Do you have a go-to person in the office with whom you've formed a tight friendship? Then you most likely have a "work spouse." And that's a good thing. In fact, scientists encourage this because it leads to happiness and increased productivity.
A work spouse refers to a strong relationship between two platonic colleagues, usually of the opposite sex, which includes a bond similar to that of a married couple.
A recent study found that the characteristics of a good work spouse often mirror the qualities of a good out-of-office spouse, including loyalty, support and trust.
For the work spouse study, researchers analyzed 269 participants' open-ended responses to a survey and divvied them into five categories:
- Characteristics of a work spouse
- Conditions for the work-spouse relationship
- Characteristics of the work-spouse relationship
- Functions of work spouses
- Ways of managing the work-spouse relationship
Past studies have already confirmed that who you marry plays a heavy role in determining your success. Therefore, it makes sense that a colleague with these same traits would drastically improve your work life.
Based on their findings, the study's co-authors, Karla Bergen and Chad McBride, defined work spouse relationships as having "high levels of disclosure and support, and mutual trust, honesty, loyalty, and respect."
McBride says what was really telling about this study is the one-word characterization used to describe a work-spouse relationship: trust.
"With that answer comes layers of meaning," McBride tells CNBC Make It. "Trust comes from a history. It makes the workplace safe and it insinuates that the role of a work spouse is a constant one."
Having a work spouse is particularly important in environments that are potentially toxic, says the researcher.
"One of the things that really helps us manage stress, burnout or toxicity is having someone talk to you, especially if it's a problematic workplace or a stressful workplace," says McBride.
"You can't just talk to anyone. And so having somebody that you can really trust and who also trusts you and to have that reciprocal relationship becomes invaluable."
The study found that work spouses also share similar traits with one another, such as humor. Survey respondents feel that their work spouse offers support and feel that their work has improved because of their office relationship.
Participants also reported having more fun at work and felt more loyal to their companies because of their office matrimony.