks they wanted to tackle, had a more positive and energetic attitude on the job, and felt more in control of their workload than the folks who hadn't done all that mental prep.

"Through reattachment, employees are able to activate work-related goals, which then further creates positive experiences, which allow people to be more engaged at work," said Dr. Charlotte Fritz, an industrial-organizational psychology professor at Portland State University and co-author of the study, in a news release. "Engagement is a sense of energy, sense of feeling absorbed, feeling dedicated to work, and those are all very important motivational experiences that translate to positive outcomes for both employees and organizations. They're more satisfied with work, more committed to work, enjoy work tasks more, perform better, and help out more with extra tasks."

Those are some huge benefits from a quick mindful ritual in the morning (or, in the case of my partner, the night before). It makes sense that getting back to work should take a period of adjustment or preparation—if you've truly been relaxing and turned off from work during your leisure time (which you should be to prevent burnout and protect your mental health), then getting back into your productive mindset really is a transition that deserves proper intention, energy, and space.

Research shows morning rituals have a lot of their own benefits as well, so having one step of that involve a few minutes of prep for your workday can be a smooth addition to your wellness routine. There are lots of ways to mentally reattach before you head to work, and it by no means has to be a time-intensive affair. Some ideas that the researchers suggested:

  • Talking with your partner or roommate over breakfast about the upcoming workday
  • Mentally "simulating" a tough talk you need to have with your boss while you're commuting to the office
  • Going through your to-do list in your head while standing in line for your morning cup of coffee

Or go all-in like a certain someone I know: Grab a few colorful gel pens and journal your way to an engaged, productive, upbeat mindset in the morning.

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