New US research suggests people who have sex perform better at work the next day, while Swedish town considers allowing workers paid ‘sex breaks’

A healthy and active sex life could be the hidden key to greater job satisfaction and better workplace engagement, according to new research from Oregon State University.  

The study, published last month in the Journal of Management, measured the workplace spillover of sexual activity among married couples, using a two-week daily diary study to chart the work and sex habits of 159 married couples.

The findings showed that participants who prioritised sex at home unknowingly gave themselves a next-day advantage at work, where they were more likely to immerse themselves in their tasks and enjoy their working lives. The effect, which appeared to linger for at least 24 hours post-coitus, was equally strong for both men and women – and was present even after researchers took into account marital satisfaction and sleep quality, which are two common predictors of daily mood.

In contrast, participants who brought work-related stress home from the office experienced a negative impact on their sex lives, suggesting that when work carries so far into an employee's personal life that they sacrifice activities such as sex, their engagement in work can decline.

"We make jokes about people having a 'spring in their step', but it turns out this is actually a real thing and we should pay attention to it," said Keith Leavitt, associate professor in Oregon State University’s College of Business, and lead researcher of the study.

"Maintaining a healthy relationship that includes a healthy sex life will help employees stay happy and engaged in their work, which benefits the employees and the organisations they work for,” he added.

The research follows a motion tabled last month in the Swedish town of Övertorneå to introduce hour-long subsidised ‘sex breaks’ during the working day, allowing married couples to go home and engage in coitus.

City councillor Per-Erik Muskos proposed that Swedish employees be given a weekly one-hour paid break from work so they can go home and have sex, on the grounds that couples do not spend enough time together in today’s busy society.

“I believe that sex is often in short supply. Everyday life is stressful and the children are at home,” he said. “This could be an opportunity for couples to have their own time, only for each other. Sex is also a great form of exercise and has documented positive effects on wellbeing.”

He acknowledged that while employers will have no guarantee that staff are using the hour for sexual activity, he hoped a culture of trust would prevail and, if passed, the policy would improve people’s relationships.

The proposal requires a simple majority to be passed by the 31-member council, and is expected to be voted on in the coming months. Opinion on the council is currently divided, with some councillors arguing the motion is overly intrusive. “I don’t think it’s the employer’s business to say: ‘Go home for an hour and make babies,’” said Tomas Vedestig.

Despite its potentially controversial nature, the measure, and the research from Oregon State University, reflects the ongoing concerns of managing work-life balance during the digital age, when the use of smartphones and the ‘always on’ culture regularly spill over into personal time.

"Making a more intentional effort to maintain a healthy sex life should be considered an issue of human sustainability, and, as a result, a potential career advantage," Leavitt said. "This is a reminder that sex has social, emotional and physiological benefits, and it's important to make it a priority. Just make time for it."