It’s a work fling

FILING cabinets and computers might not exactly set the scene for your ideal romantic encounter – but work, it seems, is a fantastic place for looking for love. Maybe it s the long hours that do it or the shared interests and goals. Perhaps water coolers

FILING cabinets and computers might not exactly set the scene for your ideal romantic encounter - but work, it seems, is a fantastic place for looking for love.

Maybe it's the long hours that do it or the shared interests and goals. Perhaps water coolers are great 'pulling props'. Or could it just be that the opportunity is greater than ever, with increasing numbers of women in the workplace?

Whatever the reason, there's no doubt about it; romance is positively blooming during the daily grind.

In a new report published in the IRS Employment Review, 71 per cent of respondents said they were aware of a romance currently going on under their roof.

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The survey questioned human resource staff in 80 organisations, together employing nearly 120,000 people, and half had seen at least one marriage between members of staff in recent years. One in four had been hit by a divorce involving co-workers.

So do employers mind their staff getting it together? After all, it's not exactly an ideal situation to be in should things go pear-shaped or awry.

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More than half of those surveyed chose to turn a blind eye to personal relationships among colleagues.

Over a third felt that employers had no right to try to ban consensual relationships between employees, but many raised valid reasons why there should be ground rules.

The most common concerns were conflicts of interest or accusations of favouritism.

Mark Crail, managing editor of IRS Employment Review, explained: "Not all employers have a formal policy on workplace relationships - and those who do need to ensure that they don't encroach on people's freedom to live their lives.

"But a well thought-out policy can help avoid conflict by setting out the circumstances in which staff should inform their manager, and what happens next."

So what should you do if you fall head over heels in love with that luscious lady from accounts, or that deliciously dashing Romeo from sales?

Whether or not your workplace has a formal policy, there are certain rules of etiquette that will go a long way to helping ensure that the Bard's famous adage "the course of true love never did run smooth" definitely doesn't end up applying to you - well, not in the office at least.

Relate counsellor Christine Northam said: "Some personal relationships will inevitably develop in the workplace. The most important thing is that individuals set their own boundaries around how they handle their relationships - and stick to them.

"It's not necessarily fair to say that couples should not speak to each other at all at work, but common sense dictates that if you're spending half of your working day discussing dinner plans, managers won't tolerate it."

Here are a few tips to help make your romance a happy - and professionally handled - one.

o Don't jump in with both feet first. A romance is going to change office dynamics and your working relationship with that person and everyone around you, so think before you act.

o Don't become involved with someone in the office if you can't mix business with pleasure. Some people find it very stressful to work and socialise together.

o If the relationship takes off, keep a check on your behaviour. Don't let your romance disrupt your work, or it will threaten your performance and perhaps even jeopardise your job. Set your own boundaries - for example, you might agree that you will only see each other at lunch or talk during breaks.

o Be respectful towards others sharing your office. Flirting can make people feel incredibly uncomfortable and could lead to complaints.

o Don't be tempted to spend all day emailing each other - it won't go down well with your bosses or colleagues and is bona fide evidence that your mind and attention haven't been on the job.

o Agree on how much you want others to know. Whether it's a full-blown relationship or a fling, it's important you decide together whether or not to tell people, and exactly what you divulge. Be prepared for gossip - offices thrive on it.

o Check the terms of your company policy or contract to ensure that if you do make your relationship public you won't be in breach of organisational rules.

o If things get really serious it can be a good idea to inform your boss, but only if you have a good working relationship. It might avoid some difficult situations.

o Stay grounded. You might be 'in love' but you still have to pay the bills, and few romances are worth losing your job over.

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