Efficacy of a smartphone-based intervention - "holidaily" - promoting recovery behaviour in workers after a vacation: Study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

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  • Alexandra Smyth
  • Jessica De Bloom
  • Christine Syrek
  • Markus Domin
  • Monique Janneck
  • Jo Annika Reins
  • Dirk Lehr

Background: While work-related rumination increases the risk of acute stressors developing into chronic load reactions and adverse health, mental detachment has been suggested as a way to interrupt this chain. Despite the importance of mentally detaching from work during leisure time, workers seem to struggle to disengage and, instead, experience the constant mental representation of work-related stressors, regardless of their absence. Those who struggle with work-related rumination could benefit from an easy-access intervention that fosters mental detachment by promoting recreational activities. Especially during vacations, workers appear to naturally engage in sufficient recovery activities; however, this beneficial behaviour is not sustained. The smartphone app-based intervention "Holidaily"promotes recovery behaviour and, thus, mental detachment from work with the intension of extending the beneficial effects of workers' vacations into their daily working life. Methods: This randomised-controlled trial (RCT) evaluates the efficacy of "Holidaily". The Holidaily app is a German stand-alone program for mobile devices with either Android/iOS operating systems. The sample includes workers, who are awaiting to go on vacation and are randomly assigned to either the intervention (IG) or a waitlist-control group (CG). The IG receives two weeks pre-vacation access to Holidaily, while the CG receives access two weeks post-vacation. On a daily basis participants in the IG are provided with three options promoting recreational activities and beneficial recovery experiences. Online questionnaires are distributed to all participants at several timepoints. The primary outcome measure assesses participants' work-related rumination (Irritation Scale). A significant difference two weeks post-vacation is expected, favouring the IG. Secondary outcomes include symptoms of depression, insomnia severity, emotional exhaustion, thinking about work, recovery experiences, vacation specifics, work and personal characteristics. To help explain the intervention's effect, explorative analyses will investigate the mediation properties of the frequency of engaging in recreational activities and the moderation properties of Holidaily users' experiences. Discussion: If successful, workers will maintain their recovery behaviour beyond their vacation into daily working life. Findings could, therefore, provide evidence for low-intensity interventions that could be very valuable from a public-health perspective. App-based interventions have greater reach; hence, more workers might access preventative tools to protect themselves from developing adverse health effects linked to work-related rumination. Further studies will still be needed to investigate whether the vacation phenomenon of "lots of fun quickly gone"can be defied and long-term benefits attained. Trial registration: German Clinical Trials Registration DRKS00013650. Registered retrospectively 15.01.2018.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1286
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 26.08.2020

Bibliographical note

The health insurance company, Barmer, funded the “Holidaily” research project. Funding for this trial covered the employment of one app-designer and one research assistant, as well as meetings and central organizational costs.

This source of funding played no role in the design of this study and the funding organization will have no say during its execution, analyses, interpretation of data, or decision to submit result. Open Access funding provided by Projekt DEAL.

    Research areas

  • Health sciences - App-based intervention, Holidaily, Mental detachment, Occupational stress, Recovery, Smartphone-application (app), Vacation, Work-related rumination
  • Psychology