Valentine's Day | How can HR handle office romances?

How can HR handle office romances?

Office romances have always been a tricky subject for HR to deal with – but research from Adzuna suggests love is in the air of many UK workplaces this Valentine’s Day.

The researchers found there is a widespread acceptance of the idea of dating a colleague, with 75% saying they were open to the possibility and 41% fantasising about doing so.

For some people, these relationships had benefits other than just romance: 31% of those who have dated a coworker claim to have benefited from it professionally. Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said the results of the survey were unexpected:

“With the traditional office job evolving and fewer people physically in the office from 9 to 5, we were surprised to see just how many people in the UK still find love in the workplace."

"What’s also surprising is the level of variation between industries. Whilst a staggering 84% of people who work in Transport and Logistics have had a relationship within the workplace, the 'David Brents' of this world are less likely to find love on the job with only 44% of people in forest, paper and packaging having done so.

“Whilst 26% of office romances have led to marriage and 27% to babies, a larger proportion at 59% have left the company directly as a result - so workplace relationships should certainly be approached with caution.”

Despite 57% of people in a workplace relationship staying together for over a year, and a third of workers benefitting professionally, the negative implications are obvious. Nearly two thirds (59%) of people who dated someone at work eventually resigned from the role as a direct result.

A third (33%) resigned because the relationship went sour and 26% made the ultimate sacrifice, resigning because they felt it was best for their relationship to succeed.

To compound this, only 28% of those who have dated colleagues are still in the relationship. It is, therefore, unsurprising that 18% of workplaces ban dating in the professional field.

How should HR approach office romances?

Let’s face it – office romances are so common that it’s not practical to ban them completely. A blanket ban won’t stop employees hooking up – it will simply cause them to be kept secret, increasing the stress.

Instead, Donald MacKinnon, Director of Legal Services at LAW At Work, suggests that employers should be open minded if romances do blossom.

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“A third of office romances lead to marriage, including one of the world’s most famous couples - Barack and Michelle Obama; they met at a law firm in the 80s,” he said.

However, he added that it is important for HR and leaders to remain impartial. “If you are alerted to an office romance, it doesn’t mean that the couple should turn to you if their relationship hits a bump on the road,” said MacKinnon. “Similarly, the information should be kept private if that is the request of the couple involved.”

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