When you’re working with people for eight hours a day, you have an opportunity to get to know them and develop connections in a way that’s unlikely in many other areas of life. So it’s unsurprising lots of couples who meet at work stay together and go on to have lifelong relationships.
However, office romances also have the potential to cause issues you wouldn’t face in other circumstances. Things can get tricky when your personal and professional lives collide – with different consequences for each. Even if you’re already seeing someone from work its worth thinking through how to handle the situation so you can agree on some boundaries.
Keeping it professional at work
The most obvious consideration with office romances is whether or not it will put your job at risk or harm your career.
If you’re in a romantic relationship with a colleague, this will obviously completely change how you relate to each other. If you have to continue working together, then it can be easy for your new found closeness to bleed into your professional interactions. Feeling affectionate towards one another can result in preferential treatment in the work environment – even if you don’t necessarily notice this. Also if things aren’t going well it can affect your work, for example if you’ve had an argument, it’s likely to be hard to be productive in one another’s company until it’s solved.
Is one of you more senior?
If one of you is in a senior position to the other (or even managing them) this can lead to complications. There might even be a conflict of interests for example if one of you works in finance or HR and they have access to confidential information. It may even be the case that your workplace has a specific policy against workmates having romantic relationships together to avoid this kind of situation.
The natural impulse with workplace romances can be to try to keep things secret, but again, this can create further difficulties. If you aren’t open about your relationship with the relevant people at work and are later discovered, you could face bigger problems than you might have otherwise – but this is unlikely to be an easy decision either way.
The reactions of others can also play a part. Decisions that might have nothing to do with you being together might be interpreted as favoritism. Instances where you concur on professional issues may be taken less seriously. Equally, it may be awkward for others if you disagree with each other about things – with colleagues being unsure whether to ‘get involved’.
Protecting your relationship
Complications can work the other way too. Difficulties at work can easily affect your relationship, especially if you’re dealing with a particularly stressful project or heavy workload. Disagreements as colleagues can become conflicts at home. This can be difficult to manage, especially if you’re only just starting out as a couple.
Again, it can create a very strange dynamic if you’re working at different levels of seniority – with the risk being one of you feels this is creeping into interactions outside of the workplace too.
And the sheer amount of time you can end up spending together can be an issue too: seeing each other all day and then spending time outside of work may feel like too much of one another’s company.
Working it out together
If you do begin a relationship with someone at the office, it’s important you talk about some of the potential risks and consequences and make sure you’re agreed on how you’ll handle them.
A big focus of these talks could be the importance of maintaining a division between your work and personal lives – as this is where a lot of potential difficulties can come from. It can be useful to be direct and detailed about this: how are we going to talk to each other at work? Are we going to talk about work at home? What if we need to work together on a project?
You’ll also need to talk openly about what could happen if your relationship does become an issue at work. This might include speaking frankly about the possibility of one of your moving on from the job.