Yes, workers can have their cake and eat it – as long as they keep it out of hours
Romances in the workplace between colleagues should be encouraged as they seem to be good for productivity.
That's the view of national health and safety law consultancy Protecting.co.uk, which says that rather than being a disruptive influence, relationships between employees have more benefits than previously realised as long as all parties concerned agree to keep their relationship 'out of hours' – the end result is greater productivity, and more cooperation between different parts of the business.
“There's an old saying about workplace romances that says you shouldn't mess in your own front yard,” says spokesperson Mark Hall, “But we've found that long-lasting and strong relationships come out of the workplace that outweigh the negative aspects.”
The office worker survey found that there were workplace relationships in 100% of the organisations they approached:
- 62% of those in romances thought it had benefitted their work and career
- 18% said they regretted getting into a workplace romance
- 20% of those who had workplace romances said it made no difference to their work
- Of those who regretted a romance, only 10% said they had switched jobs or sought a transfer as a result
Asked about their in-work relationships, employees said that, among other things, it increased their loyalty to the company; and they found that workers in other departments treated them more positively, increasing communication and cooperation.
“The number of people who said that workplace relationships are a bad thing was far lower than we expected,” said Mark Hall. “People who found benefits from their romances were easily in the majority, and said it made them work better.”
Protecting asked over 950 company owners, managers and HR directors and found that:
- 16% banned relationships in the workplace
- 84% had no policy of workplace relationships, or encouraged them
- 70% of managers thought employees worked better if they were in a relationship with somebody in the same organisation
One note of caution was that while many bosses backed workplace relationships, they preferred that the romancing was kept outside of work hours. Bosses frowned on time wasted “mooning around” each other's desks in the early days of a romance, with some requesting that this was kept for lunch breaks and after work.
As one boss told us: “Once they're through that initial lovey-dovey stuff, it's business as usual. And we find that the office is a happier place for it. More of this kind of thing.”
Others thought that there was a fine line to be trod between romance and workplace harassment, and a new sensitivity to the issue made it hard to tell the two apart.
“As long as both parties are consenting, it's not something for managers to worry about,” says Hall. “The best policy is to keep a watching eye and to be sympathetic toward complaints.”
Some workers found that getting into a relationship in the first place was the hardest part, telling of sad tales of unrequited love and rejection that led to weeks and months of frustration. Ultimately and inevitably, employees revealed, this led to poor work performance, and – in extreme cases – a search for a new job.
“Love and romance is part of the everyday working environment. Both bosses and employees have to act like adults and recognise it's not something to be dodged.” continues Hall.
And as for those poor workers unable to declare their love: “Pull yourselves together and go for it, people.”