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Your office or mine: love in the workplace

August 1 2012 - Canada seems to be the place to study workplace romance. According to a survey of 32 countries by Randstad Canada seems to be very tolerant of office romances. CareerBuilder.ca does an annual survey and this year's findings (published in February) were typical with 30% saying they had dated a co-worker and almost as many (28%) saying they had married a fellow employee.

Randstad's Global Workmonitor survey, published in July, found that 59% of Canadian respondents confirmed that romantic relationship between colleagues happened in their organizations and two thirds (66%) didn't see a problem.

According to Stacy Parker, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Randstad Canada:

"People spend a significant amount of time in the office and it is often a place where people feel a sense of community. The company is likely filled with people who share the same values, principles, work ethic, skills, and education. So it's not that surprising that romances tend to spark between employees,

Similar results have been found around the world with an average of 57% of respondents confirming that romantic relationships happen in their workplace.

Stacy Parker recognizes the risks associated with workplace romances:

"Many employers frown on office relationships for good reason. It can disrupt productivity not only for those in the relationship, but those who work with the couple. It can also hurt morale if favouritism between the couple is perceived, or if the relationship ends very badly."

Do romantic relationships affect work perfomance? 37% of Canadian respondents think so, compared with a very similar global average of 40%. But almost two-thirds of Indian (63%) and Luxembourg (65%) employees believed that romantic relationships interfered with work performance.

Internationally, 72% of those surveyed thought romantic relationships in the workplace were not a problem. This varied from 81% in Spain, Mexico and Hong Kong to 42% in Luxembourg.

Around the world, almost a half of respondents (44%) thought that when a romantic relationship happens, one of the two people in the relationship should be moved to another department.

But resignation is only required by a minority of respondents - 24% globally, 21% in Canada and just 11% in Hungary, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Parker advises, before getting involved in a romantic relationship with a colleague, to find out if your company has any regulations on office dating.

"Many companies are open to the idea but your company could have a no office romance policy. If you don't have an office policy against it and you do decide to go ahead and date your co-worker, keep it out of the office. This means no public displays of affection - keep it as professional and low key as possible. It's also a good idea to never date someone you supervise or who supervises you."

Stacy Parker adds:

"An office romance can be a very rewarding relationship as long as you go into it with the right mindset and the best intentions. Set clear expectations early for the sake of your work environment and your career in case it doesn't work out.

"Always keep in mind that how you conduct your relationship and how you end it will speak to your professionalism and your reputation."

For employers, Stacy Parker advocates the following tips for dealing with the 'delicate' issue of managing office romances:

  • Encourage transparency - Employees should be encouraged to inform their supervisors when they begin romantic relationships with fellow workers and be assured that the information will be kept confidential.
  • Have a policy in place - Employers should put their workplace romance policies in writing and they should apply to all employees - including senior management.
  • Discourage displays of affection in the workplace - Make employees aware that displays of romantic behaviour are not acceptable at work.




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