Study: Seven of 10 Kenyans have ‘work spouse’

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020 00:00 |
Corporate Staffing Services managing partner Perminus Wainaina during release of the report in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/BENARD ORWONGO

Irene Githinji @gitshee

At least seven out of 10 Kenyans have or have had a “work spouse” who they turn to for support and advice on work and personal issues, a new survey shows.

The study commissioned by Human Resources Consultancy firm, Corporate Staffing Services, defined a work spouse, as a colleague of the opposite gender with whom one has a strong platonic friendship that meets an individuals emotional needs in the work place.  

“Work spouses make employees feel safe and supported because they have someone to bounce their ideas off without feeling shy.

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.

However, they could harm work productivity and lead to hurt feelings, divisiveness, tarnished reputations, and even attrition if employees feel they are in an unhealthy work environment,” said Corporate Staffing Services managing partner Perminus Wainaina.

Of those who have had or are currently in a work spouse relationship, 61.1 per cent said they are married, 13.8 per cent are in a romantic relationship, 24.3 per cent are single while 0.8 per cent are divorced or widowed.

Slightly more than half at 52.2 per cent have been in work spouse relationships for between 1 to 4 years, 37.8 per cent have been for less than one year while 10 per cent have been on a work spouse relationship for over five years.

Releasing the findings of the survey yesterday, Wainaina said the most talked about topic of discussion amongst work spouses is workload and tasks at 60 per cent. Other topics include home issues, current affairs and news.

Stay in touch

However, he said about 41 per cent of the work spouses like to stay in touch even beyond the office hours while slightly more than half, 53.8 per cent, either have kept their work spouse partners as a secret or are single and they do not have a ‘significant other’ in their lives at the moment.

 At least 66.5 per cent of the respondents said they have had their work spouse influence their career decision while another 78.7 per cent would continue with their work spouse relationships even if the work spouse left the workplace or organization.

The survey by human resource and recruitment firm was conducted between December last year and last month among 2,550 employees and 150 human resource professionals.

From human resource professionals’ perspective, 76.7 per cent of them said they are aware work spouse relationships are going on in their organisation but do not encourage while 23.3 per cent said they do not know about it.

However, Wainaina said a small fraction of the human resource professional who support such relationships felt they help create a balance of work and a harmonious environment, encourages sharing of ideas and provide a consultative platform for both work related and personal issues.

And when they sought to establish how human resource professional have dealt with a fallout of the work spouses at their organisations, Wainaina said 58.6 per cent of them said they have while 41.1 said they have never addressed such an issue.

“In real life, people’s relationships exist on many levels, not all sexual, which complicates the effort to write an office policy about relationships. Even non-sexual behavior can be unwanted or inappropriate.

It is often in the ‘eye of the beholder’ whether or not a platonic relationship with a co-worker crosses the line,” said Wainaina.

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