One in five Irish employees have a ‘workplace’ husband or wife

Leitrim Observer reporter


Leitrim Observer reporter


One in five Irish employees have a ‘workplace’ husband or wife

According to new research conducted by, one in five (20%) Irish employees claim to have a ‘workplace’ husband or wife

Do you have a go-to person in your office with whom you’ve formed a tight friendship? According to new research conducted by, one in five (20%) Irish employees claim to have a ‘workplace’ husband or wife.

Work spouses

A ‘work spouse’ or a ‘work husband or wife’ refers to a close platonic relationship between two colleagues, usually of the opposite sex, which could be likened to the bond of a married couple.

Nearly half of Irish employees have observed a work husband or wife-type relationship in their own workplace, with one in five (20%) employees claiming to have a work spouse of their own.

Close relationships at work forge the path for a long-term friendship outside of the workplace, as 88% of employees with a work spouse said they would keep in touch with if one of them left the company.

A US study of work spouse relationships, published in 2015 found that the characteristics of a good work spouse mirror the qualities of a good out-of-office spouse, with high levels of mutual support, trust, loyalty and respect forming a key part of the relationship.

Good employee relations

While not every employee claimed to have a work spouse, almost three quarters (72%) of employees surveyed said they have a colleague that they regularly confide in at work. 60% of these respondents would expect this colleague to support them in all workplace matters, including in times of workplace conflict, or if they experience tensions with other employees.

The majority of employees feel comfortable enough to discuss more than just work issues with a colleague, with 82% of those surveyed comfortable with discussing personal matters such as family or friendships.

Employee and employer benefits

Developing a healthy relationship with a colleague at work that embodies these characteristics is beneficial to both the employee and the employer.

Strong workplace connections equal greater productivity, less tension, a more collaborative working culture and in the long run, greater staff retention. 

A study by Virgin Pulse of more than 2,000 managers and employees across 10 countries found that almost two thirds of people would stay at their company longer if they had more friends.

It can also drive efficiencies for the employer – Gallup research found that those with strong work relationships are more engaged and produce higher-quality work.**


Commenting on the research, Christopher Paye, General Manager said: “We spend almost one third of our lives at work, so a strong connection with colleagues is a natural development that contributes to a positive workplace environment.

“The term ‘work husband or wife’ can sometimes be misconstrued by employers as something more than it actually is. It simply refers to a strong platonic friendship between two colleagues, that, if openly recognised, can have a realm of business benefits.

“A collegiate environment where employees feel supported by their peers fosters a strong sense of community and thus improves motivation and morale in the workplace. It also has a role in reducing employee turnover, as people are likely to stay longer in a job where they feel a part of a team with a good working relationship.

“Employers don’t have to go to great expense or take any drastic measures to foster a collaborative working culture. It can be as simple as encouraging employees to socialise through organised events or an internal social and wellness committee.

“To encourage more organic engagement in an office environment, there might be value in reviewing employee’s seating arrangements. Closed offices or high-walled cubicles are not conducive to open communication/socialisation.

“Changing the floorplan to an open plan workspace will allow for more collaboration and relationship building which in turn, can lead to innovative thinking and success for your business.”