Employer Branding

Love is in the Office Air

Attitudes and expectations in the workplace are changing in a number of ways. One of the most notable areas in which change is occurring is the topic of office relationships.

As younger generations continue to fill a larger proportion of the workforce, they bring with them a new set of beliefs and judgments. This is resulting in a re-evaluating of the subject of office romance in workplaces across the country. For HR employees and policymakers, there are a few key takeaways as you look to adapt your organization’s policy.

Office romances are becoming more common

Once heavily frowned upon in the office, relationships with colleagues are occurring with more regularity today than ever before. According to a recent study from Viking, 68% of people in the workplace have been involved in an office romance.

It’s a trend that’s continuing to grow Generation Z and Millennials make up a greater proportion of the workforce. Almost three-quarters (74%) of 24-35-year olds said they’d been involved in an office romance, compared to just 62% of over 55s. Some of these flourishes into legitimate relationships, but sex with colleagues is also on the rise. 29% of 24-35-year olds have had a one-night stand with a colleague, compared to just 13% of over 55s.

The evidence points to a more liberal outlook from younger generations when it comes to office romance. Those in HR must recognize this trend and act upon it.

Policies aren’t well communicated

The best way that can be done is with a workplace romance policy. This would highlight acceptable behaviors and considerations staff need to take into account before engaging in a relationship with a colleague. It should also cover subjects such as dating a manager. 15% of those who have had an office relationship did so with a manager. More stringent policies might be needed here if businesses are to avoid any negative outcomes.

At present, it’s an area where businesses are found lacking. More than two-thirds (67%) have been left unaware of an office relationship policy, or without one altogether. 36% of people said they are unaware of their employer’s policy on relationships in the office. A further 31% said their organization doesn’t have one at all.

They can hit productivity

Without clarity on the acceptability of office relationships, those considering engaging in one can fall into some damaging pitfalls. It can lead to a drop in that employee’s ability to complete their role – as evidenced in the statistics. 37% of the workforce said it decrease productivity and creativity, 26% said it becomes a distraction and 22% said it increases stress.

The best way to alleviate these problems is by introducing a policy that recognizes and addresses these complications. Reduce distractions by clearly outlining where the company stands on the issue and have a policy that can hold employees to account if their performance suffers. Once you do that, a reduction in stress and productivity can be avoided.

There is still a stigma attached

Despite employees becoming more likely to engage in an office relationship, the lasting stigma and question marks that arise from the topic do lead to deception. 59% of people who said they’d engaged in an office relationship said they hid it from people in the office, and a third (33%) said they had kept it from the HR department.

Again, this is an indication of a lack of clarity and communication from the business. 42% of those in office relationships said that the worst thing they experienced was being the subject of gossip. The modern workforce should be more accepting of office relationships. Businesses that don’t respond only serve to maintain that taboo and increase the likelihood of unwanted gossip.

It’s clear that the workforce is becoming more liberal about the idea of relationships in the office. For HR teams, it’s time to meet the trend head-on and create a policy that fits with modern expectations of workplace romance.

About the author: Will Hinch is a freelance writer based in the North of England. Writing on all topics related to business, Will specializes in how the modern workplace is changing.

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