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11th February 2019 | 5 min read
We spend a lot of time around our colleagues, so it’s not surprising that romance can blossom in the workplace. One survey, carried out by the Institute of Leadership and Management, found that 41% of participants had enjoyed an office romance. And of the people surveyed, 37% went on to have a fully-fledged relationship with someone they met at work; 27% ended up marrying or entering a civil partnership with a co-worker.
With that in mind, it’s worth thinking about the do’s and don’ts of office romances. After all, there’s every chance you’ll experience one at some point in your career. If you do happen to find someone special in the workplace, here’s everything you need to know about managing the relationship – without landing yourselves in hot water!
Don’t Date a Colleague for the Sake of It
First and foremost: it’s important to make sure you’re in a relationship for the right reasons. If you’re dating a colleague to make your 9-5 fly by, it probably won’t last. And if you suddenly find yourself attracted to a co-worker during a particularly turbulent spell at work, we recommend holding off for the time being. Stephanie Losee, co-author of Office Mate: The Employee Handbook for Finding – and Managing – Romance on the Job says, ‘oftentimes, couples mistake being under fire at the office for shared interests outside the office.’ In other words, don’t try to escape the doldrums (or manage work-related stress) by finding solace in the arms of someone you share a desk with.
Don’t Forget Where You Are
Just because you’re in a relationship with someone from the office, it’s important to remember that romantic displays of affection don’t belong in the office. Avoid PDA’s and never, we repeat never, get caught doing anything risqué in the storeroom (or anywhere else on site); you risk putting your job and reputation on the line. On a similar note, try not to spend too much time in each other’s space; wandering between desks for a flirty chat will stop you (and those around you) from getting any work done.
Don’t Bring Arguments into the Office
Arguments exist in every relationship, but if you’re dating someone from work, you need to leave any disagreements at the door. Office romances can get complicated because you see the person for the majority of the day; it can take a lot of strength not to bring tensions into the workplace.
But to keep your boss happy, you can’t let the ups-and-downs of your relationship affect productivity. If you find yourself fighting one morning – or even at some point during the day – don’t let it continue (or try to resolve it) over DM, email or – worse still – out loud in the office. Give each other some space (take a 10-minute walk outside if necessary) and resume your discussion in private that evening.
Do: Know Your Company’s Policies
Most companies have their own policies on employee relationships. Talk to your HR team and find out what stance your employer takes on office romances; it could help you to save face at a later date.
Sometimes, organisations forbid intimate relationships in the workplace altogether, so it’s crucial that you know what the repercussions are right off the bat. You don’t want to be the person who discovers that the consequence is getting fired. Other businesses only allow relationships to develop outside of supervisory ones, so if you’re thinking of asking out your boss – or whoever you report directly to – it may be worth taking a step back. In fact, relationships between managers and their subordinates is quite often frowned upon, because they can garner accusations of favouritism. Regardless of whether the relationship lasts or not, it usually ends with one of the parties having to look for another job.
Do: Tell Your Boss First
There’s nothing like an office romance to get the gossip going. But before you tell your co-workers about your relationship, you should both let your boss know. After all, do you really want them to hear about your love affair at the staff party? Of course you don’t.
Tell your boss face-to-face, and make sure they know that you’re not letting – or prepared to let – your romance get in the way of work. Keep things professional and be brief; your boss doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of your relationship.
It’s best to tell people when you’re both ready; if it’s getting serious, it’ll inevitably come out at some point. But remember, once you’ve told your colleagues, you can’t take it back. It’s something that’ll come up if you decide to part ways; breaking up is hard, but it’s even more difficult when the whole office knows – and is probably talking – about it.
Do Continue to be a Team Player
When you’re in a loving and committed relationship, it’s easy to get caught up in it (hey, we’ve all been there). And whilst you may only have eyes for your significant other, you need to remain a team player by maintaining positive relationships with everyone else in the office too.
It’s also important that you both keep on top of your social lives. When you’re dating someone from work, you’ll be spending a significant amount of time together; give each other the space for individual pursuits, so that you don’t isolate yourselves or become dependent on one another. Oh, and when hanging out with other colleagues, try not to spend the whole time talking about your relationship.
So there you have it. Office romances happen; managing yours as a couple is the key to making it work, both in a personal and professional sense. Providing that your employer is OK with it, intimate relationships with colleagues can thrive – just ask the 27% who got a wedding or civil ceremony out of their 9-5!
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