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The Impact of Sexual Function and Sexual Satisfaction on the Work Environment and Work Productivity

This essay will look at how sexual satisfaction, sexual function, and sexual dysfunction might affect the workplace environment including productivity. I want to investigate first the meaning of' ‘sexual satisfaction’ and how it is determined. I shall then simply define the term ‘sexual dysfunction’. Then, I will examine the link between sexual satisfaction and sexual function, focusing on how one might adversely affect the other.

I will then look to explore my three main ideas, first looking at the direct link between sex and work productivity, work wellbeing, and a positive work environment. Within this context, I will also be investigating the hormonal and physical spillover effects of sex into the following working day.

My second discussion thread will examine the relationship between sexual function and satisfaction and mental health, followed by the relationship between mental health and its influence on the workplace.

My third line of inquiry will evaluate the effect of sex on relationships and the impact of an individual employee’s relationships and family life on productivity and well-being in the workplace.

The final section will conclude with a summary of my overall findings and how this knowledge might be used by employers, leaders, and managers.

To investigate the impact that sexual satisfaction has on the workplace, we must first clarify the meaning of the phrase ‘sexual satisfaction’. Sexual satisfaction can be categorised in a two-dimensional construct, first as an individual's personal sexual well-being, which includes positive feelings, pleasure, orgasm, sexual openness, arousal, and desire, and secondly as a dyadic process with elements such as creativity, acting out desires, frequency, mutuality, expression of feelings, and romance. Under the category of personal sexual well-being, a 2013 research discovered that pleasure was the primary sub-theme and that it was connected to the dyadic process of ‘mutuality’, in which satisfaction results from mutual pleasure. What was intriguing about this study was that the commonly used sexual response model (desire, arousal, and orgasm) was not utilised by the subjects. A balance between a couple's preferred sexual frequency was also discovered to be required for sexual fulfilment. Sexual satisfaction is primarily determined by the presence of happy sexual encounters, as opposed to the lack of bad ones. This essay will examine the link between sexual satisfaction and sexual function and the work environment in the context of persons in mainly heterosexual, monogamous, committed, and long-term cohabiting relationships, since the majority of the research I have uncovered examines this dynamic.

Sexual dysfunction may impact the lack of sexual satisfaction, often known as sexual dissatisfaction. Sexual desire/interest problems, arousal, orgasm, and sexual pain are the four primary categories of sexual dysfunction

In investigating the link between function and satisfaction, a high association between the frequency of sexual disorders and the discontent they might cause has been discovered. A 2004 research indicated that a person's subjective feelings about a sexual issue might determine whether or not it is labelled a dysfunction. The research concluded that sexual activity is a crucial indicator of a person's self-esteem, its significance in sustaining a relationship, and the significance of being sexually active.

Studies on sexual function and its connection to sexual satisfaction have been conducted. Couples' perceptions of their partner's sexual function and level of satisfaction have been linked to their own. It is crucial to understand that a sexual function can actually impact how satisfied a partner is during a sexual encounter. According to studies, a partner's sexual dysfunction can negatively impact not only the sexual satisfaction of the individual experiencing the issue, but also that of their partner. Sexual function and satisfaction appear to have a reciprocal relationship that we will investigate further.

One of the relationships between sexual function and sexual satisfaction is widely recognised as the "orgasm gap." The orgasm gap is the difference between the frequency of orgasms experienced during sex by men and women. The ‘gap’ is that women experience orgasm less frequently than men.  This disparity's magnitude is the subject of extensive debate, with varying estimates depending on the study. In March of this year, 2022, an examination of the orgasm gap revealed a correlation between orgasm frequency and expectation. This resulted in women who experienced less frequent orgasms having a diminished desire and even anticipation for orgasm. 

There have been studies examining the direct relationship between sexual dysfunction and how it affects people in the workplace, as well as how the hormones from sex can positively influence people's behaviour with coworkers the day after sexual intimacy.


A small number of studies have examined the relationship between erectile dysfunction and work productivity and health-related quality of life. Often, these studies demonstrate that the severity of erectile dysfunction correlates with a decline in work productivity and health-related quality of life. Men with erectile dysfunction had higher absenteeism, presenteeism, work productivity impairment, and lower Mental Component Summary scores than men without erectile dysfunction, according to a 2019 observational study involving participants from eight countries. I would like to bring attention to the fact that the studies I have found linking erectile dysfunction to the workplace were conducted by Pfizer, the manufacturer of the well-known erectile dysfunction medication Sildenafil, also known as Viagra.


There is evidence that sexual behaviour can have a positive effect on job satisfaction and engagement the day after. Engaging in sex with a partner produces positive mood-driven outcomes the next day. It was also discovered that work to family conflict can inhibit sexual behaviour after work hours. Workplace stresses can actually inhibit sex and its subsequent positive effects. 


The importance of work-based strains negatively impacting the sex lives of employees has been documented as the boundary between work and home life continues to erode with the rise of working from home and expectations of availability, which can prevent employees from engaging in physical intimacy the following day. In 2017, Leavitt, Barnes, et al. stated that those who are seeking advancement in their organisations, those who are self-employed, and those who rely on engagement at work to generate income should be ‘mindful of tending to their sex lives’.  


If there is a correlation between physical intimacy and the success of an organisation the following day, it would be important to comprehend the underlying mechanism. Sex is commonly viewed as a mood enhancer and even a source of support for depressed individuals. During sex, dopamine is released, which helps to focus attention and generally increases motivation; endorphins reduce the stresses of daily life and can give a person a temporary ‘high'; blood pressure is generally lower in those who engage in sex, allowing them to adapt better to more stressful situations; and oxytocin increases the feelings of compassion and affection.


Oxytocin is a neuropeptide released during sex. The effects of oxytocin have been shown to affect people's ability to ‘mind-read', which involves using external cues such as facial expression to interpret or predict the behaviour of another person. It has been demonstrated that intranasal administration of oxytocin significantly enhances the capacity for affective mind-reading and the interpretation of subtle social cues from the eye region of other individuals. Mind-reading is crucial in all types of human social interactions, including the workplace. It's believed that oxytocin promotes social approach, affiliation, and trusting behaviour. 


Oxytocin, its connection to trusting behaviour, and its potential influence on workplace relationships have been studied. Oxytocin has been demonstrated to influence a person's trustworthiness and facilitate cooperative interactions. Many companies invest money in team-building exercises and already recognise the importance of interpersonal skills in the workplace, so trust and the ability to work well with others are essential foundations for workplace situations.


Sexual activity has been found to cause the release of oxytocin and vasopressin, which leads to more civil and engaging interactions with coworkers and customers. As a result of this finding, it has been suggested that additional research be conducted in this area to determine the impact that sex can have the following day on interpersonal workplace behaviours. 


I will now examine the relationship between sexual activity and mental health, as well as the impact mental health can have on work productivity and workplace wellness.


During the 2020 Corona virus pandemic lockdowns, researchers examined the relationship between sexual activity and mental health and discovered that those who were able to maintain sexual activity had less psychological distress than those who had to give it up due to lockdown policies, such as couples being separated. On a relational level, those who continued to engage in sexual activity had higher scores on ‘dyadic cohesion and satisfaction’, indicating that sexual activity improves relational health. Sexual activity was found to have protective effects on anxiety and depression, with moderate to high sexual activity decreasing the negative effects of anxiety and depressive symptoms. 


Both men and women have been found to have a relationship between sexual activity and lower depression rates, but the evidence for the specifics of this relationship varies between the sexes. One study discovered that the association between sexual activity and integrating it with other forms of touch was stronger for men, suggesting that men are more likely than women to rely solely on partners for intimacy. 


In a study examining the relationship between sexual function and mental health, premature ejaculation was found to cause psychological distress and negative outcomes for both men who sought treatment and those who did not. This sexual dysfunction negatively impacted the participants' quality of life and self-esteem, caused anxiety, depression, and a lack of sexual confidence. 


Sexual satisfaction has been shown to affect the health of a relationship, as well as being a strong predictor of mental health and a moderate to weak predictor of physical health. The correlation between sexual satisfaction and relational, mental, and physical health is likely due to each factor feeding back into the others, thereby creating a self-sustaining loop. ‘Loving, satisfied, trusting relationships tend to make for good sexual relations, and vice versa.’ 


Sexual dysfunction can affect an individual's physical and mental health. As we are already aware of the relationship between sexual function and sexual satisfaction, we can conclude that sexual dissatisfaction resulting from sexual dysfunction can have an effect on mental health. A Taiwanese study revealed that newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction can increase the likelihood of depression, particularly within the first year of diagnosis. 


Now that it has been demonstrated that sexual function and satisfaction can affect a person's mental health, it is important to examine the relationship between mental health and its impact on the workplace. Depression is the most commonly studied mental health issue, followed by anxiety and depression. In terms of workplace outcomes, absenteeism (work absence) and presenteeism have been the subject of the most research. 


Dr. Gary Cooper coined the term ‘presenteeism’ to describe individuals who report to work despite being sick. Mental health-related absenteeism and presenteeism have not been the subject of a large number of studies. 


It has been demonstrated that mental disorders are associated with absenteeism and presenteeism. In 2019, there was research investigating this connection. According to the research, the correlation between depression and absenteeism is that as symptoms and severity of depression increased, so did absenteeism. The correlation between depression and work productivity demonstrates that performance declines steadily as symptoms intensify. 


In addition to the loss of productivity caused by absenteeism and presenteeism, mental health can also impact labour force participation, wages/earnings, and part-time versus full-time employment. 


It is acknowledged that there is a connection between sexual and relationship satisfaction and their mutual influence. This essay will now examine the connection between relationship satisfaction or dissatisfaction and how it can affect a person's workplace productivity and collaboration.


Sexual dysfunction in one partner has been linked to dysfunction in the other partner. A 2008 study revealed that partners of women with vaginismus had 'inadequate' levels of sexual satisfaction and a higher incidence of sexual dysfunction. It is unclear from the study's findings whether the sexual dysfunctions of men whose partners were diagnosed with vaginismus were a result of or a response to the vaginismus. It is important to note that there is an interaction between the response of one partner to the dysfunction of the other.


This was supported by research on premature ejaculation, which went on to describe what may be occurring on an emotional and relational level. An examination of premature ejaculation in men revealed a high prevalence of a variety of sexual dysfunctions in their female partners. The interpretation of the data indicates that a perceived lack of sexual and/or emotional satisfaction disrupted intimacy and led to emotional withdrawal in both partners. The study recommended that clinicians pay special attention to this dynamic when treating someone with a sexual dysfunction, as the partner's reaction to the dysfunction can influence treatment. 


According to a second study on the topic, men with premature ejaculation had higher levels of 'interpersonal' difficulty than men without premature ejaculation. In addition, their partners had higher levels of 'interpersonal difficulty' than those whose partners did not have premature ejaculation. Half of the men and women in a relationship where the man had premature ejaculation believed the relationship would improve if the man were better able to satisfy his partner, according to the same study. 


It has been shown that erectile dysfunction impacts the quality of life of men with this diagnosis. It is known that the condition can lead to outcomes such as anxiety and relationship withdrawal. It continues to be under-reported, under-recognised, and under-treated because many men and health professionals find it embarrassing to talk about. 

When examining the emotional aspects of sex and relationships, it has been demonstrated that a satisfying sex life and a warm interpersonal climate appear to have a greater impact on marital satisfaction than the frequency of sexual activity, although intercourse frequency can be a cause for conflict.

When the relationship charity Relate surveyed women in ‘sexless’ relationships (defined as no sex in the past year or fewer than ten times in the past year) via Gransnet and Mumsnet, they discovered that nearly half of those who had not had sex in the past year had argued with their partner about the amount of sex they were having. 


It is interesting to note that when sexuality is functioning well in a person's life and relationship, it contributes only 15 to 20% to the vitality and satisfaction of the relationship. It is acknowledged that the primary functions of sexuality are to energise the couple bond and heighten feelings of desire and desirability. However, when sex is dysfunctional, conflictual, or avoided, resulting in a nonsexual relationship, sex can play a negative role between 50 and 75% of the time, essentially draining the relationship of intimacy and threatening its stability. 


For both men and women, a 2002 study found a correlation between sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, love, and commitment. Those who reported the highest levels of sexual satisfaction also reported high levels of relationship satisfaction, love, and commitment. In previous studies, links between sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, love, and commitment were found in married couples, but this study found the same to be true for dating couples at various stages of their relationships. The implications of the study were that sexual satisfaction influences how partners feel about each other and their commitment to staying in the relationship. For men, sexual satisfaction was negatively associated with the likelihood of a breakup, whereas relationship satisfaction was a factor for women. This indicates that men are more likely than women to use the quality of their sexual relationship as a proxy for the quality of their entire relationship. 


Relationship break-down is significant. It has been demonstrated that a person experiencing a romantic breakup may experience bereavement-like symptoms, similar to those resulting from a death or divorce. This is likely due to the loss of the partner's role as a co-regulator of the nervous system and is the result of decreased vagal activity and an increase in cortisol. Sexual dysfunction that results in dissatisfaction and relationship dissolution can have physiological and psychological repercussions that extend into the workplace. The task at hand is to investigate further how relationship issues can impact employees' health, productivity, and absenteeism and presenteeism.


A longitudinal study revealed that family and work conflict appeared to be associated with elevated levels of depression and poor physical health, such as hypertension. The study suggested that employers take note of this, as conflicts between family and work can be a problem in terms of health care costs and productivity. 


Work performance has been shown to be negatively impacted by fatigue, irritability, decreased concentration, and decision making. More than a third of men and nearly half of women who reported family-to-work conflict were impacted. It was discovered that nearly one-third of women and one-fifth of men exhibited ‘presenteeism' and used work as a place to ‘rest’. According to the study, managers and coworkers avoid discussing the impact of family life, including relationships, on work performance. 


Some researchers have gone so far as to suggest that an employee's family life can act as a negative ‘presence factor’ that encourages employees to present themselves at work while unwell. For many working mothers, managers, and professionals, the home is not necessarily a place of respite from the demands of the workplace. In fact, many prefer to work rather than take sick leave. 


In conclusion, additional research is necessary to investigate the direct relationships between sexual function and sexual satisfaction, as well as their impact on the work environment and productivity.


Employers may be compelled to provide sex coaching and therapy if additional research reveals strong links between sexual health and workplace productivity and well-being. It has been demonstrated that physical intimacy, including sex, can have positive mood and hormonal mood changes for healthy relationships in the workplace. Employers should strive to reduce the impact they have on their employees' private lives, paying particular attention to remote working and checking emails during ‘out of office hours’.


Employers should also be aware that those exhibiting mental health issues, frequent absenteeism or presenteeism, particularly those working extra hours using work as a place to 'rest,' should consider whether there is more at play than what may appear on the surface. Employers could be encouraged to be cognizant of how an employee's relationship with their partner and sex life may impact their work and presence in the workplace.


Although there are strong links and correlations demonstrating how sexual function and satisfaction can impact work productivity and workplace cooperation, additional research is required to investigate the direct links, the factors influencing this, and, most importantly, how employers can support employees in a situation that is considered outside the employer's purview or responsibility. Supporting an employee's emotional and physical wellbeing without interfering with their personal life is a delicate balance.




Carla Crivaro,

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