Office Romances Are at a Ten-Year High, but Do They Help or Harm Productivity?

Office Romances Are at a Ten-Year High, but Do They Help or Harm Productivity?

Love is in the air in US workplaces, as CareerBuilder’s annual Valentine’s Day survey shows, with 41 percent of American workers saying they have had an office romance, up from 37 percent last year and now at the highest level since 2007:

Office romances are just not happening between peers: Of those who have had an office romance, more than 1 in 5 (29 percent, up from 23 percent last year) have dated someone in a higher position than them — a more common occurrence for women than men (33 percent versus 25 percent). Fifteen percent of workers who have had an office romance say they have dated someone who was their boss. And as if dating a superior weren’t risky enough, 19 percent of office romances involved at least one person who was married at the time.

Keeping your relationship out of work is hard work. Nearly two in five workers who have had an office romance (38 percent) had to keep the relationship a secret at work. Male workers were just as likely to keep their office romances secret (40 percent) compared to their female counterparts (37 percent). … Unfortunately, not all workplace relationships end happily ever after – and some result in more than heartbreak: 5 percent of workers who have had an office romance say they have left a job because of an office relationship gone sour.

While office romances are generally considered risky, some employers go out of their way to hire couples, finding that employees with significant others in the same organization are often be more loyal and productive, Allison Curwen writes at SHRM:

Danielle Nordyke, director of human resources at Mercersburg Academy, said the couples who work at the school tend to be exceptionally loyal to the institution. Out of 175 faculty and staff employed at the academy, 88 are in a relationship with a co-worker. Nordyke said that during her 12 years at the academy, more single faculty and staff have left their jobs than employees who have a significant other working there.

Often, at the academy and at other workplaces, a couple—whether dating or married—end up working for the organization after one individual is hired and the “trailing” partner also finds work at the institution. In those situations, Nordyke said, it’s the HR department that often helps the trailing partner find a job. Loyalty is enhanced, she said, when these couples see that the institution is committed to valuing the couple’s relationship and to being family-friendly.

Of course, Curwen acknowledges, there are pitfalls to working alongside one’s significant other or spouse:

In the case of Sarah and Jay Bozzi, for example, “work comes home with us” more profoundly than it might for couples working at different companies, according to Sarah. The workplace’s politics and stresses can seem compounded because both partners are often experiencing the same thing, she said.

Also problematic is when one partner becomes the direct supervisor of the other, which can create jealousy or suspicion among co-workers, not to mention tension should the partners disagree at work, [career coach Jean] Baur and Nordyke said. The better option, they said, is to have the couple work in different departments where there’s no supervisory relationship.

In fact, at least one study has found that people who partner with their co-workers can be happier and more productive at work, Fast Companys Stephanie Vozza discovers:

“Many participants expressed their pleasure in going to work when they were in a workplace romance,” the authors wrote in “Workplace Romances: Going to Work Is Amazing and Really Fun,” which was published in the International Journal of Psychological Studies. “One participant said the relationship energized him to work even harder and another said this euphoria motivated her to work more.”

Finding love at work can also have the advantage of knowing what you’re getting, the report said. “Women and men talked about the safety of finding a partner in the workplace, and explained that one was more likely to get a truer picture of a possible partner at work than during a casual encounter with someone in online dating or at a pub,” the authors write. “… the work environment allows you to get to know an individual before committing to a relationship.”