Remember how the other day your boss came down on you in that sales meeting? Or you — yet again — had to compensate for your incompetent co-worker, leaving you in a less-than-joyful mood as you stomped out of work. Well to no surprise, a new study shows that our moods are inextricably linked between our home and work life, which means you likely dragged that bad mood all the way home with you. Yannis Georgellis, director of the Centre for Research in Employment, Skills & Society at Kingston University in London and lead researcher on the study, shares more on how moods in these two parts of our lives are linked.
Q: What is the connection between our mood and our work and home life?
A: Our mood can affect how we feel about both our work and home life. A bad day at work is likely to ruin the mood at home, as it is also likely that tension at home is likely to affect the mood at work. It is difficult for people to switch off emotions and not to carry them across from one domain to the other.
In our study we find for the majority of respondents, there is no evidence of segmentation between the two domains. If respondents report high satisfaction scores with their work life, they also tend to report high satisfaction scores with their home life. If they report low satisfaction scores with their work life, they also tend to report low scores with their home life. There is no evidence in our data that individuals who are unhappy with their life in general, are happy with their work life. In that sense, there is no evidence that more happiness at work will compensate for a lack of happiness elsewhere.
Q: So working life won’t compensate for a lack of happiness elsewhere?
A: It is possible people choose to spend more time at work and away from home to avoid tension and unhappiness with family life. But this doesn’t mean they are necessarily happier at work. Often, people also report they are happy at work and that they are not too concerned about a lack of happiness or fulfillment in other spheres of life. However, in most cases such an imbalance cannot be maintained for extended periods in one’s life without adverse health and psychological effects.
Q: Can this be applied to all stages in life or does it depend on what stage you’re at? i.e. retiring, at home with a newborn, newlywed, etc.
A: Our study identifies several factors that could mitigate the strength of the relationship between job and life satisfaction. Underpinning these factors is the value and importance that people place to work as an integral part of their life and identity. This can differ, for example, with whether individuals live in a traditional society, with religion, as well as with one’s personal circumstances. The latter is particularly relevant for women, as their degree of attachment with the workplace varies with changing family circumstances during their life cycle.
Q: So what can we take from your work and apply to our own lives?
A: If there is a lesson to be learned for these findings it’s that emotional spill over effects across various spheres of life are likely to be strong and difficult to avoid. Therefore, in the pursuit of general happiness you shouldn’t focus on one sphere of life neglecting other areas because unhappiness in the neglected domain is likely to spill over to other domain. At the end of the day, for most people, happiness is about maintaining a desirable, suitable work-life balance.
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