Need for Recovery

The Need for Recovery (or fatigue) at the end of the working day can be described as the individual functioning in a more strained manner. The need for recovery manifests itself as a transient feeling of overload, irritation, desire to be left alone, lack of energy, and decline in performance (Veldhoven et al., 2003). The described reactions to exertion can either diminish during the actual work shift or create a need for recovery between work shifts (Van Veldhoven, 2008). However, everyone who works feels some degree of a Need for Recovery at the end of the working day (Jansen et al., 2003). It is when the need for after-work recovery is high that both symptoms of ill health (e.g. headaches, muscle aches, lack of initiative) and sleeping difficulties enter into the picture (van Veldhoven et al., 2009). Recovery after regular work efforts cannot be postponed. It generally needs to be done on a daily basis (Demerouti et al., 2009) in order for the individual to be well rested when they return to work (refer to the section about Health).


A stressed work situation increases the risk of both physical illness (Karasek et al., 1990) and mental health issues (Zoer et al., 2011). At the same time, the ill health process shows itself through an increased Need for Recovery , which in turn opens up the possibility of detecting the ill health process at an early stage (Sluiter et al., 2003). A high Need for Recovery also doubles the risk of prolonged sick leave two years ahead (de Croon et al., 2003). According to Van Veldhoven (2008), an increased need for recovery, i.e. a sense of being stressed, a decline in performance, and a feeling of fatigue, is the first step in a process where the strain “builds up” since recovery over the course of the day is insufficient. A furtherstep in this process is, for example, that the individual suffers from a burn out or exhaustion (Van Veldhoven, 2008). At this later stage (burn out or exhaustion), recovery does not have the same effect on the tension or fatigue as it did previously. After researchers followed a group of individuals over time, an increased need for recovery after work was also shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (Van Amelsvoort et al., 2003).

A high need for recovery?

Researchers have reported that high demands at work and too little influence over one’s own work situation (Jansen et al., 2003; Sluiter et al.,2003; Kiss et al., 2008) as well as monotonous work tasks and full-time work (Kiss et al., 2008) mean increased fatigue after work.

The web instrument discussed is based on recurring measurements via a standardised survey that besides factors such as age, occupation, gender, also registers Need for Recovery, working environment characteristics, and measures of health. By the end of the study in spring 2018, approximately 1,300 study participants from four different occupational areas had filled in the survey on five occasions over 2 years. During the first measurement in 2015 and 2016, it was documented that a lower score in the dimension “Quality at work” followed by a lower score for “Recovery opportunities” coupled with a higher score on the scales “Work pace”, “Quantitative demands” and “Emotional demands” and a lower score for “Social support from colleagues” had the strongest correlation of all working environment scales to a high Need for Recovery after work. These results confirm earlier experience that a good influence over breaks and over working hours, which can be referred to as internal recovery or Recovery opportunities, reduce Need for Recovery after work (van Veldhoven et al., 2009).

Consequences for work quality and safety

A high Need for Recovery has consequences for work performance and the quality of work performed. Through experiments conducted directly at the workplace, researchers have been able to show how a lack of opportunities for internal recovery (pauses and breaks) coupled with high work demands resulted in a clearly reduced quality of the qualified work performed during the final hours of the working day (Meijman et al., 1992). In addition to an inability to achieve high quality in the work, a persistent need for recovery has been shown to cause reduced motivation for upcoming work tasks (Van Hooff et al., 2007). A serious effect of work-related fatigue is reduced safety (Kecklund et al., 2010). In the healthcare field, it has been shown that needle stick injuries can be linked to fatigue and lack of concentration (Ayas et al., 2006) and Barger et al. (2006) and other researchers have shown that long work shifts could be linked to the number of medical malpractice cases.

Measures to combat a high Need for Recovery

Lack of recovery can be countered through changes in working life. Researchers have shown how measures to “schedule” recovery produced clear health effects in long-distance coach drivers. The study documented that levels of work-related fatigue, general fatigue, emotional fatigue and physical discomfort were cut in half (Schuring et al., 2004). Influence over breaks and over working hours, i.e. Recovery opportunities, reduces the need for recovery after work (van Veldhoven et al., 2009) (see also Recovery opportunities).

Early signals can be registered

It has been documented in research that a stressed work situation increases the risk of both physical illness (Karasek et al., 1990) and mental health issues (Zoer et al., 2011). At the same time, this type of ill health process can manifest itself at an early stage as an increased Need for Recovery. In turn, this opens up possibilities for detecting an ill health process before the individual actually gets sick. This gives working environment researchers a good foundation for arguing for increased information and education on the importance of “early signals” of ill health, i.e. that the individual has developed an increased Need for Recovery (Sluiter et al., 2003).

The Need for Recovery after Work instrument

The Need for Recovery after Work instrument (van Veldhoven et al., 2003) (Figure 1) registers work-related fatigue after work. Jansen et al. (2002) has shown that the Need for Recovery after work can be distinguished from (the measurement of) mild mental health complaints.

Need for Recovery

Indicate how you have felt during the past three-four weeks AFTER A WORKING DAY OR A WORK SHIFT by marking an X at each question.

  • I find it difficult to relax at the end of a working day.
  • By the end of the working day, I feel really worn out.
  • Because of my job, at the end of the working day I feel rather exhausted.
  • After the evening meal, I feel in good shape.
  • I only start to feel relaxed on the second non-working day.
  • I find it difficult to concentrate in my free time after work.
  • I cannot really show any interest in other people when I have just come home myself.
  • I need more than an hour before I feel completely recuperated after work.
  • When I get home from work, I need to be left in peace for a while.
  • After a day’s work I feel so tired that I cannot get involved in other activities.
  • A feeling of tiredness prevents me from doing my work as well as I normally would during the last part of the working day.

The eleven questions related to Need for Recovery after work are answered in the web tool with four answer choices and a scale of 0–3 points, where the corresponding answer choices are Never, Sometimes, Usually and Always. Point calculation is reversed for question 4.

Education and early information

Sluiter et al. (2003) recommends information and education about an increased need for recovery as an “early sign” of ill health. Measuring work-related fatigue, i.e. need for recovery, is both inexpensive and easy to carry out.


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