For some of those who struggled the most with work from home (WFH), the biggest issue was a loss of the social connections they have at work.  While introverts may have been celebrating, others missed their friends or “work spouses.”  A work spouse is a valued non-romantic friendship with a work colleague where there is a close emotional bond, frequent interaction and support, and mutual trust, honesty, loyalty, and respect.  Put another way, someone who has your back at the office.  As WFH continues to transition to into at least a partial return to office (RTO), how can these relationships be reconnected?

And this just isn’t a “nice to have” for some people.  Employee engagement studies show that having a friend at work is a critical element work satisfaction and suppressing turnover.  And having the social support of a work spouse can very important to many.

This article goes into details of the complexity of these relationships and how they have been buffeted by changes in work.  It is not management’s responsibility to help re-kindle these relationships. But, it should understand the importance of having a workplace culture that allowed these connections to thrive.  Here are some tips:

  1. Provide options for work spouses to work the same schedule.  With many companies having hybrid work schedules, providing choices can help.
  2. Likewise, where workers are being reassigned due to changes in office consolidations, considering employee preferences when making these assignments.

Each of these relationships is unique as is the re-establishing of them (or finding new ones).  And they are worth having as they provide a unique support system to a lot of people.  The developed organically and should continue that way.  I do not have any great work spouse counseling advice on bringing back an (unintentionally) severed relationship or creating a new one (though I found this helpful and humorous).  As with everything post-pandemic, do not expect it to be the same as it was before.  But, having good personal connections at work lead to more engagement and lower turnover.  These relationships can be worth pursuing and nurturing.  Management would be wise to create a culture where they can thrive.