You two share inside jokes, lunch breaks and even a flirtatious smile or two. He understands your work frustrations and you giggle as he mocks other coworkers. However, it’s not your significant other that you’re sharing these moments with. It’s your office spouse—a phrase coined to describe the new relationship phenomenon that’s developed as Americans work longer, harder and in closer proximity with colleagues of the opposite sex. According to Vault.com’s 2011 Office Romance Survey, 28% of those surveyed admitted to having a work spouse. Here are a few signs that you have an office boo:
- You know almost as much about each other’s personal lives as your close friends and significant others do.
- You confide in them more than anyone else at the office about work-related issues.
- You look forward to going to work because you’re going to see this person.
- Even though your relationship is strictly platonic, colleagues often joke that you act like a married couple.
When handled correctly, having a close relationship with a coworker of the opposite sex can actually be beneficial. Being able to share work vibes with a coworker allows you to have someone to confide in, lean on during stressful work situations, share thoughts about office politics and celebrate good times with. However, the long 8-hour days, late evenings or weekends at the office can create tension between you, your work spouse and most importantly your actual spouse. The temptation to let your work relationship develop into an office romance can jeopardize your home life, your professional reputation and your job status (think Olivia Pope and President Fitz in Scandal).
If you’re married to your job— in more ways than one—consider these tips on how to maintain a fun, yet professional bond in the office:
Avoid crossing boundaries. While it’s great to have the support of a confidante at work, provide clear boundaries between work and personal issues. Don’t share too much personal information at work or accept personal info from your work spouse. Other simple gestures include keeping physical contact at a professional level, limiting unnecessary meals, meetings and business travel between you two, and placing boundaries on after-work correspondence.
Keep lines of communication open. Spend extra time connecting and communicating with your coworkers. Reaching out to your team members will help squash the rumors about your so-called office hook-up. Remember to keep the gossips and naysayers at bay by behaving professionally and inclusively.
Do you believe that work spouses are detrimental or beneficial to the work environment? #SoundOff and follow me on Twitter @JayNHarrison.