United Nations figures show a quarter of British workers spend 48 hours at work each week, longer than other European countries and the US. With the amount of time being spent at work, it’s no surprise that office romances are flourishing.
The intimate nature of the workplace means that attraction between colleagues is inevitable. Often, work colleagues share many of the same interests, routines and sometimes even mannerisms.
At its most basic level, being attracted to a colleague can have surprising career benefits: you are more likely to dress well for work, and try hard. However, handling a work relationship can be difficult both for those actually in the relationship as well as for those in management positions who aren’t sure of the best way to approach the situation.
And it’s not only employers who are confused. Match.com recently found that 41% of employees don’t know their employer’s attitude to office dating.
Once you are in a relationship with a colleague, assume that everyone will find out. If that’s too frightening or worrying for you, stop the relationship before it starts. If you’re asked directly about your relationship with a colleague, be honest in your response. Office gossip is inevitable, but a straightforward answer will keep speculation to a minimum.
Lastly, if you are the boss, think very carefully indeed before embarking on a romance with an underling…
Here are some top tips to help employees and employers deal with office romances:
Dos and don’ts for colleagues who are dating
Do be selective. While work can be a great place to meet people, don’t think of it as an unlimited dating pool. If you want to be taken seriously, choose your dates carefully – you can only get away with a couple of romances in the same office environment.
Don’t conduct your dates in office hours: no smoochy lunches, no lingering water-cooler moments, and avoid leaving early together. Seeing you loved-up on company time may make colleagues resentful and any indignity on your part could be seen as unprofessional.
Do deal with an office break-up in private: if the worst happens and the relationship doesn’t end well, keep your composure at work. Discuss the details to death with your friends, but go to work looking the best you can. People will judge how well you’re coping by how you look.
Dos and don’ts for bosses of colleagues who are dating
Don’t interfere: if the couple dating should conduct their relationship discreetly, bosses should not feel it is their duty to interfere. As long as their work is not affected, there is no need to step in.
Don’t take part in gossiping: this will only encourage others to do so and will always be seen as unprofessional.
Do include rules on office romances in the company handbook: as the boss you should clearly outline what is and isn’t appropriate in terms of office dating. This will save confusion amongst employees.
Do be sensitive: if you’re the boss and find you have several colleagues who are pursuing relationships, you may have to tread carefully when managing your team.
Try to be tactful: If, for example, a couple has recently split up, you may get better work out of them if you sit them in different parts of the office or have them work on different projects. Don’t feel you have to be the company ‘Agony Aunt’, but remember that a happy team will produce a higher standard of work.
Don’t jump the gun: if you feel that an office relationship is having an adverse effect on employees or the team as a whole, don’t be too heavy handed in your approach. Speak to the couple, and perhaps have a discreet word with the HR department. Perhaps offering one of the couple a different role might be enough to keep their liaison from being too distracting.
Kate Taylor is ‘resident dating expert’ at dating site Match.com