• bearhr

Office Romance - Yes or No?

It's hardly surprising that there are so many workplace romances going on, given the amount of our waking life we spend at work. We have regular contact with many of our colleagues and experiments have shown that the more time you spend with someone (or even look at a photo of them) the more attractive they become.

We tend to talk to the people we work closely with and, over time, you will probably get to know quite a lot about the person they are and their life outside of work. But even without that, we have something in common immediately with everyone we work with......

Yes, WORK!

So just how common is this office romance malarky then? According to a survey by Forbes in 2018, more than 50% of employees are either having or have had a relationship with someone at work and is something that HR Consultants and managers need to worry about?

Many businesses do have a Relationships at Work policy but almost half of employees don't know what their employers policy is in this regard! Does your company permit office romances? Are they forbidden? Are you expected to disclose a relationship at work?

Perhaps understandably, 64% of people involved in a relationship with a colleague at work keep it secret. To some extent that's probably human nature when a relationship is very new and emotions are running high but can that luxury be allowed at work?

One of the concerns of many employers is when the two employees become a couple where one is the line manager of the other and, as a HR Consultant, I often advise my clients to request immediate disclosure in these circumstances. Whether one of the couple has to move to a different team depends on the individual business structure but senior management should be mindful of the risk of the line manager treating their partner more favorably then others in their team or, even if this isn't the case, there is often the perception this is happening which can be damaging to team structure.

From the human resource point of view, perhaps the most concerning aspect of this report is that 18% of employees confess to having had a random one-off "fling" with someone they work with. If both parties went into the experience knowing this was the case and happy for it to be so then there probably won't be any cause for concern but the problems tend to arise when one party expected it to be more and feels used or rejected the next morning. Or if one party alleges they were coerced into the relationship or felt pressured into taking part, perhaps because the other person was superior to them, or a manager, and they felt that saying no would put their job in jeopardy.

One in five people who are already in a committed relationship, admit to having had an affair at work. This can lead to all sorts of problems for the employer, whether the affair fizzles out or the employees commit to each other and leave their previous relationship.

Whatever the foundations of the relationship, though, however it began, many workplace relationships fail whilst both employees still work within the business and what happens then? Break ups aren't always amicable, even with the best of intentions and a warring ex-couple can cause all sorts of disharmony in the workplace that you will be expected to manage.

With 72% of people reportedly stating that they would have a relationship at work given the opportunity, a Relationship at Work Policy should perhaps be a must-have policy for every business that employs people.

If you would like some help in drafting a Relationship at Work Policy that aligns to your business culture and any informal rules that may already be in place, then get in touch with our HR Consultant today.

Happy Valentines Day