Friendships between colleagues has a knock-on effect at home and benefits creative thinking at work, a new study has revealed.

Researchers found that people with supportive colleagues pass this on to their partner at home, which in terms benefits their partner in terms of innovative thinking in the workplace.

Positive relationships at work help couples to cope with the demands of work and family life, say the team behind the findings.

The study from the University of Bath’s School of Management prompted its authors to call for employers to nurture these relationships at work to unlock resourcefulness and creative thinking.

Professor Yasin Rofcanin, from the University of Bath’s Future of Work research centre, said: “Employees take the support they receive from co-workers home with them, and in a loving relationship they transfer this support to their partner. This might mean they encourage them to open up about stresses, seek to resolve issues, or make improvements to the juggle of work-life arrangements that benefits the family.

“The result is that both members of a couple benefit. Spouses pass on support received from co-workers and partners will be more creative at work, in what is termed a ‘gain spiral’. So it pays for employers to recognise the value of caring co-workers.”

More so than official work policies or management interventions, it is the informal support from colleagues that has the most positive impact on how a person manages their work-life balance.

Professor Rofcanin said: “So much research points to the stresses of being in a dual income couple, it’s refreshing to see a win for loving relationships alongside work.

“While we’re not suggesting employers should meddle in relationships, they may be able to positively contribute to the quality of relationships at home by putting policies and procedures in place to minimise work-family conflict, such as limiting over time and expectations to respond to emails outside of hours.”

Over the course of five weeks, researchers examined the diary entries from more than 200 full-time, dual income heterosexual couples in America, the majority of who had children.

The study has been published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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