We spend a big part of our lives at work – roughly a third of our day is spent at our chosen place of employment – often more time than we spend with our partners, family or friends.

That doesn’t factor in our interactions with colleagues outside of work on email, social media and collaboration tools.

Work is no longer restricted to single person cubicles in an office or building and meetings are no longer confined to board rooms; individuals are more likely to be working in team-based projects, across several locations, in more casual environments. We go for coffees to brainstorm ideas and strategise over lunch or work drinks.

The decrease of tradition in workplaces and the advent of technology allows us to connect after hours or work from home. This change positively influences the development of our working relationships.

What is a work spouse?

A ‘work spouse’ can be defined as a co-worker or colleague with whom you share a special, platonic relationship – a friendship more intense than those connections you have with the rest of your workplace.

A work spouse relationship is a personal bond in a professional space that mirrors the characteristics of a healthy marriage or partnership without a romantic aspect. It’s a relationship built on trust that shares many of the same values found in marriage or long-term relationships: support, honesty, respect and a shared sense of humour.

What are the benefits of a work spouse?

A recent study in the US found that having a work spouse relationship can lead to increased productivity at work and overall happiness.  

Studies suggest that work wife and husband relationships are particularly beneficial in fast-paced and high stress working environments. The qualities of trust and humour, which many of these relationships are built on, help manage stress and prevent burnout. Also, these relationships are catching to the rest of the office: they boost morale, encourage camaraderie and help fight toxic workplaces.

Do I have a work spouse?

A work spouse doesn’t have to be of your sexual preference – they can be of the same sex or opposite.

Your work wife or husband is someone that you can really trust – your go-to person at work. They understand you and they’re one of your tribe. They psych you up for your big presentation and are the first person to laugh with you or at you, whichever is more appropriate.

They have your back on big deadlines and high stress situations and you’re happy working overtime or a double shift if it means working with them.

You probably have a plethora of ‘in’ jokes or movie quotes and have even developed code names for your work nemesis. You vent to each other about workplace politics and have regular coffee/lunch/snack dates.

Your work spouse is probably the only person at your job that knows the ins and outs of your personal life. And you know when they need or hug or when they just need to be left alone.

There is a high chance you have the same pop culture interests and your connection isn’t just during work hours – you message each other within minutes of leaving work and regularly recount the day’s mishaps during weekends and after hours.

And there’s nothing sinister or shady about work spouse relationships; it’s not sexual and your work spouse doesn’t compete with your personal relationships, rather, they complement them. Your work wife or husband helps you be yourself, be happy and want to contribute, which is beneficial to achieving work/life balance.

Put simply, it’s someone that helps you turn up and give your best because they see you, they support you and they have a good laugh when it all turns a little hectic. For more tips on looking after your mental health at work, visit our Heads Up website.

Related reading: Finding your tribe

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