Office romances – mixing business with pleasure
This article first appeared on the BDaily advice page
As our working culture now involves most of us spending more time in the workplace than ever before, and with constant access to work emails through smartphones, it isn’t surprising that the number of office romances continues to increase. With less time to socialise outside of work, it seems inevitable that many people meet their future partner in the office.
However, office flings can cause headaches for both employers and employees. Whilst office romances can spice up the workplace, when they go wrong, the after effects can be calamitous. Relationships between colleagues can lead to tension within teams, rumours spreading, and complaints of favouritism and even discrimination. Further complications can be caused when one of the employees involved is already married or in a relationship outside of the workplace, as colleagues who know about the workplace affair may feel that they are parties to the deceit.
So what is the best policy to adopt in such circumstances? Some employers seek to ban office romances completely. However, prohibiting office romances may make such a liaison more exciting and only lead to people keeping their relationships secret, which can cause further tension.
Many organisations prefer to adopt a disclosure policy, requiring employees to inform the HR team or line manager of any relationships. This allows the employer to take appropriate action to mitigate any negative effects that could arise but obviously employees may feel awkward officially notifying their employer of a relationship in its early days!
Other issues for employers to consider include confidentiality and the effect upon productivity, and we recommend monitoring these two areas in cases of workplace relationships. Another practical step could include, if possible, separating a couple into different teams or departments.
On a more serious note, it is not uncommon for employers to be faced with threats of discrimination or even sexual harassment claims following office romances. Employers have a responsibility to ensure there is a harmonious working atmosphere, which may entail getting involved if a relationship is adversely affecting team morale and the level of productivity in the workplace. If an employer suspects sexual harassment may be taking place, they must intervene and take necessary action; this may result in the dismissal of the offending employee.
We advise employers to encourage an open and mature working environment where employees feel comfortable disclosing such romances and are offered the necessary support when things don’t work out. After all, with many of us spending most of our time either in the office or attending work related meetings and functions, office romances are inevitably going to happen.