Though our personal lives and business lives may overlap, most of us are diligent about keeping them separate. But if we’re constantly inundated by sex in the media, why is it taboo to talk about it? Especially if learning more about sex could make you better in business.
The act of sex releases hormones that reduce stress, improving mental and emotional stability. This connection between sex and mental health was observed in a 2020 study of sexual activity during COVID-19 in the Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection: Lack of sexual activity during lockdowns was linked with significantly higher risk of anxiety and depression. Participants who did engage in sexual activity, meanwhile, seemed to enjoy a protective effect against mental health and mood disorders. [Read more about workplace stress and anxiety after COVID-19.]
Sex also helps lower stress-related blood pressure in two ways:
Endorphins, which are released during physical activity (including sex), tend to boost mood and reduce pain perception. Oxytocin, the hormone responsible for what we know as love, not only helps bond you with your partner but acts as a natural sedative to promote better sleep. Better sleep isn’t just good for you because it increases your productivity at work – it also strengthens the immune system and helps you live longer. [Related article: 5 Ways to Increase Business Productivity]
According to Lynn Brown Rosenberg, author of My Sexual Awakening at 70, “If you’ve had great sex the night before, the next day you’re going to feel more powerful. Energized. Balanced. Wanted in a deeply personal way. Engaging in sexual intimacy can make us feel right with the world. We are less stressed and more able to be productive.”
Sexual activity can improve your physical, mental and emotional health – which all have a positive impact inside and outside of the office.
The Asian Efficiency Sex and Motivation Chart shows how both biology and society are at play in sex:
The motivation and benefits correlate with either an increase or a decrease in productivity, based on what the interaction with society says. We get both good and bad messages because of the combination of what we have to do biologically and how society says we have to do it. [See how other forms of self-care can improve your productivity at work.]
However, research suggests sexual activity among U.S. adults has declined in recent years. In a JAMA Network study that tracked sexual frequency and number of sexual partners among U.S. adults from 2000 to 2018, sexual activity decreased among men ages 18-24 and 25-34, as well as among women ages 25-34. The researchers also found a correlation between reduced sexual activity and employment, as “men with lower income and with part-time or no employment were more likely to be sexually inactive.”
While sex may not be the difference between unemployment and a full-time career, it can certainly improve productivity in the workplace. Taboos aside, the facts show that sex is not only good for us personally, but also good for business. When we’re physically active and content in our personal lives, we’re less stressed, we get better sleep, and we’re in a better mood generally. When we go to work feeling more rested and less stressed, we’re better equipped to face the day and any tasks it brings us.
Since stress can significantly impact productivity, sex is an impactful way to mitigate those negative effects.
Higher productivity isn’t the only way a healthy sex life improves your work life. Those feel-good hormones and the general sense of well-being they give you have several other major benefits that are good for business.
Employers are increasingly focused on supporting employees’ mental health, with many incorporating wellness initiatives and benefits like yoga and fitness classes.
Outside of the office, you can take stress reduction into your own hands (so to speak) by engaging in regular sexual activity. Verywell Mind points out several studies that found both solo and partnered sex reduce levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, while also releasing other hormones and neurotransmitters associated with better health and wellness. [Related article: 10 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout]
According to the World Health Organization, for every $1 put into treatment for common mental health disorders (such as anxiety and depression), there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.
According to MedicineNet, regular sex can reduce symptoms of depression. Lower stress and increased production of positive brain chemicals improves overall wellness and can decrease depressive symptoms.
Beyond brain chemistry, the nature of physical intimacy puts people in a better mood. Sex offers a feel-good diversion from the stressors of daily life and can help you feel more connected to your partner. This bond improves physical affection as well as sexual satisfaction, which continues the positive cycle.
Sex can also give you more energy by improving your sleep. Again, sex releases hormones like oxytocin and prolactin while reducing cortisol. According to the Sleep Foundation, these hormonal changes can induce drowsiness, making it easier to fall asleep, and you can reap the benefits of better sleep the next day. Being well rested and having more energy will enable you to face the tasks of the day ahead. In fact, adequate sleep is so important to productivity that some employers even let employees nap on the job.
Similar to the relationship between sex and mood, sex and sleep are inherently linked, with higher-quality sleep resulting in better sexual outcomes.
Sexually active people tend to get sick less often. Johns Hopkins Medicine explains how physical intimacy has been linked with better physical health outcomes: It can reduce blood pressure, the severity of chronic pain, and the risk of a heart attack.
Employees experiencing anxiety, depression or high stress may also call in sick for a mental health day or for any physical manifestations of their condition. However, sex has also been linked with multiple positive outcomes for mental health, potentially reducing the number of sick days you need to take. [Related article: How to Reduce Sick Days by Encouraging a Healthy Workplace]
In a 2020 study published in International Urology and Nephrology, women with kidney stones who had sex three or four times a week were more likely to pass the stones spontaneously. Similar results have been reported in earlier studies with men.
While sex typically has a positive impact on productivity, too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect. Be cautious of the potential negative impacts of sex on your work life.
There is no clinically defined “normal level” of sex drive or frequency; it depends on the individual and their partner(s). However, a high libido can become a problem if it distracts you from your work or other aspects of your life. In some cases, sexual activity can be compulsive, with sex becoming the primary focus at the expense of everything else, including your mental health, employment, relationships, and finances.
Though sex is generally linked with better health, irresponsible sex can lead to infections or diseases – resulting in more time out of the office. The CDC reports that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can range in severity of symptoms, from asymptomatic or mild infections to serious negative health outcomes requiring chronic medical care. Safe sex practices and mitigation strategies reduce the risk of infection or disease after sexual activity.
Persistent sexual arousal can also interfere with your decision-making ability, a phenomenon colloquially called “sex brain.” Physiologically, sexual arousal and behaviors are linked to the limbic (primitive) system of the brain, which can override the higher-level thinking required to make decisions effectively. [Related article: Emotions vs. Information in Business Decision-Making]
Lucinda Watrous contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.