Cubicle Comradery and the Proliferation of the Work Spouse

Work spouses are sprouting up in offices all over North America

The concept of a work spouse has been around for ages, but in a world where the 40-hour work week is an anomaly, business professionals have come to rely on these relationships to get through the workday.

According to a new Office Pulse survey, a whopping 70% of business professionals currently have or have had a work spouse – someone they communicate with and confide in at the office. That’s up from the 65% in 2010 and 32% in 2006.

Of those who have a work spouse, 68% claim that the relationship contributes to their happiness at the office. This is particularly true among Millennials, 73% of whom said their work spouse contributes to their workplace happiness, compared to just 52% of Boomers who saw a correlation.

Perhaps the happiness is connected to the stress relief associated with social support. Work spouses serve as a confidante, someone who understands what you’re going through and can serve as a sounding board.

Cubicle Confidante

Work spouses discuss topics typically branded as too taboo for the office. Nearly half of all business professionals (44%) will discuss their “real” spouse with their work spouse. A third discuss salary with each other, down from 58% in 2010, and 37% discuss problems that they’re having at home.

Which of the following topics do/did you discuss with your work spouse?

Work: 81%

Co-workers: 75%

Current Issues : 58%

Social Plans: 56%

Friends: 53%

Beyond the comradery, professionals help their work spouses get ahead: 29% of business professionals said they’ve done something to make their work spouse look better in their manager’s eyes. 16% of workers have even done their friend’s work for them.

Those numbers jump when looking at male professionals: 35% said they have done something to make their work spouse look better in their manager’s eyes. One in five male professionals has done work for their work spouse.

What are the benefits of having a work spouse?

“The person understands completely any stresses that you have at work. You don’t have to explain things like you do when your real spouse works in a different vocation.” “Someone who understands exactly what I’m talking about. I talk about the same work issues with my real spouse but it’s not possible for him to have that level of understanding.”
“Having someone you can vent frustrations to about work and seek advice.” “I’m here 40 hours a week. I see them more than my family and they know more about work stress/people than my spouse.”
  “It is nice to feel like someone has your back in a sea of sharks.” “It’s good having someone at work that you’re able to confide in.”

Blurred Lines

Despite the platonic nature of most of these relationships, work spouses are most often the opposite sex. 94% of men report they’ve had a female work spouse, and 77% of women have had a male work spouse. These tightknit relationships can sometimes lead to trouble. 7% of business professionals admit they’ve definitely “crossed the line” with a work spouse and 6% said they may have crossed the line. One in five men admit they have or may have crossed the line, compared to just 8% of women.

Whether lines are being crossed or not, these workplace relationships can even spark a little tension at home. 7% of male professionals admit their “real” spouse is jealous of their work spouse, while just 2% of female professionals said the same. And 11% of male professionals and 5% of female professionals hide their work spouse from their “real” spouse.

Which of the following activities do you do regularly (at least once a week) with your work spouse?

Go to lunch: 73%
Grab a drink: 35%
Go to dinner: 17%
Go to networking events: 17%
Workout together: 10%

While some give into temptation, most work spouse relationships begin and end at the office door. 41% of those with a work spouse say they never spend time with each other outside the office. Just 17% meet up with their work spouse outside of work at least once a week; One in four do so at least once a month.

As the office increasingly becomes a home away from home for busy business professionals, the benefits of having a workplace spouse are undeniable. And these relationships are just as stable as real ones: 47% of business professionals report that they have never lost a work spouse. Comparatively, 40-50% of married couples in the United States divorce.


About Office Pulse

Office Pulse by Captivate offers marketers timely analysis and insights from a proprietary panel of upscale professionals in the top markets. The Office Pulse panel of more than 8,000 influential consumers and business decision makers includes C-level executives, Millennials, middle management, small business owners, working women and working moms.

About Captivate

Known for its vast network of nearly 12,000 elevator displays located in 1,600 premier office buildings across North America, Captivate connects advertisers with 13 million unique monthly viewers through creative, research-driven and Nielsen-measured advertising and marketing programs. By engaging its viewers with timely news and actionable information that helps balance the personal and professional demands of the workday, Captivate provides advertisers with a highly desirable and difficult-to-reach audience of affluent and influential business professionals. Founded in 1997, Captivate is owned by Generation Partners. For more information, please visit