VALENTINE'S SPECIAL: Love is good for business

The idea of employees getting starry-eyed over the annual festival of love that is Valentine's Day may seem like an unwelcome distraction. But it could actually boost productivity and morale, argues Karl Gregory, MD of Match.com UK.

by Karl Gregory
Last Updated: 14 Feb 2013

There’s no doubt that Valentine’s Day generates a huge spike in spending across the economy. The Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) recently calculated that British singles contribute £3.4bn annually to the UK economy in their pursuit of love. Their research found that 37 million dates take place each year and on average each dater spends £47 per date.

Many sectors benefit directly from the dating process, with £1.3bn spent on entertainment, bars and restaurants, and just under £1bn on clothing. The transport industry benefits to the tune of £420m, hairdressersget a cash injection of £324m, and almost £200m goes on gifts and flowers. So, if your business falls into one of those sectors, then Valentine’s Day certainly matters and probably can’t come around soon enough.

The numbers add up from an economic point of view, but what about the human side of relationships at work? Separate research suggests there is a broader love-related benefit to business too. As part of our annual LoveGeist study, which explores attitudes to dating and relationships across Britain, we’ve consistently found that employees say they are more productive at work when happy and content in their love lives. Yet, we also hear how in today’s hectic world, with more people of both sexes working longer hours, the opportunities to find a loving partner are harder to come by. 

Undoubtedly, this is one of the reasons that online dating has exploded over the past decade and is now ranked as the third most popular way to meet a partner behind pubs/clubs and through friends. So what can employers wanting happy, productive employees do?

I’m not expecting every boss in the UK to start playing cupid for their staff. But we need to recognise that the line between work and life has become blurred – many employers have encouraged this by issuing staff with BlackBerrys and gradually extending the hours in which employees are contactable by the office. So, we should perhaps accept that the blurring goes both ways and be a little more relaxed if the pursuit of love finds its way into the office.

Some employers ban access to dating sites outright, but I think this sends the wrong message - your employees are your biggest asset and if you trust them they will generally exercise good judgement. It’s also unlikely to be effective in an age where most of us carry an internet-enabled smartphone in our pocket...

I often find employers take a dim view of employee courtships. Clearly, there are times when it can be inappropriate, for example if one employee has direct line management of their partner, but in the majority of cases there’s no major issue. At Match we've had several office romances among our staff and never found they compromise people’s professionalism. Quite the opposite – when these relationships evolve into long-term commitments, as often happens, companies will generally benefit from happier and more fulfilled employees.

So this Valentine’s Day, why not let a little love into your office? You never know, it might just be good for business.

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