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The Stress of Your Unemployed Spouse May Be Hurting Your Job Performance

University of Colorado Bounlder professor, Maw-Der Foo along with Professor Zhaoli Song of National University of Singapore, revealed the effects of stress on an employed spouse when his or her partner is unemployed. Their paper appears in the January edition of the Journal of Applied Psychology – “Unraveling the Stress Crossover Between the Unemployed and Their Spouses“.

The study examines married couples with one spouse employed and the other unemployed, to see how the daily stress affects each in their interpersonal relationships. It was expected that having marital support would help reduce the stress unemployment causes on the family, but instead, the study reveals that couples share in the burden of the stress rather than reduce it for either partner. The stress and unhappiness felt at home then typically spills over into the workplace stress for the working spouse.

The study indicates that workplaces need to recognize the stress and anxiety their employees with unemployed spouses are experiencing, and perhaps be more sensitive to the situation with family-friendly policies that may relieve some of the stress the employees have trying to fulfill family roles. Doing so will likely increase that employee’s productivity while at work because they will be less stressed and able to concentrate on their job responsibilities easier. Instead, many companies are eliminating services like marriage counseling, because of the economy and the expense of such programs. While the company saves money, they are probably reducing the effectiveness of employees who would benefit from such counseling.

The study took a unique view, and monitored couples’ interactions daily for two weeks. In particular, they looked at what is called the crossover effect, which refers to a situation when each spouse transmits and catches the stresses of the other.

If stress becomes to great for the working spouse to manage, some end up requiring time out of work, which can result in a need for Social Security Disability claims.