Impact of Divorce on the Workplace

JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator/Mediation Coach/Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

Article compiled for Visions Anew Institute

Research has shown that employers pay a steep price when employees face serious personal problems. Divorce is at the top of the list. The significant emotional and financial challenges faced by those going through divorce cause a myriad of workplace issues: absenteeism, poor performance, low productivity and a condition known as presenteeism, when employees are physically present, but emotionally, mentally, creatively and professionally not there.

The Harvard Business Review has been quoted as estimating that presenteeism costs American business $150 billion annually in direct and indirect costs. This state of overwhelming distraction represents a significant drain on a business being able to reach its goals, make wise, well-informed decisions, and create profits instead of losses.

One way to combat these serious employee management problems is for companies to offer workplace programs that educate and support employees while they are facing distressing personal challenges. Offering preventive programs that familiarize employees with effective communication techniques and preventive measures that can divorce-proof their marriages is one way companies can not only assist their employees, but safeguard the health and welfare of their businesses as well.

While numbers vary greatly as to the actual costs that businesses suffer when employees divorce, various findings include the following estimates and reports:

    • A report from the Minneapolis-based Life Innovations Study titled “Marriage and Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business?” calculated that stress from relationship-related issues costs companies $300 billion a year.


    • This study also found that employees lose more than 168 hours of work time in the year following a divorce, which is reported to be more than 8% of their actual time at work. Other studies report that divorce disrupts an employee’s productivity for three years or longer.


    • The Wall Street Journal reported that a study from the Grief Recovery Institute points out that workplace costs from serious emotional distress is $75 billion a year due to:
      • – lost productivity
      • – absenteeism
      • – increased errors and accidents


    • The Institute also has been quoted as saying that the the negative impact of the divorce process on work ranges from a minimum of two years to frequently four to five years. The Institute cites workplace problems such as:
      • – reduced concentration
      • – poor decision-making
      • – distraction
      • – lost work time


  • Other reports point out that workplace costs of divorce include higher health costs since increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression resulting from failing relationships lead to low levels of physical health and increased risk for substance abuse problems. These health issues lead to higher costs for companies in more expensive insurance premiums and healthcare expenditures.

Experts agree that it is essential that employers connect the dots between the serious emotional and financial stress of divorce and lost productivity. It is clear, they say, that the need to educate and support employees during distressful times should not be considered a luxury, but should be regarded as a high-priority necessity. As the Grief Recovery Institute says, “When your heart is broken, your head doesn’t work.”

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