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Arguments with coworkers can affect your sleep

A study shows office tensions can cause consumers’ partners to struggle at night too

Photo (c) AndreyPopov - Getty Images
For many consumers, the majority of the day is spent in the company of coworkers. Whether it’s at lunch or during meetings, time spent with colleagues can either be a nice respite from the busy work day, or it can be a cause for greater stress.

Now, researchers from Portland State University found that those who have frequent disagreements or arguments with their coworkers may have trouble sleeping at night. And the restlessness could extend to their partners if the couple works in the same field or company.

“Because work-linked couples have a better idea of what’s going on in each other’s work, they can be better supporters,” said lead author Charlotte Fritz. “They probably know more about the context of the incivil act and might be more pulled into the venting or problem-solving process.”

Sharing stress

Fritz and her team surveyed over 300 couples in a variety of different fields to examine the way they handle workplace arguments -- and how it affects their sleeping habits.

The participants were asked questions about how often they felt preoccupied with negative aspects of work once the work day ended, and also how many times during the night they woke up or couldn’t fall asleep because of work-related issues.

The researchers found that those who experienced incivility at work were more likely to bring those frustrations home with them, which also led to insomnia or trouble sleeping. The participants’ spouses were also found to have trouble sleeping when the couple worked either in the same company or field of work.

Fritz and her team suggest that the best way to combat these struggles and make life outside of work less stressful is for employees to do their best to fully engage in outside activities once the work day is over. Additionally, they called for workplaces to provide civility training for all employees in an effort to instill a more positive atmosphere in the workplace.

“Not talking about work or not supporting your spouse is not the solution,” said Fritz. “They can talk about work, vent about it, discuss it, but then they should make an explicit attempt to unwind together and create good conditions for sleep.”

Cultivating a positive work environment

There are several ways for consumers to go about making the work environment as positive and enjoyable as possible.

A recent study found that coworkers should only offer advice to each other when first sought out or specifically asked.

The researchers found that those who receive unsolicited advice may start to question their self-esteem or role in the workplace, and they may even feel hostile towards the coworker that provided the advice. However, when people wait to be asked and can then offer their assistance or expertise, the help is often appreciated by both parties.

“Right now, there’s a lot of stress on productivity in the workplace, and to be a real go-getter, and to help everyone around you,” said researcher Russell Johnson. “But, it’s not necessarily the best thing when you go out looking for problems and spending time trying to fix them.”

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