Connie Wanberg has heard the stories. People surfing Facebook. Crying at their desks. Sleeping on their office floor.
The reason? They’re getting divorced and it’s clearly affecting their work. How much, though, is hard to measure because very little research has been done on this aspect of a marital split.
“There’s a lot out there about how divorce impacts finances and one’s children,” said Wanberg, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “What’s surprising is that we really don’t know how divorce affects people’s work. It’s only anecdotal at this point.”
Wanberg, herself divorced, seeks to change that. She and co-authors Michelle Duffy and Bori Csillag have designed a three-part survey to quantify the effects divorce has on full-time working people, for better or worse.
Participants will be contacted two weeks after they complete the first survey and again in one year.
Aside from general questions about work title and job responsibilities, questions dig deep into the realities of trying to stay positive and productive at work while divorcing.
How did your boss help or not help? To what extent did you disclose your divorce to co-workers? How’s your concentration? How often do you call in sick?
Questions also ask about drinking and sleep.
“Divorce is among the top five most stressful life events,” Wanberg noted. “We are expecting that this life transition will trickle down into work.”
She said she hopes that responses will lead to helpful workplace solutions to support people navigating divorce, such as more flexible schedules, or a private place to make phone calls.
Wanberg recalled receiving “a ton of support” when her mother died a year and a half ago. Of course she appreciated it, she said. “But I found in interesting that people don’t seem to realize that you also need support when you end a marriage.”
She is actively seeking participants for the study. Candidates must be in the process of divorcing and working full-time. E-mail Wanberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. □