A work spouse is a co-worker with whom one has a close connection, but a wholly platonic relationship. A work spouse relationship can develop for many reasons: similarities in position, similar duties, proximity, or a mutual hatred of other co-workers. Work spouse relationships are modeled on a marriage relationship, with partners providing support for each other for both work and non-work related issues.
While the work spouse type relationship has historical roots, the current form is a new and growing trend in office environments. A survey conducted by Vault Inc, cited by CNN in 2006, states that 32% of those polled have a work spouse.
A Very Brief History of Work Spouses
During the 1950's, the role of secretaries in business cultures was decidedly one of a "office wife". Secretaries were responsible for playing a supportive role for those that they worked under. This even extended to things other than business: secretaries would often handle personal correspondence, financial matters, and other personal chores.
As society's view of women in the work force changed over the last 50 years, the roles of workers has also been modified. Today, most work spouses are of the same level or position within a corporate structure. While a majority of these relationships are still between co-workers of opposite genders, both partners taking a more-or-less similar role in providing support to each other.
I have a work spouse. She sits in the cubicle next to me. We spend most of our day either making snide comments to each other, walking the other through some particularly difficult problem, or working to prevent the other from setting fire to their desk. We kick each other out off the office if one of us is working too late. We give each other a head's up on an important meeting or critical piece of information. I often tell her things, and make the assumption that my actual wife must know them, because "we talked about it."
We have kids. There's a bunch of new people in the office that we've been answering questions for since they came in. When I get tired of answering questions, I tell her that it's her turn to "watch the kids". She does the same for me. It keeps us from snapping at these poor, innocent people.
I would have stormed out of that office by now if she hadn't been in there.
My own work spouse relationships