Take Control Blog

Divorce in the Workplace

It was eight years ago when my wife asked for the divorce. Anyone can argue that there is never a good time for that kind of news, but this was a really, really bad time. Six months earlier, I sold my company and there was so much to do. Still, I was almost paralyzed. Going through the motions, I was a zombie at work. Any energy I could muster was directed at dealing with my divorce and my unknown future.

For corporations or those who own a business, divorce has a direct impact on the bottom line. Findings of the Life Innovations Study “Marriage and Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business?” concluded that relationship-related stress costs employers about $300 billion annually.

Chances are 50% or more of married employees will divorce at some point. The process is an emotional roller coaster that impacts people’s ability to be mindful on the job. The stress and apprehension brought on by divorce often results in a depressive state affecting employee health and performance, measured in reduced employee attendance, motivation and focus.

The resulting impact to the organization is significant, with research showing that:

  1. The average cost to a company due to employees going through the divorce process is $83,171 per year.
  2.  It can take up to five years for employee productivity to rebound after divorce.
  3. Workers in domestic disputes often become unavailable for travel or extended hours.

Productivity is impacted when workers are absent due to divorce-related issues, such as court and attorney meetings and the time involved in preparing for these appointments. Also impacting the employer is the use of working hours to discuss the divorce with others and do research, along with not completing tasks properly or on time due to lack of focus.

During the divorce process, people often feel alone and overburdened and lack confidence; it is not surprising how many buckle under the pressure. The fear of the unknown, especially the financial outcome of the divorce, can be overwhelming.

As employers, offering employees access to benefits or resources that provide them relief during such a critical time in their lives will clearly have a resulting benefit to the company as well. Some employee benefits such as, pre-paid legal services and medical insurance that is inclusive of mental health coverage is a good start, but it’s not enough. Education and on-going support must also be part of the solution.

In terms of stressful life events, divorce consistently ranks second only to the death of a spouse or child. Divorce is completely life altering; striking at an individual’s very foundation. As such, any divorce-related employee benefit should look at the trauma holistically. There is grief counseling, so why not divorce

Much work is required in this area, but it needs to start with employers recognizing the workplace impact of divorce and not just on the employee home.