Working in the same sector or profession increases the well-being of a couple
The many consequences of working in the same industry or profession as one’s partner (“being work-related”) have been largely ignored by previous research, say Juliane Hennecke and Clement Hetschko. Their study confirms the “power couple hypothesis”: when they alternate, their well-being increases.
Professional life and love life are crucial for individual happiness. The challenge is to balance the two. For many, this becomes more difficult as working from home becomes more common. Moreover, digitization makes everyone easily accessible, wherever they are. These developments, which blur the boundaries between private and professional life, have been widely scrutinized by researchers. On the other hand, research has so far largely ignored the case of alternating couples, for whom the boundary between the professional and private domains has always been difficult to draw. In our work, we examine how working in the same industry and profession as one’s partner affects individuals’ well-being, compared to partners working in different contexts.
The problems that such a working relationship between partners can create seem too obvious. Partners may struggle to balance work and private life if they have similar work demands and schedules, and the same issues are present at work and at home. Therefore, being work-bound with one’s partner can make it more difficult to rest and sleep. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, as they say. If both partners are in the same occupation and work in the same industry, the risks to their income and job security are strongly correlated. Think of two partners working in the hospitality industry during a pandemic.
So, will the work bond be costly for workers in terms of well-being? A number of reasons suggest otherwise, although they may be less obvious or only pay off in the longer term. Partners who work in the same profession or industry can support each other with information and networks. They may have a better understanding of their partners’ job requirements and be able to help each other with work or find employment. As a result, they support each other to move up the career ladder, receive higher incomes and enjoy better job quality. Prominent examples come to mind: Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin, the copreneurial couple who invented the first Covid-19 vaccine, as well as lawyers Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Marty Ginsburg who greatly benefited each other’s careers .
Given the many possible consequences of a work relationship, we turned to an overall life satisfaction survey to measure the overall impact of a work relationship on workers’ quality of life. . In the process, we compare work-related employees to workers whose partners are also employed but do not work in the same industry or profession. The statistical challenge is to deal with the fact that working couples appear more often in some contexts than in others, such as teaching professions compared to, for example, technical professions. Thus, the well-being of work-related couples might differ from the well-being of unrelated couples for reasons unrelated to the bond itself. Our representative and rich German dataset, the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), allows us to take these differences into account. Additionally, we can use the fact that the probability of being job-related differs across industries and occupations to approximate an individual’s probability of being job-related. as if it was determined independently of the characteristics and preferences of the individual.
Our results indicate that the benefits of being connected to work in professional life outweigh the potential problems associated with it in terms of work-life balance: a connection to work improves overall life satisfaction . The German survey also assesses people’s satisfaction with their job, income, leisure and family life. Income satisfaction seems to benefit the most from working in the same occupation and industry as one’s partner. The analyzes also indicate greater job satisfaction in alternating couples than in non-associated couples, especially for women. On the other hand, no difference is found with regard to satisfaction with leisure and family life.
Does that mean we should all work in the same industry, maybe even for the same company, as partners? A caveat is in order. Romance at work raises multiple questions that our study cannot take into account. Moreover, when looking at the contexts where the working relationship seems the closest, such as in independent couples, the positive effects for the average working couple can no longer be found. Thus, a certain distance between the working environments of the partners always seems desirable. Moreover, the positive effect on well-being of being linked to work is concentrated on well-educated, high-income couples (“power couples”). Thus, it always depends on the situation of the individual whether being work-bound with his partner will actually pay off or not.
After all, happier workers are also more productive workers, which is why employers should care too. When hiring workers in high demand who need to relocate, companies often provide job search assistance to partners. Considering the well-being effects of being work-related, employers shouldn’t look too far, if employment opportunities for the exceptional talent partner can be found in the same industry.