How to… survive an office romance

Given that we spend one-third or more of our time at work, it’s not unusual for people to become romantically involved with a colleague. But be warned: some organisations have policies that discourage employees from having romantic relationships at work for many reasons, including potential conflicts of interest and concerns over productivity. So how do you survive an office romance? Denise Knowles and Peter Corser offer advice

The relationship counsellor:

1 Keep work and personal issues separate

This means the couple should maintain clear boundaries between the personal and the professional, although this is not always easy. Couples and individuals need some privacy and if your relationship is common knowledge in the workplace, it might be difficult to keep arguments out of the workplace. In addition, being in such close quarters could affect your objectivity.

2 Discuss it together

You need to decide together how you’re going to handle things at work. Have a conversation about who to tell and when as soon as you can. Agree that neither of you will spill the beans to anyone without deciding together.

3 Be honest – but only at the right time

Although it may be exciting to keep the relationship a secret, consider what could happen if the relationship ended. How easy would it be to see your ex every day in the workplace, and how comfortable would it be for your work colleagues if the two of you are looking daggers at one another? However, if the relationship isn’t serious, perhaps keep quiet – you might not need to publicise something that’s going nowhere.

4 Keep it professional

It is important to remain professional in the workplace; this means not sending flirtatious emails (many companies have strict guidelines about this) and maintain a professional approach towards each other. Importantly, it’s not a good idea to call each other by any pet names you may have for one another in the workplace – keep this familiarity for after hours.

5 Don’t forsake your workmates

No matter how tempting it is to spend all your breaks with each other and to find reasons to see one another throughout the day, it is important not to exclude other work colleagues. Maintaining networks and contacts makes good business sense. You never know when you might need them.

Denise Knowles is a relationship counsellor at Relate

The social worker:

I know of many married social workers but I cannot recall being present during the wooing.

Eternal happiness with your soulmate is all well and good. But the risk of things turning sour having to ask your ex for help on a Friday afternoon assessment is not one I would relish taking.

There is always the suggestion that, as social workers, your outlook on certain areas such as politics and social justice will be similar. This thought pattern is about as scientific as horoscopes. Social workers are as diverse in their political outlook as any other profession. Besides, who wants to be with someone they agree with all the time?

The best reason why you might find another social worker to be an ideal partner is empathy. Only they can understand your work and the tortured soul trapped in the Kafkaesque nightmare of modern social work.

Sod that. My wife knows I am a social worker but beyond that knows nothing about what I do. I like it that way. The thought of going home to talk about social work would be a nightmare.

I have concluded that office romances are more trouble than they are worth. I don’t care whether you love him or her long term, you know it’s for the best to avoid them. Either that or quit and find a new job. Oh wait, there’s a recession on. Better stick to bromide and cold showers until the economy recovers.

Sogood luck with that.

Peter Corser is a mental health social worker in the West Midlands

What do you think? Join the debate on office romances at CareSpace

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