How WFH Has Made Sex Lives Worse

How WFH Has Made Sex Lives Worse

On Census night in August 2021, about 21 per cent of Australians (that’s approximately 2.5 million of us) were working from home. Over two years on, the stats around how often Aussies are logging on of a morning from home may have shifted somewhat – especially with businesses pushing employees to return to the office – but, broadly speaking, there is still a large number of people who are happily continuing on with at least a hybrid approach to work. There have been loads of conversations, and studies, on how people feel about working from home (generally, pretty good), but there’s an interesting question to be asked about how it impacts one’s sex life.

During the height of the pandemic times, there was a bit of discourse about just how many people were using the work-from-home model as an excuse to indulge in a little playtime during their nine-to-five. A Lovehoney survey from August 2022 (which, admittedly, looked at the habits of +2,000 adults in the U.S., but remains interesting) highlighted that some 49 per cent of respondents had masturbated while working from home, and 39 per cent had engaged in partnered sex.

The most common reasons for taking a sex break while working from home were reportedly feeling horny (68%), stress relief (61%), and knowing it’s risky (35%). None of which are particularly surprising.

But now, in 2023, with working from home no longer a novelty and Aussies existing in a world that feels almost unrecognisable from that of 2020 through 2021, is WFH helping our sex lives, or are all those meetings from the sofa dousing the flames of our collective libidos?

Here, three sexologists share their thoughts.

Kassandra Mourikis, Christine Rafe and Chantelle Otten, three Australian sexologists, have reflected on recent trends that have emerged around sex and WFH, and their observations are fairly eye-opening.

The good stuff

Three sexologists share their views. Image credit: iStock

To begin, there are some very clear benefits to working from home – especially if you’re partnered up. As Mourikis put it:

“For many people, working from home has meant way more time being in the presence of their romantic and sexual partners while trying to navigate leisure and work in the same spaces. This could mean getting to see your partners more often, making the most of the time together and planning lunch dates or after-work cuddle time”.

“When people in LTRs [long-term relationships] are intentional about how they use their time together, then it can have a supportive effect on their sex lives,” she explained.

Rafe added here that it can also mean folks have access to their S.O. (or their own bodies) at a time that feels more convenient to them. No more rushing to squeeze a quickie in before getting ready for work, or pushing yourself to stay awake in the evening after you’ve washed the dishes and hit the gym.

Some people, Rafe shared, “have found it useful to WFH together (at least on some days) as I find a lot of people describe their highest organic interest or desire for sex and pleasure as in the afternoon, so if both people are home for lunch or early afternoon, there is opportunity for sexual intimacy at a time where there is energy and opportunity,” she said.

“If you can prioritise time to connect in a quality way throughout the day, then this can foster more willingness and desire for sex.”

The complicated side of WFH and sex

Three sexologists share their views. Image credit: iStock

Where things become complicated is that, for some people, all that access to your partner, not to mention the samey nature of the environment you’re constantly in, can act as a kind of sex drive kryptonite.

“An obvious challenge of WFH is the excess time spent cooped up together because maybe you’re sharing an office space or you’re leaving the house less frequently than you were before the pandemic,” Mourikis shared.

“This can increase stress, agitation or tension, and some folks will be craving separateness and want more freedom and their own space.”

The problem of quantity over quality of time is a point each of the sexologists brought up, but this problem extends beyond couples, too.

The nature of working from your trackies all day, or spending more time in front of your phone, computer and TV, Mourikis shared, doesn’t exactly leave you feeling your sexiest. Longer working hours, high stress levels, and a general feeling of burnout leaves “little room for emotional, physical, or sexual connection,” she said.

“There are many couples who show up to sex therapy sessions because they are experiencing desire fatigue from living through the pandemic, the collective trauma of COVID, feeling stuck in monotonous routines or overwhelmed with their workloads or household labour…”

To this point, Otten said that during the lockdown period people may have been having more sex because they were “excited about the opportunity for more intimacy, ” but now, we’re looking at a completely different picture.

“I think that work from home, you know, can create a quite a few challenges that aren’t really… they’re not sexy challenges,” she said.

Like Mourikis, Otten pointed to the problem of struggling to separate work and personal time, which she said “…can be quite challenging for intimacy”. She also agreed that if you’re feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities around the house (hello, piles of laundry), that “having sex is probably the last thing on your to-do list”.

But more than the problems of stress and cognitive overload, Otten also shared that your mental health can be a factor to consider. She said that working from home “can be extremely isolating, which can affect your mental and emotional state. And I think for a lot of people, feeling isolated can make it harder to feel aroused or interested [in sex]”.

The list doesn’t end there, either.

In addition to all that, Otten highlighted that if working from home has led to a decrease in your physical activity and an increase in your time in front of screens; both of these lifestyle changes can impact your sex drive, as well. Too much time spent with your devices, she shared, “can be stressful, it can be fatiguing – it can [make it] harder to be present and mindful”.

The last barrier Otten mentioned is “a very obvious one”. Working from home – if you’re coupled up – often means “we don’t get excited about our partner’s presence around us.”

“If we’re both working from home, it’s very hard to desire someone that you see every day. You know their movements, you’re probably getting irritated by their little quirks, you have no personal space,” she said.

When you consider that lengthy list, it becomes rather easy to see how something that initially created renewed heat in the bedroom might now be working more like a fire extinguisher for many.

How to find a groove: The sweet spot for sex and working from home

Three sexologists share their views. Image credit: iStock

So, where to from here? Is there a way to foster a healthy relationship between working from home and your sex drive? Of course. As Rafe touched on earlier, it’s all about balance and intentionality. Whether you’re living with a partner, or seeking to jolt your appetite for solo sex, the rules remain the same. Take care to treat your intimate time as special; don’t sink into the habit of work-eat-TV-sleep, and prioritise activities that bring you joy.

Otten shared that “it’s really important to go and get out of the house once in a while and take time for yourself. …it’s also important to do things with your friends away from your partner,” (if you’re in a relationship).

“Do things that, you know, make Chantel feel like Chantel,” she said.

Setting boundaries around personal space, and ensuring you protect time that is for you and you alone – whether that means working from a cafe once in a while or taking a time out for a walk – can do wonders for reshaping how everyday life feels to you.

Rafe explained that when it comes to romantic partnerships, the main priority really needs to be the quality of the time you’re spending together.

“I think the key in WFH (as with any relational dynamic) is being intentional about prioritising quality time together to foster connection, willingness and desire for sex.

“Those who WFH who prioritise some time at the end of a work day (where they may have previously been commuting home) for a walk or other activity together that isn’t watching TV or scrolling on the phone on the couch, are more likely to feel connected to their partner, which in turn leads to more willingness for other forms of connection (including sex).”

Amongst all this, it’s important to remember that it’s also okay if you don’t always have the highest libido. Intimacy is not something that exists on tap, and you’re allowed to find connection and satisfaction in your day-to-day life in other ways, too.

On this, Mourikis shared that “desire and sex will fluctuate, and thats okay”.

“Nothing in our lives is always consistent or easy. Having realistic expectations, trying to reduce pressure to have a perfect sex life and intending to prioritise pleasurable sexual connection is key,” she stressed.

“It starts with asking yourself what is it that you want? What would feel pleasurable for you? What feels interesting or are you curious about? What do you need to do to prioritise sexual intimacy while minimising the pressure around it?”

Because, in the end, if it’s not making you feel good, there isn’t much point to it, is there?

Lead image credit: iStock/Canva

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