Having sex (at home) can make you happier at work, and a study says there’s proof

Life as Laboratory
Life as Laboratory

Benefits of a healthy sex life extend to work, new research published in the Journal of Management suggests.

In the study, researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Washington, and the University of Oregon asked 159 people who live with spouses and have full-time jobs to complete surveys three times every day, for 10 days, about whether they’d had sex, how they felt, how they felt about their jobs, and how engaged they were with their work.

Sure enough, when people reported having sex in the evening, the next morning they felt better. That resulted in feeling better about their jobs and more engaged with their work.

These results shouldn’t be too surprising. Sex, it has already been well established, makes people feel happy and less stressed out.

The more interesting contribution of the Journal of Management study is to a growing body of literature around how work and home life influence each other. Other studies have found that mood at work can impact mood at home, and vice versa, and that daily job satisfaction may impact marital satisfaction. Sex makes a good data point because it triggers a specific physiological effect, and it is episodic. It’s easy to tell when you’ve had sex and when you haven’t, compared to characterizing what marks “marital satisfaction.”

“My coauthors and I started talking about this almost in jest,” says the study’s lead author, Keith Leavitt, “and then we realized that there really could be some benefits at work.” The study relied on data self-reported by participants sourced from Mechanical Turk and demonstrated modest effects of sex’s mood lift on work. “We see this is as a first study,” Leavitt says.

The study’s authors also plan to research how sex—which releases hormones linked to social attachment, the ability to recognize emotions in others, and willingness to trust—impacts more specific work performance. How does having sex the night before work impact customer-service representatives? Or the way supervisors interact with their employees?

For now, Leavitt says the bottom line for employees is that sex is a worthwhile activity that, like exercise or eating well, pays off in more than one way. “Twenty years ago, tracking your steps or caloric intake would have seemed strange or obsessive,” he says. “If you want to increase wellbeing, this is something we should be giving more thought.”

For managers, studies like this one support a relatively affordable and easily enacted employee-engagement program. No need to host happy hours or provide free food. “Ironically,” Leavitt says, “Just letting people go home and not think about work might be a better way to improve engagement.”

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