Exploring the ‘Work Spouse’ Phenomenon: Does it Really Work?

Exploring the ‘Work Spouse’ Phenomenon: Does it Really Work?

‘Work Spouse’ refers to the phenomenon of forming a deep but platonic relationship with someone, of the same or the opposite sex, at work. In the current 40-45-hour-per-week work culture, employees end up spending most of their time in a day at their offices. This leads them to interact more with their office colleagues, resulting in them forming deep relationships with their designated ‘work spouses’.

Who exactly is a work spouse? A work spouse is simply someone an employee can confide in, share his/her highs and lows and engage in conversations, which may or may not pertain to work. This kind of relationship is typically formed between two colleagues working in close proximity and grows when they work through both positive and challenging experiences together. It is a friendship developed between two people bonding intensely over workplace frustrations and stresses as well as triumphs and fun.

Work stress has become an inevitable part of everyday life and having a work spouse can undoubtedly help employees cope with day-to-day workplace ordeals. A survey conducted by TotalJobs UK with more than 4000 employees revealed that 17% of the employees had  a work spouse, and 54% of the employers believed that the concept helped improve their company culture!

Let us look at the various aspects which make having a work spouse a win-win situation for both employers and employees.

Does the ‘Work Spouse’ Phenomenon Really Work?


Why ‘Work Spouse’?

The rise in the culture of having work spouses can be attributed to a lot of factors such as:

Office Design: 

The millennial-inspired open floor offices in most of the workplaces today present more opportunities for workplace collaboration, interaction and formation of relationships. Since offices are cubicle-free and hot-desking is considered the natural way to work, people have easy access to each other. This often leads to the free flow of conversations and the formation of some solid relationships.

Work Stress: 

Employees have to manage their work and meet stringent  deadlines continually; this leads to a rise in stress and anxiety in them. Relationships, like those of work spouses, have found their way into modern workplaces, as it is a human tendency to turn towards social connections in times of distress.

Flexible Work Arrangements: 

The flexible work arrangements, such as working from home, working out of a co-working space or just working from any location as long as there is an internet connection, has led to the blurring of the lines between one’s private and professional life. Being out-of-office does not necessarily mean being out-of-reach for the office colleagues. This act of continually staying in touch has also contributed to the ideation of having a work spouse.


With work complexities rising by the day, it is impossible for the employees to work in silos. Also, for successful completion of any project, the team members are bound to collaborate regularly. As a matter of fact, if more and more people work together, exchange ideas and even continue to meet beyond their official working hours, they are sure to become designated work spouses of one another.

Benefits of Work Spouses

Work Spouses bring along a set of positives, which might as well work in favour of an organization. Here are some of them:

Increased Productivity:

Work spouses feel great coming to work as they know they have someone to rely on at work. Positive relationships among work spouses help them feel more productive and confident, compared to those who lacked any strong relationships with their colleagues. The survey by TotalJobs also revealed that 70% of the employers agree that it is healthy to have one colleague to confide in and bond more with than the others while 56% said that having a work spouse could help in boosting productivity. People, who feel happy and productive at work, are more likely to experience higher overall job satisfaction.

Happier Workplace:

The implication of having a work spouse is that two colleagues share similar values, have a sense of mutual trust between each other and help create a net of safety, empathy and support. They might often indulge in friendly banters or humour talks to cope with stress at work and this might indirectly help them to approach even the complex problems with a fresh perspective. 80% of the employers feel that work spouses create a happier workplace; workplace happiness as a term has found a special mention in the new corporate structures.

Retention Tool:

Surprisingly, work spouses greatly help a company in lowering its attrition rate. In the survey, it was revealed that 23% of the employees would consider leaving a company if their work spouses were leaving. This could be a massive loss to a company, which might have already spent a lot of money and resources in training them and might also have to take a further financial hit in re-hiring and re-training the replacements. It is difficult for the employees to bid farewell to a long-standing work friendship, which could tremendously affect their work performance, thereby leading them to put down the papers. Therefore, fostering a culture of having work spouses and promoting employee bonds acts as a great retention tool for companies.

Better Work-Life Balance:

Healthy workplace relationships with people who are supportive and collaborative, both personally and professionally, are the key to success. Employees who feel protected and happy at work would feel less burnt out and would most likely not let the work stress transcend to their personal lives. This would not only promote a healthy work-life balance among the employees but also help the organization perform better as a unit.


Some Interesting Work Spouse Facts… 

Here are some interesting facts and statistics based on surveys conducted in and around work spouses:

  • Even in the age of abundant social media channels and other online applications, 86% of the male work spouses and 93% of the female work spouses prefer interacting face-to-face with their respective work spouses. On an average, 87% of the work spouses prefer talking face-to-face.
  • The most talked about topic of discussion amongst work spouses is workload and tasks. Other topics include life events, current affairs & news, lives of other colleagues, interests and hobbies etc.
  • Work spouses like to stay in touch even beyond the office hours. 55% will communicate through any means, 41% will meet face-to-face, and only 11% will communicate digitally to meet their work spouses. 60% of employers encourage employees to socialize out of work.
  • As the bond between work spouses would deepen, they would most likely develop nicknames for each other, which could be their personal way of addressing each other. 47% of the employees had kept nicknames to address their work spouses.

Having a work spouse acts like an anchor, which help boost the morale of the employees and thrive in their jobs. For organizations, it is essential to promote such relationships at work and reap the benefits.


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