As the cold nights get longer and the impending expense of Christmas draws nearer social lives across the country are increasingly restricted to lunch breaks taken at desks and evenings curled up on sofas watching TV. Ahead of the infamous Christmas party, perhaps a co-worker starts to look like the sort of person you’d like to curl up in front of an episode of Downton with.
BUT BEWARE, says “leading extra-marital affairs” website IllicitEncounters.com, because while hooking up with your desk-buddy or watercooler-chat favourite might seem like fun and games, it can have serious consequences.
Life might seem romantic when you’re mumbling “can I just?” while brushing up against a colleague in a galley kitchen among all the tea stains, fragile sporks and crusty pots of white sugar…but it could very well turn ugly. Best case scenario, you’re wearing formalwear at your very own wedding. Worst case scenario, you’re similarly dressed, but sitting in the dock at an employment tribunal.
IllicitEncounters’s survey of 1000 workers found that more than half of them (54%) have had at least one office romance, and that 20% of them (or their partners) have been disciplined as a result of an office romance! And 84% of respondents also said they believe an office relationship would affect productivity at least a little.
But what none of those frisky beasts realise is that work-place affairs cost companies £65,000 a YEAR! And that's not just the cost of fixing a broken photocopier after... you know.
As well as speaking to workers, the website got results from 200 workplaces and found that 51% of them would prefer their workers to conduct relationships outside of the office. The average overall cost of intra-office relationships to each workplace, through “sexual harassment, discrimination, health and safety or unfair dismissal claims against the organisation” works out to an average of £65,000 for each business, or a total of £13 million a year.
Although IllicitEncounters isn’t entirely innocent in its intentions – in case you hadn’t understood/already Googled, it’s a website offering married people a way of having secret affairs, therefore the survey is there to encourage people to swap workplace affairs for internet-based ones, using the IllicitEncounters website – the survey is still useful.
Just as being friends with someone and nattering away all day with a colleague can distract you from work, it can’t be easy to get down to work when you’re sitting opposite someone you ‘got down to work’ with the night before. Also, if there’s a difference in hierarchy between you and your boo then it’s not entirely like getting off with a teacher but you’re still on shaky ground, professionally. As much as you can fulfil an exciting 50 Shades Of Grey-style dominance in the relationship, if things go terribly wrong and either of you feels forced out of your job as a result, there’s grounds for serious action against your employer.
Employers are aware of this, that’s why 32% of them have anti-romance clauses in their contracts. The lesson to be learned? If you’re a bit heart-on-your-sleeve, it’s probably best to have a word with yourself before signing up to work at one of these companies. If you can keep it in your pants, then check yourself before you end up under the mistletoe, three glasses of mulled wine down at the end of year party.
And if you just happen to find your soulmate under the strip lighting? Tread carefully, don’t upset other workers with any PDAs, keep your head down (not in that way!) and get your work done. If you work efficiently and don't upset any colleagues, then there’s less reason for your relationship to be a Bad Thing and every reason why your boss simply won't notice!