In 2017, a Swedish official proposed adding sex to the list of government-approved activities city employees could participate in during their lunch hour. He noted that not only would the proposal "encourage procreation," it could also positively impact the morale of workers.
He may be on to something: A study published in March 2017 in the Journal of Management found that having a healthy sex life makes a person more likely to engage and be satisfied at work.
Keith Leavitt, a professor of business management at Oregon State University and lead author on the study, says the notion for the research didn't come from the usual methods for generating ideas. "My co-author (Chris Barnes, now at University of Washington) and I were professors at West Point together when the Lonely Island video with Akon called 'I Just Had Sex!' aired on SNL," he tells Broadly. "We were laughing about it over lunch and talking about a particularly grumpy co-worker who could benefit from attending to that part of his life. At that point, we decided we eventually needed to plan a study around employee sex lives. Once we finally dug in to the biological research on sex, we realized that there was a real human sustainability story to tell here."
Leavitt and his co-researchers recruited 159 married employees to participate in a two-week diary study. Participants worked at least 30 hours a week in a variety of industries. Every morning, afternoon, and evening of each workday, they were tasked with answering a series of brief surveys, in which they included how many times they engaged in sexual intercourse the night before; how inspired, alert, excited, enthusiastic, and determined they felt each morning; and, in the afternoons, how satisfied and engaged they felt with their job. Researchers also took stock of daily work-family conflict and marital satisfaction.
Unsurprisingly, they found that "sexual intercourse is significantly correlated with morning positive affect, job satisfaction, previous-day work–family conflict, previous-day marital satisfaction, and previous-day challenge stressors," the study's authors write. In fact, their analyses revealed employees experience a 5-percent increase in mood the next day when they reported having sex the night before.
The authors point out that other factors, such as morning traffic or negative news, have the potential to impact the positive affect created by a nightly romp—yet, that good mood persists. "Thus," they write, "we believe that showing an activity from the prior night can influence next-morning mood, which in turn sets the tone for the rest of the workday, is both novel and a strong test."
"Incidentally," Leavitt adds, "what research is out there doesn't suggest the sex even needs to be particularly good. It just needs to happen."
Leavitt says the takeaway for employers is pretty straightforward: "The upshot is that instead of just springing for free food and beer and bring your dog to work policies to increase job satisfaction and work engagement, allowing employees to actually go home, shut off their email [and] tend to their sex lives will benefit the company the next day."
This is the first empirical study to connect sexual behavior at home to work-relevant outcomes. As such, Leavitt admits that the work is a little risqué for the workplace. "On the other hand," he continues, "this is a behavior that most of us engage in regularly, and our physiology is sensitive to it—we should treat this like a human sustainability issue like any other. Also, I'm a firm believer that good science needs to be a little like good punk rock: sometimes you need to challenge convention and ignore propriety a little."