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How Work Spouses are Disrupting Morale and Employee Engagement

Posted by Insightlink on 09/29/16

A work spouse can motivate you to go to work on days when you don’t want to.

If coworkers are the unsung heroes of employee retention imagine the impact work spouses could have on reducing turnover. Work spouses are a growing phenomenon in the world of employee research because they tend to be super motivated employees who consequently have a significant impact on job satisfaction 

and engagement. In understanding your work force it is helpful to know if you employ any of these happy couples and to what extent you are encouraging or discouraging these types of relationships.

Psychiatrist Jacqueline Olds defined a work spouse as “a person at work with whom you have a special relationship in which you share confidences, loyalties, experiences, and a degree of honesty and openness.” 

Friendships and good chemistry can make a big difference in your happiness at work but work spouses take it to a whole new level by driving even deeper feelings of belonging and being connected. Work spouses have the potential to be the most meaningful relationships in employees lives because these partners understand their partners professionally and have insights into each other’s personal lives. As a result, work spouses are extremely motivated, they heavily influence each other’s morale and ultimately make work a more enjoyable experience. These happy work couples very often raise morale with the people they work with as well.

In many workplaces across the country today, men and women find themselves sharing a close platonic relationship inside the walls of their office that is in every way like a marriage but without the sexual intimacy.

Consider that employee morale is heavily influenced by relationships as 70 per cent of employees say having friends at work is the most crucial part of having a happy working life, while 50 per cent of employees with a best friend at work claim they feel a strong connection with their company. What happens very often is these work friendships dive deeper and these employees become work spouses where their friendship deepens reflecting their strong chemistry combined with high levels trust and closeness. 

Research shows that  emotional support is one of the main benefits because a work spouse is someone one can confide in and trust'. From an employee engagement perspective this matters because these close relationships increase morale creating positive energy that trickles down to co-workers. The upshot is increased productivity as well.

Identify if you or someone you know has a work spouse:

  • They know almost as much about each other’s personal lives as their close friends and significant others do.
  • They confide in each other more than anyone else at the office about work-related issues.
  • They look forward to going to work because they’re going to see this person.
  • Even though their relationship is strictly platonic, colleagues often joke that they act like a married couple.

Here are just a few of the benefits of a work spouse:

  • Someone to share work with
  • Someone to confide in and turn to in times of high stress
  • Share thoughts
  • Celebrate good times
  • Someone to trust
  • Someone to share in the passion for the work they are doing together


  • Working overtime can lead to tension between actual spouses
  • Temptation to develop into an office romance can jeopardize personal lives, marriages, professional reputation and job status
  • Co-workers can feel excluded

Rules of Engagement:

  • Avoid crossing boundaries- don’t overshare with your work spouse
  • Keep physical contact at a professional level
  • Limit unnecessary meals, meetings and travel

Keep lines of communication open:

  • Don’t be exclusive with each other, reach out to other team members so they aren’t resentful or feel left out
  • Keep gossip under control by behaving professionally

As we continue to log more and more hours at work these types of close personal relationships will continue to grow. While further research is currently underway to study this phenomenon we do know that in terms of influence, work spouses have a positive impact on employee engagement and job satisfaction and as long as the couples can avoid crossing lines into becoming exclusive or romantic, we anticipate the benefits will far outweigh the consequences.

Insightlink specializes in employee research. For more information about how your employees are connecting to you and to each other please write to us at, call us at 866-802-8095 ext 705 or visit our website at
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