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Is Romance In the Office a Bad Thing

Is Romance in the office a bad thing?

As colleagues spend long hours working side-by-side, workplace relationships have become commonplace for many. Organisations have varying responses and procedures regarding workplace romance and the question remains: is the office off-limits for finding romance?

According to a recent survey of 200 HR directors in the UK, 96.5% either always or sometimes allow office relationships in the workplace, with only 3.5% banning it from taking place. This sentiment is matched by employees, who on the whole, believe that romances should be allowed (73%) in the workplace, according to a separate survey of 1,000 employees.

Although HR directors show tolerance with regard to office romances, there are still major concerns on its impact on the workplace. In fact, 42% of HR directors cite workplace disruption and other employees’ discomfort (34%) as the two major objections.

The effects of break-ups

In addition to this, a quarter (25%) of HR directors were worried about the possibility of the couple breaking up and its effect on the rest of the office. Break-ups can be tough but even more so with the added pressure of being in the workplace. It can be detrimental to the well-being of the workforce, and as such, it’s a situation that has to be handled delicately and discreetly. Interestingly, employees of different age groups have opposing views on office romances, with those aged between 35-44 being the most inclined to have an ‘off air’ and more than four in 10 (44%) admitting to having had a relationship in the office. In comparison, only 22% of young adults (18-24) have had a ‘water cooler’ romance.

How can you prepare?
From an organizational point of view, office romances are a tricky subject to navigate, and as such, HR departments need to be prepared for any situation that may occur.

There are two key tasks the HR department can undertake to maintain best practice:

  1. HR departments must stay informed about potential legal ramifications of relationships – such as accusations of favoritism and the legal implications of bringing personal disputes into the office.
  2. It’s important to maintain open lines of communication with line managers and employees. HR should stay informed of relationships, and if a break-up arises, they must be able to address any issues quickly and quietly to reduce fallout.

Jane Middleton is the founding partner of The Middleton Partnership – an independent Human Resources consultancy focussed on providing best practice support and advice to smaller businesses.
Jane set up The Middleton Partnership in January 2011 having spent 17 years working in senior HR business partner roles for Citi, Cazenove, J.P. Morgan, and IHG hotels.
To contact Jane Middleton, please email her at jane@themiddletonpartnership.com, talk to her at 07900 250782, or find out more information about what The Middleton Partnership can do for your business at www.themiddletonpartnership.com

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