Manchester, England. 10 February 2023 – Whilst the prospect of blossoming love is something to celebrate, if sparks fly in the workplace it can be risky for employers. New relationships at work can easily become complicated and potentially inappropriate. And it’s not just hearts that can be broken when this happens. Office romances can have a significant impact on workplace culture, leaving employers open to harassment claims and staff turnover.
So what do employers need to know about office romance? Should you get involved in your staff’s relationships?
Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR, offers three top tips to prevent office romance from impacting on professional relationships.
Tip 1. Be alert to unwanted advances Behaviour that might seem innocent, such as messaging a co-worker or buying gifts and sending cards, can quickly escalate. Unrequited love – also known as unwelcome advances – could leave employees feeling uncomfortable or even making complaints of harassment. This could lead to some awkward and unwanted conversations with employees, potential for disciplinary action or sexual harassment claims.
Tip 2. Prepare for employees being swept off their feet There’s not an office in the country where someone doesn’t get swept off their feet by a grand romantic gesture on Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s a desk covered in roses, a surprise serenade or helping plan a pop-up proposal, love is a beautiful thing. But last-minute romantic gestures of grandeur can cause havoc when it comes to workplace productivity. And while everybody loves love, it shouldn’t get in the way of work being completed as usual.
With Valentine’s Day falling on a Tuesday this year, employees may choose to take a long weekend or last-minute romantic getaway. Make sure that your annual leave systems are up to scratch, and you have a reliable scheduling system allowing you to manage requests on the move.
Tip 3. Watch out for staff coupling up on work socials Of course employees are free to do whatever they want in their social lives. But when it’s on your watch or on work time, then you could be liable for any bad behaviour. Make sure your employee handbook clearly sets out rules for professional conduct at work events. That way you’ll be sure to reduce the potential for sexual harassment, unwanted advances or slips in self-control.
It's always advisable to set boundaries and ground rules for workplace relationships to prevent any issues from arising. Don’t break up with your staff this Valentine’s Day. Ensure you have the correct policies in place and if in any doubt, seek advice.