OFFICE AFFAIR

Till work do us part – Work husbands and wives

There is no need to panic though because these work relationships are most likely platonic.

In Summary

• At least 64 per cent of the 2,550 employees that were interviewed admitted that they have a work husband or wife.

• Work couples are workmates of the opposite sex who have a close relationship that is often misconstrued by other employees as a sexual relationship.

Man and woman holding hands./FILE
Man and woman holding hands./FILE

If you are in an intimate relationship, chances are that your significant other is in another relationship at work.

There is no need to panic though because these work relationships are most likely platonic.

A recent survey by human resource and recruitment firm Corporate Staffing Services reveals that work spouses are growing within Kenyan organisations as is the case in other organisations worldwide.

At least 64 per cent of the 2,550 employees that were interviewed admitted that they have a work husband or wife.

 

Work couples are workmates of the opposite sex who have a close relationship that is often misconstrued by other employees as a sexual relationship.

However, in most cases – at least at the onset – such relationships are often platonic.

Daphne, 28, admits that she once had a work husband with who she would engage in different activities.

“I was always his plus one whenever we went to company parties. We would go for lunch together or at times go for coffee after work,” Daphne, whose ‘work relationship’ lasted for four years, says.

Similarly, Terry, a writer, admits that she has had a work husband for close to a year now.

“We hang out a lot in the office and even after work. We go for walks sometimes and even lunch together. We share our belongings in the office to the extent he can access my handbag,” Terry reveals.

Her work husband, Alphonse, reveals that it was ‘love at first sight’ when he met Terry.

“I guess we had chemistry because we connected instantly the first time. I was attracted to her hard working nature,” Alphonse reveals.

Also known as work spouses, the term first hit the limelight in David Owen's Atlantic essay in which he describes the platonic intimacy that emerges from two employees who work closely with one another.

Rev James Mbugua, a counseling psychologist, says that such relationships are inevitable because of the amount of time spent at work.

“Of course, the amount of time spent at work with colleagues may be a lot compared to the time spent with your spouse. Under such conditions, people are bound to develop connections with one another,” Rev Mbugua says.

Such relationships also mushroom out of physical attraction between both parties.

"Sometimes you find yourself attracted to their way of dressing, the way they look and their characteristics. This is often the case when this person’s qualities are in contrast to your significant other,” Rev Mbugua says.

Maria, a photographer, admits that her work husband’s physical features are a major reason for her attraction to him.

“I like the fact that he is good looking and has a nice physique. His smile is also just radiant,”Maria, whose ‘work relationship’ is barely a month, says.

So close is their relationship that sometimes they share their packed lunches.

“Sometimes he deliberately brings food for me from home even without asking. He is always concerned and asks whether I have eaten lunch or not,” Maria says.

Rev Mbugua however cautions that such relationships may falter if they do not have clear boundaries.

“Such relationships can only work where there are clear boundaries especially when one or both has a spouse or is in a romantic relationship.

Without boundaries, there is the danger of comparing your work partner with your spouse at home and this can create problems with your significant other,” Rev Mbugua says.

According to the survey by Corporate Staffing Services, 52 per cent of the employees reveal that they have kept their work spouse a secret from their partners at home.

“However, on the flip side, work spouse relationships harm work productivity. They can lead to hurt feelings, divisiveness, tarnished reputations and even attrition. Just like in a real relationship, fall outs can be very messy,” Perminus Wainaina, Corporate Staffing Services Managing Partner, says.

When managed prudently, such relationships can have a positive impact on the workplace environment.

“Such relationships make the workplace conducive for the concerned employees because they have a shoulder to lean on,” Rev Mbugua adds.

Indeed, most of the employees surveyed reveal that most of their conversations revolve around work issues with a paltry 10 per cent admitting that they share their personal relationship issues.