Do you have one person you confide in at work? Do you feel a bit lost when they’re not in the office?
If so, you probably have a work spouse.
According to research by totaljobs, 17% of employees say they have a work wife or husband.
Over 4,000 employees and 100 employers in the UK were asked about their relationships at work, and 48% of said they had strong friendships with more than one colleague.
Work spouse relationships are more intense than a regular friendship, thought, and they can be different for different people. Ultimately, it’s a strong bond between two people at work who talk about the everyday frustrations and stresses of the job, as well as chatting and having fun together.
It doesn’t always stop at the office either, with 42% admitting to communicating with their work spouse via social media outside work hours. Three quarters of those with a work spouse said they were “different” to their real-life husband or wife.
These relationships can be an integral part of someone’s enjoyment of going to work.
About 60% of work spouses said their relationship meant “they look forward to going into work.” In fact, over half (53%) said they would be sad if their work spouse left the company.
About a quarter (23%) of those asked said they would consider leaving their job if their work spouse left. Nearly one in 10 people (7%) went so far as to say their work spouse leaving would feel “like a bereavement.”
However, rather than being a distraction, having strong relationships is actually seen as a good thing. Over half of the employers asked (56%) said strong work friendships increase productivity, and 70% said it’s healthy for staff to have someone to confide in. In fact, 60% of employers said they encourage out-of-work socialising.
When it comes to power dynamics, though, only 24% of employers thought it was appropriate for managers to socialise with those more junior.
The 35% of people who said they didn’t have any close relationships at work may be doing themselves a disservice as 54% of employers think strong work relationships improve company culture.
“It is certainly revealing that so many employees relate to having a ‘work spouse’ and someone they feel they can confide in above others,” said John Salt, the director at totaljobs.
“Our research shows employers recognise the value of strong work relationships, with many already offering social events. The key is to accept work spouse relationships and encourage broader team cohesion. The two do not need to be mutually exclusive: get the balance right, and employers will reap the benefits of a happier, more productive team.”
The research also showed that work spouse relationships may be born out of work-related issues. Half of people with a work spouse admitted to being frustrated in their job, compared to only a third (33%) who said they were satisfied. This suggests a work spouse may be a confidant who people look for to have a rant with.
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