Virtual happy hours are closing the gap – but is there really a substitute for personal interaction in the office?
Feeling isolated while working from home? You may not realise it, but you’re likely missing that essential part of the office work experience that motivates you day to day – your office best friend, otherwise known as your ‘work spouse’.
Having constant face-to-face interaction with office friends has been shown to improve overall happiness in nearly half of professionals (46%), according to a LinkedIn study. But stay-at-home orders in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it a struggle to keep in touch.
Zoom happy hours are closing the gap, but there’s really no substitute for personal day-to-day banter in the workplace. In fact, a new study by PRPioneer.com shows, about one in five professionals currently working from home admit to missing their work spouse more than they would their actual spouse if they weren’t working in close quarters at home.
READ MORE: This study claims office flirting reduces workplace stress
Remote workers in Canada (66%) and the UK (67%), for instance, believe they would get more work done if they were in lockdown with their work spouse – not their family.
“Perhaps this is because it’s easier to discuss projects and deadlines with your colleague or co-worker who fully understands your industry, as well as bounce ideas off one another in order to maximise efficiency,” PRPioneer says.
There is still a clear difference between family and colleagues – even when the boundaries of home and work life are blurred during lockdown.
“Remember: while it can be easy to turn to your spouse for brainstorming sessions or to discuss the awkward meeting you just had, they are not your colleague,” said Chloe Ford of PRPioneer. “It can become too much if you rely on your partner for everything in the house – remember, you still have to share the domestic responsibilities too after the working day ends.”
READ MORE: Should HR encourage employees to have a work spouse?
Shevaun Lomas, an expert on employee experience, believes people who have a work spouse by their side are “more likely to be motivated and participate in pursuing institutional goals”.
“Not only do people with good working relationships have a reason to turn up to work; they also have an incentive to stay with the same company,” Lomas told HRD.
“Research indicates that, overall, these people are less likely to leave than those who do not have a close friend at work,” she said.
Sometimes, friendship between work spouses can occur in a time of adversity or when they feel unhappy at work, as seen in people’s experience of anxiety during the pandemic.
“In this way, these relationships may be acting to protect both the individuals involved and their organisations from the negative effects of lower job satisfaction or decreased stability,” Lomas said.