Six out of ten workers in Kenya are in a work spouse relationship, purely platonic for emotional support, a new report shows.
Human resource firm Corporate Staffing Services on Monday released a report indicating that 64 percent of workers have work spouses – a co-worker, usually of the opposite sex, with whom one shares a special relationship, almost similar to that of a marriage. This applies to both married and single workers.
The study titled Inside the World of Work Spouses in Kenyan Organizations, sampled 2,550 employees. It was conducted between last December and January 2020.
The study established that workplace spouses were relished as they offered emotional support in the office, along with a close connection that allowed sharing of personal issues. The nature of the relationships was platonic.
A further 150 human resource professionals were separately sampled to find out the effect of work spouse relationship on work productivity.
“Work spouses make employees feel safe and supported because they have someone to bounce their ideas off of without feeling shy,” Corporate Staffing Services Managing Partner, Perminus Wainaina said at report launch in Nairobi.
“They also help them get more work done faster because they work more seamless rather than if either of them had to work with someone less in synch with them.”
The findings of the study come four days before Valentine’s Day.
More revealingly, the survey unearthed that more than half (52 percent) of workers kept their work spouse as a secret from their real spouses with only 48 percent of them disclosing this information to their spouses.
Further, it revealed that more than half (52 percent) of work spouse relationships tend to last between 1-4 years with only 10 percent being able to last longer.
Regarding the structure and type of work wives and husbands, nine out of ten (90 percent) workers said that it’s often co-workers in the same administration level in the organisational hierarchy i.e. a colleague either in the same department or in another department.
Only a paltry eight percent of workers engaged in work spouse relationships with their subordinate or supervisor.
On the flipside, according to Wainaina, work spouse relationships may harm work productivity.
“They can lead to hurt feelings, divisiveness, tarnished reputations, and even attrition if employees feel they are in an unhealthy work environment. Just like in a real relationship, fallouts can be very messy,” said Wainaina.
When further dissected, 59 percent of work wives and husbands said they kept their interactions confined to the office setting while 41 percent kept in touch even outside work on weeknights and weekends.
They said that 60 percent of what they discussed revolved around office goings on, including office gossip and politics, work problems and wins.
The survey showed that 67 percent of the workers have had their work spouse influence their career decisions.
“From the research, it is clear that work spouse relationships have a big effect on productivity and output, something that the HR professionals concurred with. About 77% of the professionals said they are against work spouse relationships,” said Wainaina.
Most organizations (51 percent) said they do not have any policies that provide direction on workplace relationships, something that Mr Wainaina challenged organizations to adopt to better help employees to manage them.
“Bad experiences when work spouse relationships spiral out of control are the reasons why many firms opt for Human Resource policies. If and when a policy is in place, then the HR has a guideline on how to deal with or even have an opportunity to discuss with the ‘couple’ what happens if the relationship ends or is facing challenges,’Mr Wainaina said.
Read also: The Decent Work Agenda