New Frontiers in Workplace Productivity:
The Impact of Sexual Function and Sexual Satisfaction on the Work Environment and Productivity
This White Paper was presented to Westminster on Wednesday 26 April 2023
Sexuality is at the very foundation of who we are as human beings. Our degree of comfort with our sexuality has a huge impact on our self-esteem, confidence, and sense of agency in the world, including in the workplace.
We bring our whole selves with us to our working life. As such, sexual satisfaction, sexual function, and sexual dysfunction affect the workplace environment including productivity.
Even so, sexuality support services are not currently offered by most Employee Assistance Programmes. Sexual health and wellness are excluded from most workplace wellness programmes and interventions. Many organisations do not have a robust strategy for preventing sexual harassment.
There is a considerable opportunity for UK businesses to take steps to address this underserved need within the workforce. Organisations that include sexual health and wellness in their workforce development strategy will have a competitive edge over organisations that continue to brush sexuality under the rug.
The principal author of this white paper is Carla Crivaro, supported by contributing authors Cameron Fraser and Sarah Martin.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach and since 2021 has been working with men and women internationally helping them to understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally. Carla serves her clients through 1-1 coaching, workshops, and courses. She is a professional speaker and has been featured on Channel 4, Dear Midlife, The Blackpool Gazette, Growth Hub, among many others. Carla is a life-long learner, and recently completed a certification in Sacred Sexuality Coaching for Men.
Cameron Fraser, GradDipSxlgy, is the current Deputy Chair of the Society of Australian Sexologists. He received his Graduate Diploma in Sexology from the School of Population Health, Curtin University. Cameron teaches a 300 hour Certificate in Sexuality Coaching accredited by the International Institute for Complementary Therapists. He has 8 years in private practice.
Sarah Martin, MA, is a Certified Sex Coach and clinical sexologist. She is the former Executive Director of the World Association of Sex Coaches (2016 - 2021). Sarah received her sexology training under master sexologist Dr. Patti Britton at Sex Coach U and her Master’s in Sociology from the Graduate School for Social Research, Lancaster University. She serves men, women, and non-binary people in her private practice, established in 2016.
There is a direct link between sexual satisfaction, sexual function, and sexual dysfunction and productivity, workplace wellbeing, and a positive work environment.
Sexual satisfaction relates to an individual's personal sexual well-being, including positive feelings, pleasure, and desire, as well as to a couple’s joint experience, including creativity, frequency, mutuality, expression of feelings, and romance. Sexual satisfaction is primarily determined by the presence of happy sexual encounters, as opposed to the lack of bad ones.
Sexual function impacts how satisfied a person is during a sexual encounter. Sexual dysfunction may result in sexual dissatisfaction. Frequent and persistent problems with sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and sexual pain are the four primary categories of sexual dysfunction. Within a couple, not only can a sexual dysfunction negatively impact the sexual satisfaction of the individual experiencing the issue, but also that of their partner.
Sexually satisfying behaviour can have positive spill-over effects on job satisfaction and engagement the day after. Engaging in satisfying sex with a partner produces positive mood-driven outcomes created by the hormonal effects of pleasurable sex.
During sex, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin are released. Dopamine helps to focus attention and increases motivation. Oxytocin has been shown to affect people's ability to ‘mind-read' by using external cues like facial expression to interpret or predict the behaviour of others. Oxytocin has been demonstrated to influence a person's trustworthiness and facilitate cooperative interactions. Oxytocin and vasopressin lead to more civil and engaging interactions with coworkers and customers.
Conversely, work to family conflict can inhibit sexual behaviour after work hours. Workplace stress can inhibit sex and its subsequent positive effects.
Sexual dysfunction can also directly impact workplace performance. Men with erectile dysfunction had higher absenteeism, presenteeism, work productivity impairment, and lower Mental Component Summary scores than men without erectile dysfunction.
Sexual satisfaction impacts mental health. Poor mental health (particularly depression or anxiety) is associated with lost productivity, including through absenteeism and presenteeism (presence at work despite illness). As the symptoms and severity of depression increase, absenteeism increases and performance steadily declines. Mental health also impacts labour force participation, wages/earnings, and part-time versus full-time employment.
During the 2020 Coronavirus lockdowns, those who were able to maintain sexual activity experienced less psychological distress, higher relational satisfaction, and fewer negative effects of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Both men and women show a relationship between sexual activity and lower depression rates. Overall, sexual satisfaction is a strong predictor of mental health, whereas sexual dysfunction lowers self-esteem and confidence and increases the likelihood of anxiety and depression.
Sexual satisfaction impacts relationship satisfaction. Sexual dysfunction disrupts intimacy and can lead to emotional withdrawal and interpersonal difficulty in both partners. Sexual dysfunction is under-treated because many people, including health professionals, find it embarrassing to talk about. When sex is dysfunctional, conflictual, or avoided, sex can play a negative role to the vitality and satisfaction of the relationship between 50 and 75% of the time, threatening the relationship’s stability. Conversely, those who reported the highest levels of sexual satisfaction also reported high levels of relationship satisfaction, love, and commitment.
Sexual dysfunction that results in dissatisfaction and relationship dissolution can have workplace repercussions. A person experiencing a romantic breakup may experience bereavement-like symptoms, similar to those resulting from a death or divorce. Family conflict is associated with increased depression and poor physical health, as well as fatigue, irritability, decreased concentration, and difficulty with decision making. An employee's family life can even act as a negative ‘presence factor’ that encourages employees to present themselves at work while unwell.
Include Sexuality Support Services in Employee Assistance Programmes
Include sexuality support services, like sex coaching, sex counselling, and sex therapy in all civil service Welfare Service or Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) programmes. Require the inclusion of sexuality support services when contracting with private sector EAPs like Health Assured (Member’s Staff), Optima (MoD), or PAM Assist (DWP). Request that the Employee Assistance Programme Association encourage their membership to include sexuality support services in their programmes.
Invest in Sensitivity Training
Provide in-depth sensitivity training on gender and sexuality to select managerial grades from Civil Service, Civil Service HR, and Members of Parliament. Encourage industry to do the same.
Develop Communication Skills Across the Workforce
Provide workplace training on communication, listening, consent, and boundaries across the civil service. Encourage industry to do the same.
Connect Industry with Sexuality Support Professionals
Create opportunities for industry to connect with sexuality support professionals and discover how sexual health and wellness add to their productivity strategy. Host a summit or invite sexuality support professionals to conferences or conventions.
Capitalise Sexuality Support Businesses
Create opportunities for sexuality support businesses to access capital, including business loans and grants. Legislate equality of access to payment processors for sexuality support businesses.
Expand Access to Adult Sexuality Education
Fund the creation of in-person spaces and virtual platforms where adults can receive information about sex, pleasure and relationships and services like support groups and individual or group sex therapy or sex coaching or access the details of available therapists and coaches.
Support the Right to Disconnect
Introduce legislation to limit the ability of employers to contact their employees outside of working hours.
Fund Research into Sexual Health and Wellness
Allocate funding for research into the connection between sexual wellness and workplace impacts, including on the efficacy of interventions like those provided by sexuality support professionals.
Increase Awareness of and Access to Sexual Dysfunction Treatment
Many GPs do not refer eligible patients to the psychosexual services already available on the NHS and access to psychosexual services is inconsistent geographically. Expand psychosexual service availability UK-wide and increase referring awareness among General Practitioners.
Increase Awareness of and Access to Sexuality Support Services
Psychosexual services available on the NHS are limited in scope and duration. Create awareness among general practitioners, mental health professionals, and psychosexual professionals about the additional auxiliary support available from sexuality support professionals like sex coaches, which can provide a higher level of ongoing support than psychosexual services and which can achieve better outcomes than pharmacological solutions alone.
Recognise Relationship Diversity
Commission a review of family law given the ongoing shift to greater relationship diversity in the way UK residents actually live, including how our current systems could be updated to recognize non-monogamous and other non-traditional family structures.
Contact Carla Crivaro for consultation, communication skills workshop creation & delivery, and as a sexuality support provider available to partner with EAPs or to work directly with organisations and Government departments.
Contact Empowered Attitudes Consulting for in-depth gender and sexuality sensitivity training, from one hour pre-recorded webinars to the signature two-day intensive seminar on men, masculinity, and the internet designed for leaders and human resources teams.
Images: Carla Crivaro delivering the White Paper to the House of Commons House Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle.