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When Does Pressure to Do Extra Work Drain Staff and Threaten Home Life?

Human Resources
Published on:

Sometimes workers “go the extra mile,” doing charity fundraisers, taking part in team socials, or mentoring new recruits, but does it bring value or is it counter-productive? A new study shows that although this extra work can energize employees, the pressure to engage it in, on the contrary, drains them.

Almost everybody works beyond the strict scope of their job specification. This extra activity is known as organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). It includes staying late in the office, working weekends, being the “go-to” person for colleague questions, taking on charity projects, and even attending team dinners. It is discretionary behavior that is not explicitly rewarded, although it can help organizations or teams to perform well.

Thanks to these benefits, OCB is often implicitly promoted. Perhaps a manager highlights exemplary employee behavior, or praises people who go “above and beyond” regarding OCB. This subtle narrative is called citizenship pressure.

We wanted to address a significant gap in our knowledge by comparing the effects of OCB and citizenship pressure on workers. We asked whether feeling the pressure to act outside one’s job role affected people differently and influenced them to actually engage in these behaviors. We questioned whether engaging in OCB or being exposed to citizenship pressure might have a detrimental effect on employees. Do workers find these phenomena drain their limited personal resources to work well?

Do the effects of OCB or citizenship pressure spill over into family life? Does OCB and/or citizenship pressure mean a worker comes home tired? Do they engage with their family and feel energized to socialize, or do they just collapse on the couch? 

We drew on previous research as the framework for our study. Studies propose a model of human energy and suggest that people's perceived level of energy determines their capacity to act out their intentions. The more energy an employee has, the more able they feel to perform an activity. So, does participating in OCB and encountering citizenship pressure increase or decrease worker fatigue? And can employees replenish their energy from the extra workload or pressurization with evening relaxation and a good night’s sleep? 

Doing extra versus feeling pressure to do extra: what is the most tiring?

Using survey data from professional office workers and their spouses in India across several days, we found a crucial difference between the effects of performing OCB and the experience of feeling citizenship pressure. We found that citizenship pressure (without any actual behaviors) causes employees to feel more fatigue at the end of the workday, even when we controlled for daily workloads and the day of the week.


Citizenship pressure causes employees to feel more fatigue at the end of the workday than the actual behaviors.


Participating in OCB did not use up employee energy to the same extent, suggesting that OCB does not drain employees to the same level. This finding is consistent with other work that suggests some OCB may actually help regenerate employee energy levels. Our findings show that it is the pressure to go beyond the call of duty that contributes to fatigue, hence the perception is stronger than the action.

So does this fatiguing effect spill over into family life? And do workers manage to recover and replenish their energy when they are at home? 

A heavy burden on private life

Our study results showed that workers with higher fatigue at the end of the working day experienced lower-quality interactions with their spouses. But more significantly, this socializing – whether watching TV together, having dinner or spending the evening with family or friends – depended on the extent to which the spouse allowed the employee to recover after work. It sounds counterintuitive – and it certainly is not always easy to manage if both partners are working and come home tired –but it pays to give a tired worker some time and space to “destress” when they get home. There is usually food to cook, washing to sort, children wanting to play; but taking a moment to decompress and relax leads to better much better interaction across the evening. We found that spouses who supported their partners by creating this space (for example by looking after the kids) reported better interactions with their partners overall.


Workers with higher fatigue at the end of the working day experience lower-quality interactions with their spouses.


Fitness tracker data revealed that a good night's sleep also helps reduce the deleterious effects of citizenship pressure. When our participants experienced sufficient deep sleep, they were less likely to feel fatigued the following day, and hence better prepared to do a good day’s work.

Finding the balance

Our advice to employers is: beware! There are many positive outcomes of OCB for organizations, but our results qualify the received wisdom. We would suggest companies take a more moderate stance in their expectations and temper any implicit messages encouraging OCB. By not exercising caution, organizations run the risk of adding unnecessary weight to employees’ shoulders that may negatively affect their ability to perform, both at work and at home. 

The importance of sleep should not be ignored either, which means tackling any culture of working during the evenings. Many studies have demonstrated that engaging in work-related behaviors in the evening, for example using computers and mobile phones, negatively affects sleep which fatigued employees desperately need to replenish their energy. We have shown that deep sleep is a remedy for the fatiguing effect of citizenship pressure. Workers need to disconnect, relax, and sleep well so they are prepared for the next working day and life at home!



We collected data from a sample of 73 professionals and their spouses. Workers completed a morning, afternoon, and evening survey every day for 10 days to capture information on OCB, pressure and levels of fatigue; spouses also submitted a survey each evening about how they spent their evenings with the worker and the extent to which they made allowed the worker to relax, for example by managing the children or taking on household tasks. Sleep data were collected using a wrist-worn fitness tracker.


OCB is known to have clear and consistent positive outcomes for organizations. However, our study reveals that the perceived pressure to engage in this behavior can have negative downstream effects. Organizations may be well-advised to take a more moderate stance about encouraging this behavior, tempering implicit encouragement while more conspicuously rewarding OCB.
Based on an interview with Professor Ekaterina Netchaeva concerning her paper, “What we are pushed to do versus what we want to do: Comparing the unique effects of citizenship pressure and actual citizenship behavior on fatigue and family behaviors.” It was published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior in 2023.

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