You can make fun of it, dread it, eagerly look forward to it, or pretend that you don’t care about it, but you can’t ignore it – ‘cause Valentine’s Day is somehow, here to stay! And it’s more important to people than you’d expect. Imagine a day prior when you hear comments like ‘Oh! You don’t have plans?’ or ‘Sigh! Kaash koi hota. Office se time mile to koi mile na!’ In fact, days to celebrate love is so important that Nepal is now facing a “rose crunch” for V Day, 2019, and they’re importing around 1.5 lakh roses from India! The world certainly prioritizes love, so why can’t we, at work? Is it work that’s bogging you down? Too busy to meet new people; too caught up to make time for old friends. That seems to be everyone’s story. Is that the reason for office romance? Falling in love with someone you see 12 hours a day only to realize it may not be so? Should HR know?
According to a 2012 study by Randstad, 70% of Indian employees confessed to having been in a romantic relationship with someone from the same organization. This abundance of office relationships has been attributed to the fact that our country does not have any clear and all-encompassing policies / taken a stand about the matter. Each organization has its own version of a framework to address office romance. These range from complete freedom to freedom accompanied by disclosure of the relationship to the human resources department.
Moreover, many companies also define the nature of parties allowed to be involved in a relationship with each other. For instance, no two members of the same department can date, or no dating for two employees belonging to the same branch, and of course one of the most widely followed policies – no one can date their immediate junior/ reporting manager. Such policies are primarily put in place to reduce the occurrence of sexual harassment, though there is no real data to support the claim that dating bans at work can reduce the incidence of sexual harassment.
With Indian millennials working the longest hours in the world (52 hours/ week according to a 2016 study), young professionals are spending most of their time around their colleagues.
The Actual Office Romance
With so many hours and multiple work-related commonalities to share, it is only natural that co-workers become friends, and then eventually more than friends. Why is it, then, that office romances are a topic to shy away from? If anything, several Indian organizations have very open minded policies, with some even encouraging office romances and marriage between colleagues. NIIT for example provides anniversary allowances to work couples and Yahoo! India allows complete freedom. This is not restricted to new age companies. HDFC Ltd. Is known to mention ‘we’ll be there when you get a house and back you if you choose a spouse’ in their management training induction presentations.
However, disclosure policies are useful, both to companies and to the employees, primarily because they ensure that no one is being forced or coerced into being romantically involved with someone else. On the other hand, several professionals believe that they can keep their relationships under wraps and that it is not for the organization to be aware about.
The other angle?
Are you liable to share that you are in a relationship with HR at all? Or is everything you do at work, under the purview of the company? What if you are dating an ex-employee and what you share about work in your personal capacity violates the company confidentiality code? For example, a romantic one liner sent using office systems and Internet services may just turn out to be so. Check your IT policy for sure! In the digital age, where our freedom and privacy are up on a platter, we sure are caged about how workplaces track what we do. We value privacy but are also quick to share about our relationship with friends and co-workers [excluding the boss] for the fear of being looked at differently. There is no simple answer except asking what’s our policy?
In the era of #MeToo , #WellBeing & #POSH, what if an office romance goes bad? What if a manager takes decisions based on what they think they know to be true cause one voice fills their head at work?
What if this impacts business or has legal ramifications for the company in the long run. According to news from SHRM, HR policies seem to be getting stricter and ‘safer’ on this matter. Ultimately, we feel it depends on you as an individual, the level of trust you have with your partner on what you can/should share or not about your work if you see a conflict and the nature of your professional position within the organization. In many cases, disclosure may be the best policy, and in other cases, discretion.
In all cases trust and respect are the best policies indeed!
Wait! There is more!
Being Never Grow Up® and the way we are, on a lighter note and all policies set aside, office romances are very real and believe it or not, we’ve identified a couple of types!
The Object(ive) Romance
Spend hours staring at them, take them everywhere with you, and tell them pretty much everything. Whether it’s the content of official emails, or your weird Google searches – they know it all! If this isn’t love, then what is it? Probably a bit of an obsession with your LAPTOP is what it is! That’s okay though – been there done that. Just make sure you rest your eyes occasionally, and get up to take short walks, because this relationship can sure get addictive!
The Workaholic “Ishq-holic”
If it’s got anything to do with that utterly forgettable yet so-bad-that-we-remember-it song, Ishqholic, then it’s probably not the best kind of romance. Being a hard worker is great, but devoting all your time and energy, including free time, late nights, and weekends, to your work is just plain unhealthy! Find something beyond the realm of work and learn to love it just as much. Plus, romantic potential is waiting out there at a café, a pub, a book shop, or a gym, not here within the walls of your workplace – or is it?!