How professional isolation impairs employee well-being through the decline of positive affect: the moderating role of self-efficacy

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


The COVID-19 outbreak has considerable implications for the workforce all over the world. With many employees forced to work from home and separated from their social work environment for extended periods of time, professional isolation poses a serious threat. Over the past years, scientists, practitioners, and policymakers alike have raised concerns about the detrimental effects of working in isolation on employees' well-being. However, little is known about the potential negative consequences of professional isolation. In this study, we build on affective events theory by examining the mediating role of daily positive affect in the relationship between professional isolation and daily employee well-being (i.e., high engagement and low emotional exhaustion). In addition, drawing on social cognitive theory, we investigate self-efficacy as a boundary condition in the proposed mediation model, as individuals differ in the way they cope with work stressors such as professional isolation.

To test our hypothesis, we used a daily diary methodology. All variables were captured in a daily questionnaire during ten consecutive working days. The sample consists of 44 (n = 44) employees working on the territory of the Netherlands from whom we obtained 333 (n = 333) daily observations.

Multilevel path analysis revealed that, in line with our expectations, professional isolation was negatively related to positive affect. Furthermore, positive affect was significantly related to employee well-being. Also, we established significant indirect effects from professional isolation to the outcomes work engagement and emotional exhaustion through daily positive affect. These results hold for both within level (day level) and between level (person level). In addition, at the between level the indirect effects were moderated by self-efficacy for both daily work engagement and daily emotional exhaustion.

Theoretical and practical implications
The findings of the current study are particularly relevant for our pandemic-shaped new reality where many individuals work in isolation. The finding that positive affect mediates the relationship between professional isolation and well-being for both work engagement and emotional exhaustion, supports the notion that professional isolation can unlock a suboptimal affective response on a daily basis which can impoverish employee well-being. Furthermore, the study results demonstrate the importance of self-efficacy in preventing decrease in positive affect under the condition of professional isolation and emphasize the need to safeguard the individuals with low self-efficacy whose well-being might be in greater jeopardy.
Given these results, organizations should consciously focus on reducing professional isolation as much as possible. For instance, by providing greater online support and by stimulating and facilitating social interactions. In addition, organizations should also be concerned about employees' development needs and offer them appropriate development opportunities and career perspectives. As the negative impact of professional isolation on well-being is stronger for workers with low self-efficacy perceptions, interventions regarding the prevention of isolation should be particularly focused on this group of employees. Moreover, it is recommended to focus on interventions that increase employees’ self-efficacy beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2022
Event12th Biennial International Conference of the Dutch HRM Network - University of Twente, Enschede, Netherlands
Duration: 9 Nov 202211 Nov 2022


Conference12th Biennial International Conference of the Dutch HRM Network
Internet address


  • professional isolation
  • Emotional Exhaustion
  • Work Engagement
  • Self-efficacy
  • Positive affect


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