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Romance and the workplace: should they ever mix?

Most people who work in an office have to develop close working relationships with their colleagues, not least because they spend a substantial part of their waking lives in their close company. The strength of those working relationships can often define the success of an organisation. But what happens when people find their relationship becoming more than just professional? Should romance and work ever mix?

Office romances are common. A new survey reports that three quarters of respondents have considered embarking on a romance in the office and more than half had had a relationship with at least one colleague.

Perhaps it's even more surprising then that 84 per cent of the same people believed office romances have a negative impact on productivity.

There are certainly risks. The report reckoned that companies responding to the survey had lost on average £65,000 last year dealing with the fallout of office romances. If relationships turn sour they can lead to potentially serious situations, including sexual harassment or even unfair dismissal claims.

Contractual clauses forbidding office relationships are unlikely to work. They could also create the awkward possibility that highly valued employees have to be dismissed for falling in love.

What's important is encouraging employees to keep work and personal life separate, and to stay professional both when things are going well - and if they come off the rails. Unwanted attention from a spurned lover could be perceived to be harassment. That's why it's vital for employers to have robust bullying and harassment procedures in place should things go wrong - and to act upon any complaints swiftly and appropriately.

Acas provides detailed advice on Bullying and harassment and can help organisations formulate effective procedures to deal with problems quickly. Acas also offers training courses giving in-depth and practical guidance on handling Bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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