Study finds partners, children play a role in taking job stress home
The authors sampled 53 German dual-earner couples over five work days; the participants were asked to complete a short survey each night on their psychological detachment and their emotional well-being. The researchers found that romantic partners’ levels of daily psychological detachment tended to covary –– that is, on days when one partner had lower than average psychological detachment, the other partner also tended to have lower than average psychological detachment. Likewise, on days when one partner had higher than average psychological detachment, the other partner also tended to have higher than average psychological detachment. These results suggest that couples may engage in certain social behaviors –– such as discussing job stress or distracting each other from work worries –– that affect each other’s psychological detachment from work. By implication, workers should be aware that their psychological detachment from work (or lack thereof) may affect their partner’s ability to check out of work.
The authors also found that one partner’s detachment was associated with higher serenity (calm positive emotion) and lower negative emotion in the other partner; however, this only occurred for couples without children. Unfortunately, this result suggests that the demands of childcare can override any emotional benefits gained from one partner’s psychological detachment. Dual-earner couples who have children may be less able to spend time together detaching, and therefore parents may be less able to “catch” positive emotions resulting from their partner’s detachment.
These results suggest that it is important for couples to detach from work together. Engaging in shared nonwork activities, such as exercise or making a meal together, may help couples help each other detach from work. Couples should also be aware that staying “attached” to work at home has implications for their partner’s ability to detach from work. It may be helpful for couples to minimize the amount of time that they talk about work stress while in the home in order to facilitate each person’s detachment from work. Finally, it is important for working parents to carve out time for their relationship on a daily basis. This time together may help increase each partner’s positive emotions throughout the day.
Citation: Hahn, V.C., Binnewies, C. & Dormann, C., (2014). The role of partners and children for employees’ daily recovery. Journal of Vocational Behavior. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2014.03.005