Research on Relational Health and Work

Exploring How Employee Marital Health Matters to Employers

In this article, we have compiled a list of resources which contain research about maintaining work-life balance and how marital distress and poor relational health significantly affects one’s ability to work at their highest potential. From burnout, time off, productivity, job loss and loyalty – all are impacted by one’s marital and relational health. This research is important for employers to understand so that they can maximize the potential of their employees, save money, and retain these great employees.

Job Burnout:

  • According to research from Hajihasani (2017), the risk of burnout for employees can be significantly decreased by well-managed marital conflict.
  • This research stated that employees who have high marital conflict use most of their time and energy attempting to resolve the conflicts at home, which results in smaller amounts of time and energy left for work tasks throughout the day.
  • Poorly managed marital conflict also leads to signs of job burnout, which include increased stress, anxiety, tension, absence from work, late arrivals at work, leaving work early, and decreased motivation.


Sick Days/Time Not Working:

  • According to research from Mueller (2005), men following a divorce demonstrate a decrease in weekly hours worked by 10-20% compared to their pre-divorce levels of hours worked.
  • This correlated to 168 work hours lost in the year following divorce, which is the equivalent of over 4 weeks worth of work. Yet, the employer continues to pay for this time away from the job.
  • AdvancePCS studied the impact of presenteeism and absenteeism in the workplace and found that both significantly cost companies money. However, presenteeism was far more costly than absenteeism (Levin-Epstein, 2005).
  • This research demonstrates that employees with poor marital health have higher rates of presenteeism and absenteeism due to stress, being sick more frequently, and burnout.


Loyalty/Job Loss:

  • Marital distress has been shown to be strongly associated with job loss. This is particularly true for men within their first 10 years of marriage (Forthoffer et al., 1996).
  • Job losses due to marital distress account for the equivalent of $6.8 billion per year in lost wages (Gallagher, 2002).
  • Employees also demonstrate significantly decreased levels of loyalty towards their employer in the midst of marital distress (Curtis, 2006).


The Spillover Effect:

  • This age-old term explains how work and personal life can develop a flow of negativity from one to the other (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985).
  • The research by Greenhaus and Beutell demonstrates how high levels of stress at home, within either a marriage or a parenting role, leads to a limited capacity for the employee to manage stress at their job.
  • The spillover of strain at home can additionally lead to “kick the dog” syndrome. This usually refers to when someone maintains a high level of stress or anger and then takes it out on others who had nothing or very little to do with the stress.
  • The classic example is an employee who arrives home from a stressful day of work and kicks their dog when they do not follow commands. However, this also works in reverse where an employee is struggling in their marriage and then takes this stress out on co-workers, superiors, or customers.


Employers overlook the relational and marital health of the employees. Providing employees with tools and resources to improve their home life can lead to more time at work, greater productivity, increased motivation, and growing loyalty towards the company. Investment in the marital health of employees is one that research has shown to pay dividends in cost savings and improve work performance.




Curtis, J. (2006). The Business of Love: 9 Best Practices for Improving the Bottom Line of Your Relationship. The Business of Love.

Forthofer, M. S., Markman, H. J., Cox, M., Stanley, S., & Kessler, R. C. (1996). Associations between marital distress and work loss in a national sample. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 597-605.

Gallagher, M. (2002). Why Supporting Marriage Makes Business Sense. Corporate Resource Council. Available online at< www. corporateresourcecouncil. org/white_papers/Supporting_Marriage. pdf.>.

Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of management review, 10(1), 76-88.

Hajihasani, M. (2017). Marital conflict and job burnout. Ergon. Int. J, 1, 1-4.

Levin-Epstein, J. (2005). Presenteeism and paid sick days.

Mueller, R. E. (2005). The effect of marital dissolution on the labour supply of males and females: Evidence from Canada. The journal of socio-economics, 34(6), 787-809.