PLATONIC RELATIONSHIPS

Will you gift your office spouse this Valentine's Day?

Report titled 'Inside the World of Work Spouses' was released on Monday

In Summary

• Office husband/wife refers to a colleague who meets your emotional needs in the workplace

A woman and a man work together
A woman and a man work together
Image: COURTESY

Do you have a colleague of the opposite gender with whom you have a strong platonic relationship and can confide in and be more honest?

According to a report by Corporate Staffing on relationships at work, this could be your work spouse.

The report defines a work spouse as a colleague of the opposite gender with whom you have a strong friendship and who meets your emotional needs in the workplace.

 
 

Work spouses are also referred to as 'office husbands and wives'. 

This Valentine's Day, the report found only 15 per cent of people in these relationships will gift their work spouse. 

Common Valentine's Day presents include cards, candy, chocolates, flowers, a bouquet of flowers and wine. 

Most work spouses, 63.1 per cent, will only wish their office husbands or wives a happy Valentine's Day, while 21.8 per cent will do nothing for them.  

The report, titled 'Inside the World of Work Spouses in Kenyan Organisations', was released on Monday in Nairobi.  

Some 64 per cent of employees in the same office are currently in or have been in a work spouse relationship with a colleague, the report showed. 

"They offer a close connection, support and advice on both work and personal issues. The relationship is ideally platonic," Corporate Staffing Services managing partner Perminus Wainaina said. 

 
 

Wainaina adds human beings are naturally driven by the urge to socialise and at work, spouses fulfil this urge. 

 

"Work spouses make employees feel safe and supported because they have someone to bounce their ideas off of without feeling shy," the report reads. 

"They also help employees get more done faster because they work more seamlessly rather than if either of them had to work with someone less in synch with them."

However, work spouse relationships have an adverse effect on work productivity.

The report also found 76.7 per cent of human resource officers mentioned they are aware of work spouse relationships going on within their organisation. 

They do not encourage it. They feel the relationships can lead to hurt feelings, divisiveness and tarnished reputations, if employees feel they are in an unhealthy work environment. Additionally, just like in a real relationship, fallouts can be very messy.

About 58 per cent of HR professionals have dealt with a work spouse fallout. 

"There is a time when one work spouse made attempts to defame her fellow employee, alleging that he had been stealing company produce. After investigations, we found out it is because they had a squabble out of work," a HR officer said. 

"I held a brief meeting with the workers on their conduct and how it affects their image and that of the company."

There are several legend stories that try and explain the day dedicated to lovers.

One such legend suggests that St Valentine, who the day is named after, may have been killed attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were beaten and tortured. 

Another tells the story of a man who fell in love with a young girl assumed to be his jailor's daughter and sent her the first 'Valentine'; a greeting before his death. 

The story suggests that Valentine wrote the young girl a letter signed 'From your Valentine', an expression used to date.