A healthy sex life at home promotes engagement at work—and vice-versa

Chris Barnes

Chris Barnes

Sex is good for business.

Well, that’s the broadest interpretation of a new study co-authored by Chris Barnes, an associate professor of management at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

Barnes’ diary study of married full-time employees reveals that the warm afterglow of sex with one’s partner lingers into the following workday. The morning after (and the rest of the day), employees reported feeling more satisfied and engaged at work.

But there is a downside to the flow of moods between home and work. Barnes also found, perhaps not surprisingly, that a stressful day at the office reduces the odds that anyone will be in the mood that evening.

“Sex is often excluded from management research because it may be perceived as taboo,” says Barnes, an Evert McCabe Endowed Fellow at Foster. “But it is an evolutionary necessity and a common behavior. And our study demonstrates it does in fact positively impact both job satisfaction and job engagement the next day.”

Blurred lines

For the study, Barnes collaborated with Keith Leavitt of Oregon State University, David Wagner of the University of Oregon, and Foster School doctoral student Trevor Watkins.

Its central findings illuminate another byproduct of the blurring lines between work and home in the modern world. As these boundaries become more permeable, Barnes expects that we will see more positive and negative emotions spill unabated in both directions.

“As the boundary between work and home life continues to erode through technology and increasing expectations of availability,” he says, “employers would be wise to limit practices—such as urgent-response emails in the evening—that may prevent employees from physical intimacy, which appears to positively affect work behavior the following day.”

On the flip side, employees who seek advancement within their companies, contractors or the self-employed—anyone who relies on their own engagement to earn a living—might want to be especially mindful of tending to their sex lives.

“Engaging in marital sex appears to create mood-driven positive outcomes the following day, but work-related strains appear to inhibit sex,” Barnes concludes. “Accordingly, making a concerted effort to withdraw from work activities at home could create meaningful benefits at home and at work.”

From the Bedroom to the Office: Workplace Spillover Effects of Sexual Activity at Home” was published in the March 2019 Journal of Management.