In theory, establishing boundaries is an important function of any successful office culture. In practice, however, things often go another way.
As Valentine’s day approaches, the anonymous employee network, Blind, set out to determine what kind of impact workplace romances have on productivity as well as turnover rate. The results indicate a shift in ethics starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder.
Ironically enough employees in the human resource department are the most likely to engage in office affairs.
Of the thousands of users surveyed, 42% of HR workers have dated a co-worker at some point or another. Just about 8% of this group is currently dating a colleague which is double the total of the entire sample surveyed.
Marketing and communication trails close behind, with 39% confessing to office relationships, and Sales, Service and Support rounded out the top three with a collective 36% of workers belonging to these departments disclosing the same.
“We often hear the advice to not date coworkers, but that wisdom might be based on unrealistic expectations,” said Kyum Kim, Blind co-founder. “We spend so much of our time at the office and communicating with colleagues that it’s only natural for relationships to blossom. One-third of employees noted discussing their dating life with their peers while one-quarter of has dated a co-worker.”
Love at first site
In Kim’s estimation, allowing a little space between professionalism and extracurricular bonding might actually help companies boost employee retention. Data seems to agree. Almost half of those polled said that their dating life doesn’t negatively interfere with their output or productivity.
“Having a balance between work and extracurricular activities such as dating might allow employees to feel more comfortable at work,” Kim notes. “Keeping employees content will reduce the likelihood of turnover. That’s why it’s so important for companies to understand the impact of work on their employees’ lives outside of working hours.”
Employees occupying higher positions were more likely to adhere to more traditional policies regarding office romance. Managers and executives were determined to be the most likely group to believe that dating interfered with work life.
It’s also important to remember that the kind of intimacy explored in the report does not exclusively denote romantic relationships.
For some of the employees queried the mere freedom to discuss their personal/romantic life went along way in making them feel comfortable at work. Collaborative marketing and communication workers were the most comfortable getting vulnerable with their teammates.
5 companies that house the highest concentration of office romances
- ExxonMobil (14%)
- Symantec, StubHub, Booking.com (13%)
- DigitalOcean (11%)
- Splunk, American Express (10%)
- Indeed.com, Credit Karma, Twitch (9%)
It should be noted that new research from Washington State University found that casual flirting is relatively harmless and can even reduce stress in the workplace.
The new study, published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, focused on “positively experienced social sexual behavior” in the workplace, of which flirting falls under.
“Some flirting is happening, and it seems pretty benign,” said Leah Sheppard, a Washington State University assistant professor, in a press statement. “Even when our study participants disliked the behavior, it still didn’t reach the threshold of sexual harassment. It didn’t produce higher levels of stress, so it is a very different conceptual space.”