There’s a Scientific Way to Leave Work Frustrations at the Office

Walking 10,000 steps per day can save you from leaving your office in a grumpy mood. (Photo: Getty images)
Walking 10,000 steps per day can save you from leaving your office in a grumpy mood. (Photo: Getty images)

If you leave the office in a foul mood, a stop at the gym may tame your temper — and save your relationship.

Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology states that people who are belittled or insulted by a supervisor at work are likely to mistreat those they are living with. That’s because they’re too wiped out to regulate their behavior.

The authors instructed 118 MBA students with full-time jobs to complete a survey and wear an activity tracker (which monitored physical movements and sleep patterns) for one week. A follow-up survey was distributed to the volunteers’ cohabitants.

And here’s what the investigators discovered: The adults who reached an average of more than 10,900 steps each day were less likely to take their frustrations out on someone in their home than those who took fewer than 7,000 steps.

“Based on our understanding of self-regulation and mistreatment, my co-authors and I suspected sleep and exercise were important in whether abuse at work spills over to one’s home life,” Shannon G. Taylor, lead study author and professor in the Department of Management at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, tells Yahoo Beauty.

“At the same time, however, prior research suggests the spillover process simply reflects what researchers call ‘displaced aggression,’ where employees feel unable to respond to an abusive boss — for fear of punishment or retaliation, for example — and so instead they take out their frustrations at home,” he continues. “So in that sense, our study shows something different than what has been suggested in prior research.”

Taylor and his team specified that burning an additional 587 calories may minimize the likelihood of someone bringing on-the-job stress into his or her personal life. The press release stated that this calculation equates to about one hour of swimming or a brisk 90-minute walk for the average American man.

“But because energy expenditure depends on one’s weight, someone weighing less than 195 pounds — the weight of the average American male — would require more exercise, either in terms of time spent or at a higher intensity, to burn the same number of calories and see the same social benefits we observed in our study,” he adds.

Furthermore, Taylor notes that working out and getting adequate sleep were not strongly correlated. “I think the main takeaway from our study is that poor sleep is linked with bad behavior at home, but only when people don’t get enough exercise.”

That said, don’t discount a good night’s sleep. Diane Robinson, a neuropsychologist and program director of integrative medicine at Orlando Health, tells Yahoo Beauty that she is not surprised by these findings and mentions the importance of proper sleep when trying to balance mood and stress.

“If you are short-changing yourself on sleep, there can be serious long-term consequences to your health and decision-making capabilities,” Robinson states. “Staying up late or working through the night once in a while is not going to hurt you, but chronic sleep deficit definitely will.”

As for the best time of day to walk off your work anger, Robinson says, the focus should be on consistency instead of the clock.

“What we know from years of research and clinical interventions is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to stress management,” she says. “It is finding out what works for an individual — their likes and dislikes, as well as their schedule.”

The current study didn’t test whether a morning, afternoon, or evening — or pre- or post-job — workout could help mitigate aggressive behavior in the home. “This is something we’ll be looking at in future research,” adds Taylor.

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