Amy Joyce

Cupid in the cubicle may lower love-struck employees’ productivity, as some studies indicate. But having an office spouse may mean workplace ‘better halves’ beget better results, say others.

Couple of indicators

You might have a work spouse if ...

  • Your colleague knows what you ate for dinner last night and what you're having tonight and was concerned when you brought egg salad instead of your usual chicken salad on Monday.
  • Your colleague knows how last night's date went before your girlfriends do.
  • Your real spouse reminded you to bring in a birthday card for your pod-mate.
  • You don't have to finish your sentences. He'll do it for you.
  • You like coming to work.
  • Your wife quietly says a prayer of thanks that she doesn't have to listen to you talk about the office drama.
  • Your co-worker knows your parents' names, job history, your dog's name, vet schedule, favourite brand of food, your kids' schools, favourite subjects and best friends' names.
  • You don't have to explain ... anything. But you talk about it anyway.

When someone calls Julie Eyerman at work, Brad Mislow may be in the background, commenting on the conversation. And why not? They work together everyday, and have for eight years, at a major advertising firm.

In fact, they have become so much a part of the other's life that even though they are both married to other people, they call each other their work spouse.

You may share a cubicle or office with him. You may realise she finishes your sentences. You argue, you make up, you share confidences. You have inside jokes, you support each other, and you know the other one's real spouse's birthday.

This sort of work relationship has become so much a part of our lives that it has become part of our jargon. It has even been studied by the Gallup Organisation.

Conclusion: Work spouses (the platonic kind) increase productivity and heighten morale.

So where can I get myself one of these? It's a natural thing, mostly.

The seeds of Eyerman and Mislow's ‘marriage’ were planted almost a decade ago in graduate school for advertising. Mislow is a copy writer, and Eyerman is an art director. Eight years ago, they were hired as a team. Now, they're seen as one unit. BradandJulie.

They even fight like spouses. They see the same frustration, same facial tics. “You take on the real characteristics of a couple,” Mislow says. “But there's not the baggage of the married stuff.”

Some people wonder how they can survive work without their office spouse. They talk traffic when they get in; they discuss the kids' schools or dates gone awry. They cover for each other when a real spouse is home sick and needs help. And, of course, they push each other's work buttons and creativity. "What do you think of this idea?'' “How should I handle this situation?” “Want to discuss our pitch together one more time?”

Could it be that this happens because we're spending more time at work? Is it because we see our co-workers for more hours than we do our families? Or is it simply that the nature of the workforce has changed and we're much more social and relaxed than workers of yore?

One answer may lie in the changing demographics of the workforce.

As a new generation of employees is entering the workplace, it is changing the way we work. Younger workers are looking for a network of friends at the office more than ever before, according to a survey of 2,000 workers by SelectMinds, a corporate social-networking company. Nearly half of the younger employees surveyed said the availability of support or networking programs for employees with common interests was a very important factor in their decision to join and remain with an employer, compared with 36 per cent of their older peers.

The closeness that Mislow and Eyerman share might also stem from a survival sort of instinct, Mislow says. “We've been through bad economic times and good ones. We have meals together. We travel together. We're in strange hotel rooms.” “But different rooms!” Eyerman interjects.

And it's well documented that having a friend at work, or a work spouse, is good not only for morale.

``Having a work spouse is not only a good thing, but it might be a prerequisite for good work,'' says Tom Rath, global practice leader for the workplace with the Gallup Organization.

Having such a relationship means you'll be seven times more likely to be engaged at work, Gallup studies have shown.

``You're a lot more excited to show up to work in morning and more likely to get work done,'' Rath says. ``A closer relationship increases speed in communication. Where people don't have that relationship, it might take 35 to 40 minutes to explain something. Having a work spouse is like talking in code.''

The office spouse relationship stays platonic. However, there are times when workers become so close they land in an affair--or a real marriage. "There is always the potential that people will get too close in the workplace, that things will get romantic and go awry,'' Rath said. "But our research would indicate potential risks don't outweigh the benefits'' of having a work friend or work spouse.

The chance of things turning romantic isn't so remote. In fact, a recent survey by online career site found that nearly 60 per cent of workers have been involved in an office romance, up from 46 percent three years ago. It's as if workplaces have become the new health clubs or bars for single people, says John Challenger, chief executive of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

But for most work spouses, what happens in the office is just ... the office.

"Even if a real spouse gets jealous once in a while, it's better than coming home and complaining about work all night,'' Rath says.

— LA Times-Washington Post



Love bites into work

When cupid strikes at the workplace, it might bring two hearts together, but it adversely affects the speed and quality of work, according to a recent survey.

As per a report on “Romance at Workplace” by Teamlease Services, India's leading staffing company, at least 56 per cent of the respondents felt there was a negative impact on the quality and speed of work due to romantic liaisons at offices.

Several factors lead to an office affair, including long work schedules and proximity with colleagues. However, predominantly executives (44 per cent) attribute ‘ambition to move-up-the-corporate ladder’as one of the reasons for romantic link-ups. Employees saw getting involved with bosses as the quickest way to a salary hike or promotion.

It is just not the single who were ready to mingle, even married men and women were getting involved to a considerable extent, the survey revealed.

At least one-third (34 per cent) of the working executives in the corporate sector saw no harm in romancing married colleagues, the survey conducted by global research firm Synovate for Teamlease said.

A large number of working executives (59 per cent) felt women were equal partners in office romances with many even initiating affairs, the survey said.

A high number of executives (56 per cent) were clear on the issue that organisations should not interfere in a romantic involvement between employees.

Overall, 16 per cent of those polled admitted to having been romantically involved with their office colleagues.

The survey comprised respondents belonging to the top 500 companies in India. The questionnaires were administered to employees in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Chandigarh and Hyderabad. — PTI



Smart Skills
Tried and tested
Usha Albuquerque

With exams around the corner, most students are glued to their books, forgoing outings, TV watching, meeting friends and all other distracting activities. Many are worried and anxious about the board exams coming up shortly, and begin to feel snowed under the huge load of information they need to cram in a short period of time. Parents too are anxious about their child’s ability to cope with exams.

Examination stress is natural, and no one can honestly say he/she has not experienced it. The key to doing well in the examinations is to keep calm and to develop healthy study skills for these next couple of weeks. That way you are not too pressured during exam time. If you have been regular in studies over the year, you don’t need to worry too much. But leaving everything for the last minute will certainly result in a lot of stress as it is not possible to study a whole year’s syllabus in the last one month.

Exams are stressful and challenging, even for the most intelligent and hard working. But employing some tried and tested techniques can make exam study less stressful, and more productive.

Regularity is the key: The most crucial, of course, is regular study through the year to avoid last minute cramming and late nights. Therefore, it is important to stay in touch with your syllabus and not have any backlogs, that is: pending homework, assignments or even revision work. Often if you skip a day of revision, before you know it, it becomes a week and gradually you are way behind schedule. There are also students who sit for hours poring over books without absorbing much of what they are studying.

Analyse the material you have: Firstly, you should make a list of the number of chapters in each subject and how many you plan to cover up within the remaining weeks. Once you have made your checklist, you have a rough idea of how much you need to cover each day.

Prepare a schedule. Ensure that you plan for the revision of each subject every day, setting aside one or two hours for each with short breaks in between. You also have to make sure that you have buffer days, should you be unable to complete the material as scheduled. Your timetable should also include meal times, relaxation periods, exercise and sleep. And don’t be over ambitious too. Make a realistic schedule. Trying to do too much will only make you frustrated and more anxious.

Fast revision techniques: Your next step must be, to work out fast revision techniques so as to keep up the pace. These are essential, so as to cover as much portion as possible. There are a variety of techniques that can be used, and most people adapt them to their own way of working. The three Rs of Revise, (W)Rite and Review way of working helps most people quickly run through large amounts of study material. Such a method involves reading through a chapter or chapters quickly so as to recall the main points; writing down these main points, which helps re-inforce the learning, and then reviewing the material before moving onto the next chapter or section. In this way your notes, or points that have been written down can easily be revised quickly, before you begin the next chapter. Such notes are useful even the day before the exam, and would be easy to remember and look up.

Some students also use a variety of tools to help them memorise, including mnemonics-linking names or lists of information to familiar words, using images, colours or sounds. Use whatever method that makes you comfortable.

Working out some sample papers and simulating an actual exam can go a long way in preparation. Learn to read through the paper, and instructions, carefully. Work out the strategy for answering it, picking out the questions you know best, and answering them, so giving yourself more time for the difficult ones.

Extracting the time: Time management is of the essence. You will have to make drastic changes in your daily schedule cutting down on all extraneous activities. You don’t have to cut off all these activities completely, but enough to get you the few extra hours each day. You must however, give yourself break times when you relax with a favourite book, movie or TV show. Make sure you also maintain an exercise regimen, as physical exercise is known to enhance study performance.

Some breathing exercises are also highly recommended. Learn to do regular deep breathing - this will come in very handy if you should get a sudden panic attack during the examination.

Reward and punishment: The reward-punishment system is the best way to discipline oneself. Whenever you stick to your schedule, you can reward yourself with something that you like- maybe watch some TV, or chat with a friend. On the other hand, when you fail to do so, you need to punish yourself. This could be something like not watching any TV or switching off your mobile for a couple of days.

Tracking your body clock. If you have been a night owl all these months, it is time to get back to the daytime schedule. Remember that your exams will be held, most often in the morning hours, 10 am to 1 pm, and these are the hours you have to be at peak performance. If your body has got used to working at nights and sleeping in the day, your body will perform accordingly. You will be most sleepy, at the time you need to be the most alert. So, for the last month before exams, study during the day and get your 7-8 hours of sleep at the same time every night. In this way, you will ensure that your body and mind are well synchronised.

Fine tuning: At the end of each week, you have to make a realistic assessment of what you have achieved and what you have managed to study so far. See which technique is working and what is not working. You may have to modify your strategies if you’re looking to be more effective and get different results. Making these adjustments will customise the programme to yourself and your needs.

Once your schedule begins to work, and your revision is steadily building up, your stress levels will automatically come down. If you are regular at your studies, you will be able to perform better in the examinations. And you will be able to get the results that you have dreamed of.

Parents’ role: This is a critical time for students and parents need to pay attention to their child’s physical and emotional needs. Look within yourself and see if you are pushing your child too hard, passing on your aspirations, and your stress on to him/her.

  • Set aside an undisturbed place for study, which is comfortable, and well lighted and ventilated.
  • Steer clear of any distractions. Many parents avoid putting on the TV, or having guests over, to avoid distractions, during the study periods.
  • Ensure the child eats at regular intervals, specially healthy and nutrious foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are recommended and Junk foods are best avoided. It is also advisable that students do not eat cooked foods from outside. Stomach upsets can needlessly play havoc with the most prepared student.
  • Be patient and understanding, as children have a tendency to be moody and irritable under pressure.. Be tolerant and sensitive and try to help the child manage his/her emotions through talking it over with you. Often they just need the reassurance of your love and support irrespective of the results of the examinations.

Exams do not need to be as dreaded or feared as they have become. They are an inevitable part of life and board exams are just the first of many exams students may need to face. If you are prepared to face them with resolve and confidence, you will be better equipped to deal with life itself.

The writer is a noted career expert



Indian makes it to world's top 50 headhunters list

Finding the right talent may be a major concern for India Inc, especially in the IT space, but an Indian has been named among the world's 50 most influential headhunters by renowned financial publication BusinessWeek.

Dinesh Mirchandani, who heads India operations of global executive search firm Boyden World, is the only Indian on a list of the world's 50 most influential headhunters compiled by the US magazine.

Mirchandani specialises in technology sector, besides hiring for financial services, real estate and infrastructure, manufacturing and consumer products areas, all of which are highly dependent on right skill sets.

Mumbai-based Mirchandani is the regional director (APAC region) and president (India) of Boyden World and is considered to be a specialist in hiring C-level executives, R&D chiefs and HR professionals.

The BusinessWeek list also has three other executives from the US-based Boyden World Corp - its Global President and CEO Christopher John Clarke, Chairman Trina Gordon and Senior Partner Pasi Koivusaari.

Other names on the list include Ulrich F Ackermann, managing partner of Transearch International Deutschland, Robert L Benson of Slayton Search Partners, Jay Gaines, who is the President and CEO of Jay Gaines & Co and Roger M Kenny, the President of Boardroom Consultants.

BusinessWeek said these 50 headhunters together "recruit the lion's share of CEOs, presidents, and board members at the world's largest and most prestigious corporations. They exert massive influence the world over." These headhunters include former management consultants, authors, board advisers, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

"They are almost universally workaholics and globetrotters with a passion for the business of executive matchmaking, an affinity for socialising and peering deep into the human psyche, and a finely-honed instinct for fitting candidate and company," the magazine said.

On the list, there are seven headhunters from NYSE-listed Korn/Ferry International (KFY), while 31 hail from North America.

BusinessWeek quoted Dinesh Mirchandani advising on career development as: "Expose yourself to as wide a range of experiences, academic knowledge, and cultures as you possibly can. Challenge yourself to raise your game in everything you do." "Fail often, but only if you can extract a lesson from each of your mistakes; otherwise try not to fail too much or you will be out. Be not a slave to technology, but its best customer," Mirchandani added.

BusinessWeek said that qualities sought in candidates by Mirchandani, who has over 13 years of experience in executive search consulting, are credibility, charisma, resilience, the ability to connect with a wide range of people and a healthy sense of humour.

The headhunters were selected for the list based on various factors such as their individual reputations, their years of headhunting experience, the global scope of their recruiting practices, their accessibility and responsiveness and the recognition they enjoy within their firms. — PTI



Falling reserves
1 lakh staff short in public sector banks

The country's public sector banks have a shortage of one lakh employees and the shortfall needs to be filled up immediately to cope up with rapid expansion plans and provide better customer services, an employees body said.

"People are retiring. And the banks also have rapid expansion plans. There is a staff shortage of around one lakh, including officers and other cadre," All India Bank Officers' Confederation general secretary Amar Pal said in Kolkata.

The situation has come to such a pass that there was virtually no recruitment for 20 years. Moreover, because of long-drawn recruitment process, it is found that many of those shortlisted for appointment have taken employment elsewhere, he said.

Criticising the outsourcing process Pal said "We are not opposed to outsourcing. But what we object to is that sectors like regular banking and marketing are being outsourced." An organisation needs to have good bondage among its personnel. But this is not possible when you go for outsourcing at such a massive level, Pal added. Pal, who is also the president of All India State Bank Officers' Federation, decried the union government's decision to merge associates of the State Bank of India with the parent bank. — PTI



UAE needs more workers

In what could help Indians seeking employment in the UAE, the gulf country is witnessing a boom in the real estate sector with estimates showing that the number of workers needed by it would double in the next five years to six million.

There are about 2.7 million expatriate workers in the country, 80 per cent of whom are working in the construction sector.

Currently, the GCC hosts 12 million expatriate workers and their number is estimated to increase up to 30 million by 2010.

"I believe 65 per cent of the workforce in the UAE are unskilled. When I need 100 workers, I would seek work permits for 150 people from the Ministry of Labour," said the Khaleej Times quoting Rashad Mahmoud, a construction company official.

Rafic Ali Suleiman, project manager of an another construction company, said the firms must be given the right to choose skilled workers. — PTI


Saudi Arabia may drop sponsorship for job-seekers

Saudi Arabia is expected to abolish the sponsorship system for foreign workers in the Kingdom within three years, according to a senior human rights official.

The sponsorship system has come under lot of criticism from human rights officials both in the Gulf and internationally since it limits workers' movements, particularly with regards to switching jobs.

Under the system, in place in all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, employers have the right to terminate the work of foreign staff and prevent them from seeking other jobs in the country unless they fulfill a set of tough conditions. — PTI



Career Hotline
Add value to skills
Pervin Malhotra

Q Can you please tell me something about the Mathematical Sciences Foundation in Delhi? What courses does it offer in Maths?

— Kiran Khosla

A The Mathematical Sciences Foundation, Delhi ( runs a 1-year masters level course — Graduate Studies Programme in Mathematics. Some universities like the University of Houston, Texas, USA have recognized the value of this course. Three departments of the University — the Department of Mathematics, the Department of Physics, and the Department of Computer Science have agreed to admit students who successfully complete this Programme to their Graduate School with full teaching assistantships (including tuition fees waiver) besides granting credit for the courses done at the MSF.

On completing your first year of study at the MSF in Delhi you can take the GRE and enroll for a MS programme in Mathematics / Computer Science / Physics, and leave for Houston to complete the degree. Upon completion you will qualify for a PhD programme.

Eligibility: B.A (Math) / B.Sc (H) Math / Physics / Comp Sc;

B.Sc / B.Tech with at least 2 years of Math courses;

M.A (Math) / M.Sc. (Physics / Math / Comp Sc)

MSF also offers two certificate programmes for UGs and PGs.

Programme in Mathematical Finance: a hands-on introduction to modern Finance and the role of mathematics in it (in collaboration with ICICI Bank)

Mathematical Simulation with IT: Explores the interaction between Mathematics, Technology & Education.

Interest in IP

Q Please tell me from where I can do a course in Intellectual property Rights through distance learning. Is there a genuine demand for IP lawyer?

— Harpreet Singh

A There are less than 1,000 practicing patent professionals in the country. According to NASSCOM, 33% of the IP demand is from the Knowledge Process Outsourcing [KPO] sector. And the demand for IP professionals is likely to touch 15,000 in the next three years says a recent McKinsey report.

The study and application of Intellectual Property Laws has gained further momentum due to the IT and entertainment revolution and globalization of the business environment.

Here are some relevant institutions that offer the courses you are looking at:


Course: Diploma in IPR (with World Intellectual Property Rights Organisation (WIPO).

The Indian Law Institute, Bhagwandas Road, New Delhi 110001 (Deemed University) ( )

Course: Online Certificate in IPR & IT in the Internet Age (3-mth).

National Law School of India University (NLSI) (

Course: PG Dip in IPR (Dist, 1-yr)

National Law University, Jodhpur (Raj)

Course: PG Diploma in IPR Laws (Dist)

Lawful pursuit

Q Is it true that there is a common entrance exam for all law courses from this year?

— Bharat Juneja

A Yes and No. The test only applies to those seeking admission to 5-year BALLB courses in seven National Law Colleges, for starters.

Spurred by demand from harried students and a Supreme Court directive, law school aspirants will have to take a Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for admission to the National Law Universities at Bangalore, Bhopal, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Jodhpur, Kolkata and Raipur starting this year.

Nearly 20,000 students are expected to take the exam on May 11, ’08 courtesy a joint initiative of the MHRD and the UGC.

This will come as a boon for students since they will no longer have to prepare for seven different exams. Nor will they have to pay seven times over because there will be a one-time test fee of Rs 2000. Moreover, the test will only have objective type questions.

With salary packages soaring and foreign placements gaining prominence among law graduates, students have shown increasing interest in legal education in recent years. Compared to 10-15 applicants per seat five years ago, today there are more than 100 applicants per seat.

Plough prospects

Q Can you please tell me something about the work of an agricultural economist? What are the prospects for a career in this field?

— Narendra Kotwal

A Achieving food security has been the overriding goal of our agricultural policy. To achieve this goal, we need not only agricultural scientists but also agricultural economists who can apply the principles of economics to ensure greater productivity in agriculture. The growth in this sector being a result of greater liberalisation and investment, the demand for agricultural economists is on the rise.

Besides land appraisal, crop grading, marketing and sales, an agricultural economist is involved with farm management, co-operative management, farm utilities, custom services, wholesale and retail marketing of agricultural products, priority setting for research, how much to invest, assessment of returns on investment i.e. all those activities that ensure that agricultural productivity grows at planned rate of growth.

Job prospects in this field are promising. There are openings in cooperatives, banking and insurance sector, private firms in the agricultural sector, foreign embassies, NGOs and other donor agencies, Ministry of Agriculture, Indian Economic Service as also in the field of research and teaching.

Although you can specialise in Agricultural Economics in MA Economics, separate M.Sc Courses in Agri Economics are offered at some universities like:

Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Allahabad (UP) (

MSc Agri Eco (Farm Mgt/ Agri Mktg)

Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh (UP)

Course: Master of Agri Eco & Bus Mgt

Elig; BA (Eco) / BCom (55 pc)

Counting your choices

Q I am currently studying in Class X. I want to become a C.A. Can you tell me what I should do directly after my boards? Which are the best institutions in India for doing CA?

— Laveena Khanna

A Students who are in Class X can enroll in the CPT which is akin to an entrance exam for the revamped CA course but can take the exam only after completing Class XII.

The CPT tests your knowledge of the following four subjects: fundamentals of accounting, mercantile laws, general economics and quantitative aptitude. The CPT is a single-paper, objective-type multiple-choice test carrying 200 marks.

After qualifying the CPT you can go straight for three-and-a-half years of Articleship in keeping with international norms.

After 18 months of practical training, you can take the Professional Competence Exam and clear the Finals in the last six months of your Articleship.

The course has been reduced to four years instead of five years and three months previously.

The ICAI Board of Studies offers a free study package, which includes question banks for practice. The study material is also available on CD so you can test your preparation by answering the sample questions.

That’s not all — realising the difficulty encountered by students wishing to clear CA, accredited institutions will now provide oral coaching. While the coaching is not compulsory, it would help brush up your basics.

For details, log on to:

The writer is a noted career expert