Married to the Job! Thousands of Brits admit to having a ‘work spouse’

  • Two-thirds of UK workers say they have a ‘strong relationship’ with someone in the office
  • Nearly two-thirds have drinks ‘out of hours’ with their work spouse
  • 75% say their work spouse is ‘different’ to their husband or wife
  • 1 in 5 admit to having private conversations on WhatsApp

TUESDAY 27TH JUNE 2017 – Workaholics are often described as being ‘married to the job’, but there is growing evidence that more UK workers are forming bonds in offices that are similar to the relationships with their partners at home.

Research released today by leading jobs board totaljobs spoke to 4000 people and their employers to explore the latest trends in workplace relationships and office politics. A key finding was that the growing phenomenon of having a ‘work spouse’ is becoming ever more commonplace and is having a number of different impacts on UK workplace relations and employee morale.

The poll found that two-thirds (65%) admit to having a good relationship with at least one colleague, with 1 in 6 (17%) claiming to have a ‘strong relationship’ with just one other individual in their workplace.  In further evidence in the growth of work spouses, 56% of those polled said they have had a ‘strong relationship with a colleague everywhere they have ever worked’.

However, the research also showed that these relationships are often formed out of facing adversity in the workplace. For example, work spouses were more likely to talk about their tasks and workload (58%) than their own life events (55%) or their hobbies and interests (47%). 77% of people who claim to have a work spouse say that they work in the same team, again reiterating the idea of a siege mentality.

Further to this, half (50%) of those with a work spouse admit to being frustrated in their job, compared to just 33% who say they are satisfied, which again suggests that the work spouse may be viewed as some with whom frustrations can be shared.

A ‘home from home?’

The research also highlighted that 69% of workers who claim to have a work spouse are in a steady relationship, with only 31% declaring themselves single. Of those with a relationship outside of the office, only 41% say they have introduced their partner to their work spouse, perhaps highlighting the need to create separation between the work and home life.

Indeed, it is clear a number of UK workers really treasure their relationship with their work spouse and many don’t get as far as telling their partner about their work spouse. 60% of workers who say they have a work spouse, say their relationship with them means ‘they look forward to going into work’. In addition, three quarters (75%) of those who say they have a work spouse say that person is different to their life partner outside of work and only 36% of partners know of their husband/wife’s work spouse.

Many people will even go as far as to meet their work spouse out of the office. Over half (55%) say they have met their work spouse out of office hours, with drinks (64%) and meals out (60%) the most popular occasions. 1 in 2 (50%) say they invited their work spouse to major life events like weddings and christenings.

Whilst both parties obviously find these relationships enriching, 7% admit they worry they might be seen as being ‘too close’ by other colleagues in the organisation.

Social Media Etiquette

It is also clear that the growth of social media has lead to a blurring of the lines in terms of people’s personal and professional lives. 42% of people admit that they communicate with their work spouse via social media outside the office.

Facebook is clearly the leading social network, with 83% admitting thy add colleagues who are at their level on Facebook, compared to 32% who would add them on LinkedIn and 24% who would follow them on Instagram. Not only this, but 1 in 5 (19%) also admit to using private messaging services like Whatsapp to communicate with their work spouse out of office hours.

It is also clear that office hierarchy also still plays a role in social media behaviour.

Only 50% of those polled would add their direct reports on Facebook. 64% admit they would add any colleague in their office on Facebook, compared to 49% who said they would add someone senior to them. 40% admit they have gone as far as to add their own line manager on Facebook.

The Divorce

Whilst the study clearly found that many UK workers crave and value their work spouse relationships, it is also clear that when the time comes for divorce, the impact can be significant.

Over half (53%) said they would be sad if their work spouse left the company. 1 in 4 (23%) say they would go as far as considering leaving themselves. 7% go as far as to say that their work spouse leaving the company would be ‘like a bereavement’. The study also found that is actually healthier for workers to have a number of good relationships with colleagues across the organisation, rather than just relying on one person to whom they can vent frustrations or seek assurances.

Workplace communication expert Judi James has worked with totaljobs to establish a number of different types of workplace friendships.  The final table provides descriptors of all the different types of relationships, alongside insights designed to tell workers which category they and their work spouse fall into.

Judi James comments, ‘The notion of having a ‘work spouse’ in the office is clearly a growing phenomenon. British people are notoriously hard workers, often working long hours in stressful environments so it is no surprise to see that they find a colleague with whom they can share their frustrations and celebrate their successes.

Whilst this is perfectly healthy, it can be helpful for workers to understand how these relationships can come to be viewed and how to prepare for the inevitability of their work marriage being broken up when one party heads for pastures new. That’s why I have worked with totaljobs to create this guide to enable people to understand what type of relationship they have.

Categories Of Work Spouse – Where Do You Fit?

As outlined by totaljobs’ work spouse research, working relationships and work spouses take many forms. With the help of Judi James, workplace relationship expert, totaljobs has outlined the various types of work spouse relationship that exist in the modern workplace. Which do you fit into?

  1. Proximity Bonding – One Direction
  • Like One Direction, work spouses formed by proximity bonding will come from close contact and getting to know someone over a longer period of time. They have an innate ability to work together without lengthy discussion or airing views and feelings.
  1. Batman & Robin Bonding – Barack Obama & Joe Biden
  • Like Barack & Joe, the Batman & Robin bond is formed through different hierarchal positions. There is likely to be an adaptation of behaviours to create a fit for the relationship.
  1. Ant & Dec Bonding
  • Like Ant & Dec, this type of relationship is formed as a double act in the workplace. These spouses are perfectly in tune without other and benefit from loyalty, support & workplace fun.
  1. Actual Spouse Bonding – Emmanuel & Brigitte Macron
  • Like Emmanuel & Brigitte, this workplace relationship is formed through an actual relationship at home. These spouses will show respect to one another as colleagues, without sounding as though they might be biased.
  1. Siblings Bonding – Liam & Noel Gallagher
  • Like Liam & Noel, this bonding can be profound at important times; although on the surface it can be about battles, fights and petty grievances that extend from childhood.
  1. Remote Spouses – Margaret Thatcher & Ronald Reagan
  • Like Margaret & Ronald, this relationship is extremely important whilst being maintained at a distance. In the modern age, though you might rarely see your spouse in the flesh, Skype & other digital communications can help form a close bond.
  1. Crisis Bonding – Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker
  • Like Theresa & Jean-Claude, the strongest bonds often occur when the job entails some crisis behaviours. This spouse relationship can create a bond of commitment and trust.
  1. Serial Spousing – Leicester City FC
  • Like Leicester Football Club, this is the most group based spouse relationship, with variety and a dependency on multiple people rather than an individual.
  1. Me, myself, and I – Mark Zuckerberg
  • The loner of the spouse groups, like Mark, the lone worker is increasingly common in a more isolated workplace and increasing reliance on tech and social media.

– ENDS –

 About totaljobs:

Totaljobs is one of UK’s leading job boards, attracting 12 million visits and 3 million applications from qualified jobseekers every month. 130,000 new candidates register with us each month who have an average of 170,000 jobs a month to choose from, posted by thousands of employers including Amazon, Sky, Virgin Media, DHL amongst many others.

We were formed in 1999 and we are part of Totaljobs Group Ltd, the largest and fastest growing UK job board company in the UK. Our head office is in London, and we also have offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Glasgow.

In turn, Totaljobs Group Ltd is a significant division of StepStone Group, one of the largest job board companies in the world and a subsidiary of Axel Springer Digital Classifieds.

Visit the totaljobs website: www.totaljobs.com

References & Research

Survey data: totaljobs research of 4,001 people and 103 employers from March to May 2017

Work Spouses Interactions: Recorded daily in March & April 2017

Personalities analysis and insights: Judi James

Further Reading

Visit the Work Spouse page on totaljobs.com