The work-habits intervention model: A 12-month study to change work-email habits

Emma Russell, Kevin Daniels, Thomas W. Jackson, Marc Fullman

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We present a Work-habit Intervention Model (WhIM) to explain and predict how to change work-habits to be more effective. Habit change has primarily been researched within the health domain. The WhIM contributes a unique theoretical perspective by: (i) suggesting that work-habit change requires a two-stage process of exposure to regular rationalized plans and a stated intention to use these plans; and, (ii) defining effective work-habit change in terms of improvements to both goal attainment and well-being over time. Self-regulatory resources are included as potential moderators of habit change. This approach implies that work-habits (unlike health-habits) are seldom constitutionally ‘good’ or ‘bad’, which means that change requires a clear rationale in terms of improving goal attainment and well-being. The WhIM was evaluated in a 12-month wait-list intervention study designed to improve work-email habits for workers in a UK organization (N = 127 T1; N = 58 T3; N = 46 all data). Findings were that the two-stage process changed work-email habits for those with higher levels of self-efficacy, which predicted well-being in terms of reduced negative affect (via perceived goal attainment). We outline theoretical and practical implications and encourage future research to refine the WhIM across a range of other work contexts. Practitioner points: Workers need to regularly engage with rationalized plans of action and state their intention to use these, in order to change work-email habits. Organizations should consider training workers to enhance their self-efficacy prior to implementing a work-email habit change intervention. Providing regular feedback about the impact of work-email habit change on well-being and goal attainment is likely to make the change sustainable in the long-term.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-835
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • habits
  • instigation-execution
  • self-efficacy
  • self-regulation resources
  • well-being
  • work-email

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