Most of us are aware of the concept of a ‘work wife’, even if we don’t have one ourselves: the colleague who becomes a friend and then a can’t-live-without-them support system. A work wife might be the desk buddy who shares your star sign, favourite TV show and exact sense of humour. She might be the lovely receptionist 20 years your senior. ‘She’ might not even be a she; some of the most gratifying office friendships can be those formed with male colleagues.
And according to new research, many of us feel so strongly about our office spouses that we think we just couldn’t go on at work without them.
Jobs website Totaljobs surveyed over 4,000 employees and 100 employers in the UK about their relationships at work. Some 17% of employees described their closest work friend as their “work wife” or “work husband”, while almost half (48%) said that they had strong friendships with more than one colleague.
Around a quarter of those surveyed (23%) said that their relationship with their work spouse was so important that they would even consider quitting if their friend resigned or moved to another department.
More than half of respondents said that they would be sad if their work spouse left the company, while 36% said they would be “disappointed”. Some 7% of employees even went as far as to say they would “feel bereaved”.
Handing in notice might seem like a dramatic response to a work friend’s departure, but it’s perhaps not so surprising when we consider the extent to which “work spouses” can affect our enjoyment of our jobs.
Almost two-thirds (60%) of respondents said that they looked forward to work as a result of their relationship with their work spouse. A little under 40%, meanwhile, said that they felt more productive in the office thanks to the presence of their friend.
“Today people are working more than ever and are asked to tackle increasingly challenging tasks and meet tight deadlines,” say researchers.
“Work spouses make people feel safe and supported, as well as help them to get more done.”
Watch: Work wives, we salute you
According to researchers, it’s relatively easy for an office friendship to deepen into something more like a “work spouse” dynamic over time, thanks to “shared experiences and unforced fun together”.
They add that colleagues may begin to “share aspects of their lives outside of work, but they could also develop nicknames for each other and start to introduce their work spouse to friends and partners” (although interestingly, 59% of people never introduced their ‘work spouse’ to anyone from their private life).
And the deeper this relationship becomes, the more support it provides. “Work spouses help each other cope with work stresses, both big and small. They can put problems in context and create a mutual support network,” say researchers.
However, if you haven’t found your office soulmate, don’t despair. More than a third of those polled by Totaljobs (35%) said that they didn’t have any strong relationships at work – while people who had several office friendships, rather than one ride-or-die, were found to be more satisfied overall with their jobs.
Images: NBCUniversal / Rex Features