Work Spouse

A professional writer and passionate blogger, Sampurna has been lending her expertise to the online world by penning articles, guest posts and blogs on career, business and employment for a quite some time now. She also an avid reader; loves travelling and photography.

You both are always spotted together – at the cafeteria sharing a laugh over coffee, or working together on a project, sharing lunch and often catching up in-between work. She or he knows your birthday, your favourite dish, hobbies, worst fear about workplace and probably some dark secrets.

No. He/she is not your husband or wife who took wedding vows and promised to love and cherish you till your last breath. The person is also not your significant other.

She/he is essentially your work spouse—a close colleague with whom you share almost everything related to work (at the workplace) and sometimes particular personal tastes.

‘Work spouse’ refers to the concept of close platonic bonding between two co-workers, in most cases belonging to the opposite gender who share a close and exclusive bond within the confines of office. It can often feel like a ‘marriage’, but it is virtually devoid of any kind of romantic inclinations or physical intimacy.

The concept of work spouse might appear to most Indians as a western concept, but existence of such relations at Indian workplaces cannot be ruled out. Probably, people do not really talk about it often, but reality is, the concept of work spouse does exist in Indian workplaces as well.

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In present times where employees end up spending nearly 45 hours a week at workplace, it is but obvious to end up bonding with co-workers. While conventional wisdom holds that office colleagues should avoid becoming too close to each other; however, in contemporary times, with changing nature of workplaces across the globe, traditional human resource manuals are being virtually thrown out of the window.

According to a leading career website, around 30% of employees surveyed in the UK in 2010, was said to have a ‘work spouse.’ By 2013 it jumped up to 44%. Needless to say, the percentage is on the rise with each passing day.

Professor Karla Mason Bergen of University of Nebraska-Lincoln along with ChadMcBride, a professor at Creighton University delineated the concept of work spouse, while researching on the subject. They defined work spouse as a relationship that is a “special, platonic friendship with a work colleague characterised by a close emotional bond, high levels of disclosure and support, and mutual trust, honesty, loyalty, and respect”.

In other words, the “work spouse” is a little more intense than other workplace friendships and shares few characteristics with marriage, sans the romantic inclination. Most importantly, employees who had a work spouse reported having high levels of trust for their companion.

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The emergence of work spouse can be seen as an extension of the increasingly blurred lines between family life and professional space. Experts opine that technology and the possibilities of work-from-home have long made those traditional distinctions fuzzier, thus allowing people to bring off their personal life to work and vice-versa.

A research by Gallup confirmed that a person with a best friend or a work spouse at office is seven times more likely to remain engaged and perform better at work. While there are ample benefits of having a work spouse, certain vulnerabilities pertaining to such relations such as office gossips cannot be ruled out.

Nonetheless, in times such as these, where violence, terror, mistrust among people is looming large over humanity, having a constant support from another individual is truly invaluable.

After all, work comprises nearly 90,000 hours of our lives, and the people who support us and act as our confidantes at the workplace can influence our lives in several positive ways we can even imagine.

Source: BBC and Boston Globe

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