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Striking the right tone when it comes to office relationships
The office can be a fun place with plenty of "banter", but there are a number of
horror stories of people being fired for saying too much on Facebook and discrimination
cases arising from what some people believe are "harmless" jokes.
So, what's the best way to create a workplace that employees enjoy, without allowing
it to get out of hand?
The office and personal life debate
Separating work and personal life is the simplest solution on paper, but one of
the most difficult to achieve, as workers are currently spending more time at work
to keep up with workloads, which inevitably means more time mingling and becoming
acquainted with colleagues.
Becoming friends with co-workers is not a new phenomenon in itself, but when you
add social media, flexible working arrangements and the drive to make management
friendlier, the line between business and pleasure can soon become blurred.
Smaller businesses are affected more than most by the failure to separate home and
work life as they are often created by friends, meaning there is little distinction
between the two spheres of life, but once new people join, the friendly banter can
be open season for allegations of discrimination.
Office romances are part and parcel of working life, but they can cause a number
of problems in the workplace, which have the potential to lead to breaches of confidence,
favouritism, inappropriate physical activity or resentment if it all goes wrong.
The answer, as tempting as it may be, is not to ban office romances completely,
as you will find you are fighting a losing battle – you will encourage employees
to keep their relationship a secret, which will make it difficult to assess or manage
the associated risks.
A "love contract" is an option to set when opening your new business. Favoured in
the US, this is starting to become more common in the UK and requires employees
to disclose a workplace relationship, confirm that it is consensual and that neither
will bring a claim for harassment if the relationship ends.