Love Isn’t In The Air For Workplace Romances

Workplace romances falling

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it’s only to be expected that we see proclamations and expressions of love all around us. From the abundance of love related items for sale in supermarkets to flowers appearing in homes across the country, the romantic association for Valentine’s Day is incredibly strong.

It would be expected then that this would also translate into the workplace. When keeping groups of people together for hours every day, and for days every week, it’s only natural that sometimes a romance may spring up between two people.

There are perhaps many reasons why people may choose to date when they both work in the same place. It’s likely that they will understand the pressures that their partner is under because they can actually see this, allowing them to offer a unique form of comfort.

Workplace Romances Falling

A new study from CareerBuilder in the United States of 800 employees has found that the rate of workplace romances is slowly declining. 41% of those surveyed the previous year had admitted to being in a romance compared with only 36% this year. This marks a 10 year low for love in the office.

It also found that men are more likely to admit to having a work related relationship with 37% stating that they have dated a co-worker when compared with 35% of women. Along with this, a fifth of male workers (20%) stated that they had dated someone two or more times in their career, when compared to only 15% of female colleagues.

While the rate of workplace romances is falling, some positive news is that those in a fairytale work romance have a good shot of making it last. Almost a third of relationships (31%) had lead to marriage, showing that they can last through the rigours of the office.

Employers and Employees Need To Be Careful

Falling in love in the workplace can be incredibly romantic for many people, but both employees and employers need to tread carefully. The backlash against unwanted sexual advances that has occurred in recent months could be given as a reason to explain the fall in reported relationships. People may have become more hesitant to show their interest in a fellow colleague out of worry their intentions may be misconstrued.

It is important to note however that while there may be people making advances that are unwanted, there are also people for whom it will be reciprocated. Employers then face a challenge on how to tread the topic of workplace romances carefully without causing offense or annoyance.

Something that should be clear is that relationships ideally shouldn’t be banned, as this will inevitably just lead to people sneaking around which could cause more problems than intended. It is important for an employer to have clear rules created on how to handle inter-workplace relationships, from when the relationship is in full swing all the way through to if a break up occurs.

A majority of organisations have a policy of some form yet a surprising number do not. According to a report from Challenger, Grey and Christmas, 27% of organisations surveyed reported having no policies regarding romances while 3% stated that they didn’t care. On top of this, 10% frowned upon relationships between employees.

Perhaps understandably, of those employers who do have policies in place 70% do not allow a relationship between a manager and someone who directly reports to them. Many employers will try and discourage relationships such as these as they can leave an unequal power balance between the two. Surprisingly though, 10% do not get involved at all until a problem arises, allowing their employees almost free reign.

With the #MeToo movement that sees people outlining times when they had unwanted advances in the workplace, employers should make sure that their policies are robust and designed to cope with a new, more aware environment. A third of companies from the survey had revealed that they had re-evaluated their sexual harassment policies in recent months.

Out of these, one in four was found to have updated or changed policies along with expanding training and making sure their policies were more effectively communicated. A perhaps novel way for organisations to ensure that any relationships are consensual, and to also free a company from liability, is to implement ‘love contracts’.

These are official documents that often offer guidelines on new relationships in the workplace. It can require involved parties to agree that their relationship is both voluntary and consensual, that employees have read an organisations sexual harassment policy and that they will ensure there is no conflict of interest. It could also be used to ensure that there is no inappropriate conduct in the workplace that might affect others work, or even their own work.

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Sarah Jubb
Sarah Jubb

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