Home All When at Work, Can You Leave Your Heart at Home?

Louisa Jewell, MAPP '09,is a consultant, facilitator, and speaker with over 15 years of experience working with large and small groups, mainly in the area of leadership development, employee retention, and team building. She co-founded whydidyougo.com, a project to research and study happiness at work. Louisa co-hosts a weekly radio show on CIUT.FM where she interviews guests on the topic of energizing organizations. (Full bio. Her articles are here, here, and here).

Marie-Josee Salvas Shaar, MAPP '07, founded Smarts and Stamina (SaS) to help organizations implement healthy living as part of their business strategy. She combines positive psychology with fitness and nutrition to accelerate personal and professional health and growth. She is co-author of the book, Smarts and Stamina: A Busy Person's Guide to Optimal Health and Productivity. Full bio. Her articles are here and here).

755 words, reading time: less than 3 minutes.

“You can take a person out of their home, but you can’t take the home life out of the person.”

Many emotionsWhile employers would like to think that people leave their problems at home, the reality is that most people find it challenging to turn off stressors from their personal life when they get to work. Similarly, research suggests that employees who enjoy fulfilling home lives are better equipped to make significant contributions at work. Rather than ignore the home-life/work-performance connection, we argue that employers who encourage and support healthy home lives in their employees see a better return on their salary investment.

How Separate Are Work and Personal Lives?

Readers of PPND already know that according to research by Diener, Lyubomirsky, and King, happy individuals are successful across multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, health and work performance. The research suggests that it is the positive affect that engenders success rather than the other way around. So if people are happier at home, can we expect to find a spillover of benefits into the workplace?

That is precisely what the research firm Gallup has found. After having studied work environments for 40 years, their results demonstrate that the most productive team members are those who, rather than crawl to the couch after work, invest their full energy in their loved ones when they get home from work. In other words, engagement at home refreshes and prepares workers for the next effort at work, and thus leads to better performance.

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology further explored the importance of studying the relationships between work and home lives in organizational policies. The researchers found that employee commitment is particularly high in organizations that support work-life fit practices.

Business ladyA different study led at George Mason University further reinforces this finding and suggests that the degree to which job satisfaction varies is explained by home-life factors whereas the degree to which family-life satisfaction varies is explained by work-related factors.

To that effect, one very interesting finding in this article’s co-author Louisa Jewell’s research at Why Did You Go.com is that when we asked people why they left their jobs, the most common reason cited was unsupportive managers. When we asked people who loved their jobs to report the reasons why, they spoke more about the work being important – that it fulfilled their purpose in life. Thus engaging employees is about truly tapping into and supporting the whole person, and allowing them to live in harmony within and outside of the company.

Insight on the Brain

Here’s even more compelling evidence: research published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience has shown that people solve creative problems better when in a positive mood. The researchers believe this enhanced insight occurs because positive affect is conducive to a more global scope of attention enhancing the brain’s ability to make distant or unusual associations. In an economy increasingly driven by the creativity and innovativeness of its people (think product design, engineering, bio/medical research, process improvements, advertising, entertainment, etc.), assisting employees to have greater positive affect can have a dramatic impact on business results.

Should Managers Get Involved?

Organizational leaders typically prefer to steer clear of employees’s personal lives. Indeed, how to effectively deal with such issues isn’t taught in business school, and not everyone is comfortable or competent at it. There is also the concern that employees may think it is intrusive, or the fear of being seen as overly touchy-feely.

However, employers can teach employees how to cope with stressors at home without becoming involved in the issues, which is precisely what the US army is doing with its resilience program. Employers can also offer tools to help their workers take better care of their health, a strategy that benefits the bottom line remarkably well. Give employees good tools, encourage participation, support them along the way, and their work performance will improve. It’s a simple equation, really: build positivity and resilience, get enhanced performance.

Time to go homeIn support of this claim, in a two-year longitudinal study published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science in 2002, it was found that psychological well-being reliably predicts job performance. Thus managers would be wise to work on this.

Employers who see workers strictly as output-producers are missing one of the greatest levers they have – harnessing employee emotions for greater performance. Employees are complete human beings, and managing their full complexity is – in our educated opinion – a more productive approach.




Ford, M.T., Heinin, B.A., Langkamer, K.L. (2007). Work and family satisfaction and conflict: a meta-analysis of cross-domain relations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92 (1), 57–80.

Jung-Beeman, M., Bowden, E.M., Haberman, J., Frymiare, J.L., Arambel-Liu, S., Greenblatt, R., Reber, P.J., Kounios, J. (2004). Neural Activity When People Solve Verbal Problems with Insight.
PLOS Biology 2 (4), 0500-0510.

Lourel, M., Ford, M.T., Gamassou, C.E. et al (2009). Negative and positive spillover between work and home Relationship to perceived stress and job satisfaction. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 24 (5), 438-449.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131 (6), 803-855.

Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2009). Strengths-Based Leadership. New York: Gallup Press.

Subramaniam, K. Kounios, J. Parrish, T.B. & Jung-Beeman, M. (2008). , John Kounios, Todd B. Parrish, A Brain Mechanism for Facilitation of Insight by Positive Affect. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 21 (3), 415–432.

Wright, T.A., Cropanzano, R. Denney, P.J. & Moline, G.L. (2002). When a Happy Worker is a Productive Worker: A Preliminary Examination of Three Models. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science.


Many emotions courtesy of littledan
Business lady courtesy of coldironjr2003
Going home by alancleaver_2000

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Sherri Fisher 24 March 2010 - 12:37 pm

Great article, Louisa and Marie-Josee, with a strong call for action!!

I wonder about this: “It’s a simple equation, really: build positivity and resilience, get enhanced performance.” Maybe it is not so simple to people who, unlike us, have not seen organizations and their people transformed by positivity and resilience. If it is so simple, why don’t more people and their organizations already do it?

This is a great venue to begin exploring that question. There are also probably several other articles on this site that help to address some how-to’s.

(Marie-Josee does this well in her newsletters–tiny mouthfuls you can swallow and put to your health and well-being right away.)

Thank you both 🙂

Louisa Jewell 24 March 2010 - 2:12 pm

Hi Sherry,
Thank you for your comments. With my clients, especially in this economic downturn, training and development always has to be tied to some business imperative. I think many consultants still find it challenging to ‘make the case’ and the connection to real business outcomes. Making our way onto the ‘wellness’ wagon I think is an inroad we can all take advantage of.

Marie-Josee Salvas Shaar 24 March 2010 - 3:02 pm

Hi Sherri!

Thanks so much for your good feedback on my newsletter! I’m glad you find good value in my issues!

You are right, the link between feeling good and working well is not always clear to CFOs in particular, and our article is one more argument showing that relationship. I also wrote 2 articles on the 2010 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Conference last week, and both give a lot of good (numerical) arguments making the case for wellbeing in the workplace. For anyone interested in either “buying” or “selling” health and positivity at work, the articles can be a good place to start the conversation.

Here are links to them:

Very best,


Dan Bowling 24 March 2010 - 10:10 pm

Hi L and MJ

Great, great, great. Work-life “balance” is such a misleading term, and this article does a great job discussing why one can’t separate the two. I was at a conference recently with Marshall Goldsmith who said it is impossible to be happy at work without being happy away from work – and I think the reverse is true as well. Your article helps illuminate some of the reasons why.

Dan B

Marie-Josee Salvas Shaar 24 March 2010 - 10:49 pm

Thanks for the feedback and reinforcement, Dan! Knowing your background in high corporate spheres, your comment is empowerment for all interested in increasing wellness at work – whether they are coaches, leaders or employees!

Thanks for chipping in!


Louisa Jewell 25 March 2010 - 6:47 pm

Hi Dan,
Thank you for your feedback! You know Marshall Goldsmith talks about your ‘mojo’ – “the moment when we feel we’re ‘on a roll’, firing on all cylinders, and everyone around us senses it.” I think it is quite impossible to have this kind of enthusiasm when things are not going well at home. And when things are going well, this enthusiasm is contagious in the work environment. It’s good to see other thought leaders agree!

Jeremy McCarthy 25 March 2010 - 9:57 pm

Love the article. I don’t like the term “work-life balance” because it implies one is good and the other is bad instead of trying to figure out how to make both awesome. Another good topic for discussion would be those critics of PP that worry that all this talk about happiness in the workplace is just a tool to control and appease the work force. I’ve been happy at work and I’ve been unhappy at work, and since I spend most of my time there, I’d much rather be happy! Thanks for putting a smile on my face (even though it’s 11pm and I’m in my office!)

Jenni Wright 6 April 2010 - 3:32 pm

Thanks for a great article, I enjoyed reading it. Especially that last paragraph: “Employers who see workers strictly as output-producers are missing one of the greatest levers they have – harnessing employee emotions for greater performance.” You succinctly made the argument and then summed it up in these words. Excellent!

Louisa Jewell 6 April 2010 - 4:18 pm

Hi Jenni,
Thank you for your comments. Yes, I agree, most employers want to ignore employee emotions or pretend they don’t exist. I believe that most employers do not know how to truly harness them in a positive and productive way. But those who do create effective work environments that promote well-being and productivity.


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