MAY 2018 – The UK workforce has become more accepting than ever of workplace relationships as a staple of working life. However, new research suggests whilst workers are increasingly comfortable with the idea of dating a colleague, there remains a real reluctance to discuss the fact within the modern workplace.
Today’s research, released by leading online jobs board totaljobs, spoke to 5,795 workers in the country and looked to explore the current state of workplace relationships across the UK.
The findings of the research found that while two-thirds of workers (66%) had either dated, or would consider dating a colleague, over three quarters (76%) of workers choose to keep quiet about their workplace relationships.
Why Love Works
Longer working hours, constant communications both in and out of the workplace and numerous social events are all drivers in growing acceptance of workplace relationships as a social norm.
Today’s figures showed that more than one in five (22%) met their partner through work, more so than through friends (18%), online dating (13%) or the traditional bar or club (10%).
Despite the rise of dating apps, the workplace still appears to be the environment within which the majority of Brits are finding love.
This is reflected in UK workers’ attitudes towards relationships at work. Two-thirds of workers (66%) have either dated a colleague or would consider it, compared to a third (34%) who would completely rule it out.
There are multiple reasons a large proportion of workers would never consider it, but 50% of those who say never means never, simply believe work and romance don’t mix.
On the other hand, while the majority of UK workers accept the prospect of a workplace romance, they are far less eager to discuss these relationships with others. The overwhelming majority of workers (76%) chose to keep quiet about their workplace relationships.
While a small portion of UK workers felt it most professional to disclose relationships to HR (3%), the vast majority choose not to, especially if the relationship was with a direct line manager or someone they reported to (75%), highlighting a gap between general acceptance of workplace relationships and our comfort in disclosing them.
This can be largely attributed to additional difficulties faced in a working environment due to the relationship. Over half (51%) of those dating a colleague experienced workplace gossip, while 60% felt that being in a relationship meant they needed to act even more professional in the workplace.
These challenges appear to create a sense of stigma around workplace relationships and add to the reluctance to disclose romances, despite the vast majority of workers being comfortable with them.
Making It Work
Despite some of the challenges that arise through workplace relationships, the research reveals much of working life remains the same despite the romance, allowing colleague relationships to grow and last in a working environment.
The vast majority (71%) of workers felt others didn’t question the reasons for their career progression, despite their relationship. With promotion and progression playing a major role in working life, this is key to allowing relationships to exist outside of the working cycle itself.
Other factors also largely remain the same; over half (59%) didn’t find booking holidays any more difficult, and just under two-thirds (65%) didn’t find it difficult to maintain personal space and have that ‘me time’.
However, the research reveals a gender gap when it comes to facing the obstacles that a workplace relationship may bring, particularly if the that relationship is with someone more senior. 30% of women felt being in a relationship with their manager affected promotion opportunities, compared with 22% of men.
20% also felt it affected salary and bonus opportunities compared with 12% of men, and nearly half (42%) felt a relationship with their manager affected relationships with colleagues, compared with a quarter (25%) of men.
Working It Out
Naturally, not all workplace relationships work out despite the good intentions. However, what is important is how it affects the future working relationship.
While a third (35%) thought a break-up would negatively affect workplace dynamics, only 1 in 7 (14%) would consider quitting their job over it. Nearly half (44%) said working together killed the romance.
Ultimately, the research revealed work is more likely to hurt the relationship, as opposed to the relationship getting in the way of work (44% compared with 37%).
Colleagues are largely accepting and supporting of relationships, and important aspects of work such as progression are mostly not affected, suggesting a healthy relationship is actually conducive in many ways to work, it is the social aspects such as gossip and jealousy from the minority which affect a relationship in the end.
However, not all found relationships at work smooth sailing. 1 in 3 (31%) said they felt judged by co-workers, while 1 in 4 (25%) experienced jealousy in the workplace. 1 in 6 (17%) said they had been made fun of, and 1 in 10 (11%) said they had been discriminated against because of their romance.
However, despite all this, nearly one in six (15%) said the relationship just wasn’t meant to be, regardless of working together.
Martin Talbot, Group Marketing Director, at totaljobs, said: “Workplace relationships are a part of working life across the country, and our research reveals that many are making it work for them. Despite this, a real culture of silence still exists around disclosing and discussing them with peers.
Explaining who you are seeing can give you control over the situation, as word will likely get out anyway. If your new partner is your manager or directly responsible for your salary or performance reviews, speak to your HR manager sooner rather than later, in case some reshuffling of responsibilities is required.”