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Separation and divorce represents a major life stressor that impacts work performance, resulting increased absenteeism and presenteeism, decreased health, increased anxiety and stress

Relationship quality at work or home is often a cause for decreased productivity – productivity impacted directly by work conflict or relationship breakdown.

We know work conflict between leaders and employees can have a significant impact on performance, however outside of work, where failing, unhealthy relationships or those in relational decline, businesses tend to bear the consequences in a variety of ways.

Despite the changes in community attitudes and family patterns, separation and divorce still represents a major life stressor for the individuals involved (Australian Psychological Society, 2018). Typically involving economic stress, with new residence arrangements, moving schools and work, and increased travel, separation and divorce exerts financial demands that can have flow-on effects for parent and child wellbeing (Smyth, 2004), and ultimately work performance.

Failing relationships at home can lead to affairs in the workplace, and up to 25% of these relationships lead to decreased productivity, and once couples divorce, this can disrupt the productivity of an individual worker for as long as three years (Lavy, 2002).

One study found that in the year following divorce, employees lost an average of over 168 hours of work time, equivalent to being fully absent four weeks in one calendar year (Mueller, 2005), this means that recently divorced employees are absent from work due to relationship-related reasons for over 8% of their annual time on the job (Turvey et al, 2006 p7).

While the financial implications of separation differ for men and women, women and single parent families typically experience significant economic disadvantage after separation (Austen, 2004; Cairney, Boyle, Offord & Racine, 2003; Smyth, 2004; Smyth & Weston, 2000) and these effects have direct implications for the workplace.

Primarily, as employees experience stress, their physical health suffers and they tend to have lower immune functioning (Waite and Gallagher, 2000). Relationship stress tends to spill over into job functioning, resulting increased absenteeism and presenteeism (being physically present but mentally absent), decreased health, increased anxiety and stress, and increased health insurance costs (Turvey et al, 2006 p7-8).

In order to help couple families, it is vital that companies develop strategies to deal with the multiple demands on employees and their personal relationships and implement policies to enable employees to have healthy, functional personal relationships, and be fully engaged at work.

Tune in next week for a discussion about work stress and home life stress and how both may impact negatively for businesses.


  • Austen, S. 2004: Labour supply and the risk of divorce: An analysis of Australian data. Australian Economic Review, 37(2), 153-165.
  • Australian Psychological Society 2018; Child Wellbeing After Parental Separation, A Position Statement prepared for the Australian Psychological Society by the APS Public Interest Team.
  • Burnett, S. B, Coleman, L, Houlston, C and Reynolds, J., 2015: Happy Homes and Productive Workplaces – Summary Report of research findings. OnePlusOne and Working Families UK
  • Cairney, J., Boyle, M., Offord, D. R., & Racine, Y. 2003: Stress, social support and depression in single and married mothers. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 38(8), 442-449.
  • Mueller, R. 2005: The effect of marital dissolution on the labour supply of males and females: Evidence from Canada.” Journal of Socio-Economics, 34, 787-809.
  • Smyth, B. 2004: Parent-child contact and post-separation parenting arrangements. Melbourne Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  • Smyth, B., &; Weston, R. 2000: Financial living standards after divorce. Family Matters(55), 11-15.
  • Turvey, M. D., & Olson, D. H., 2006: Marriage & Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business? A Marriage CoMission Research Report. Minneapolis, MN
  • Waite, L., & Gallagher, M. 2000: The case for marriage. New York: Doubleday.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: Keep up with the latest from the MAREAA online:

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