We all understand the power of friendship, but tend to underestimate our relationships at work. Writer KATE LEAVER explains why we should value those we spend so much time with each week
Kate Leaver on the value of a work spouse.
While I love working from home as a freelancer, having an official work wife is one of the things I miss about being in an office. My favourite work wife ever was Rosie Waterland – we worked together when we were both senior editors at Mamamia, and I think we were genuinely each other’s greatest work perks. Our jobs can be so stressful and frenzied, and it’s important to have an ally. She was mine.
Work spouses can change the way we think of our jobs – they can make it worth getting up every morning and walking into the same office each day. And they make us demonstrably better at our jobs. That’s not just conjecture from me: a now famous Gallup poll found that people with a close friend at work were 43 per cent more likely to report that they received praise and recognition, 37 per cent more likely to feel encouraged at work and 27 per cent more likely to feel their opinions matter.
Research shows us time and again that supportive work friendships make us more creative, more daring and – despite all the gossip at the biscuit tin – more productive. People with work buddies are sick less often and take fewer days off; this is obviously a sweet side effect of friendship for the individual, but also seriously good news for the business.
We spend so much of our lives in the office that many times we end up putting in more contact hours with our work wives or husbands than with our “real” spouses or partners. And there’s often this secret language between work friends – something you develop when you need to debrief on the minutiae of office life and gossip. I can see how that level of intimacy might be threatening to a romantic partner. It’s complicated when we get close to someone of the opposite sex, too. To avoid any negative feelings, I’d suggest being open with your partner about why that friendship exists and what it means to you.
Despite the positives of office spouses, they are still relatively rare. A UK study suggests that only 17 per cent of people have a close friend at work. This shocks me because I have always ranked friendship as one of the greatest things about working. Perhaps it’s because I have been, gratefully, surrounded by incredible women most of my career.
I think people – particularly Gen X and older – have this idea that it’s inappropriate to bring your personal life to work. People have this idea that to be professional, we must be stoic and formal. But that’s not conducive to making true friends. To do that, you usually have to show some vulnerability, which a lot of people still seem to think is a sign of weakness. In truth it is a sign of strength.
So keep your eye out for colleagues who you think would make good friends. You might just be looking at your future work husband or wife. The Friendship Cure by Kate Leaver (Harper Collins, $29.99) is out tomorrow.