By Daniel Hunter
Office romances are good for business, according to health & safety risk assessment firm, Protecting.co.uk.
The study found that relationships between employees can bring more benefits that previously realised, and often outweigh the downfalls.
Office romances had taken place in every workplace surveyed. And 62% of those openly in a relationship with a colleague said they felt it had benefited their work and career.
Less than a fifth (18%) said they regretted having an office romance, and 20% said it made no difference. Only 10% of those who regretted their relationship changed jobs or moved to a different department.
"There's an old saying about workplace romances that says you shouldn't mess in your own front yard," said Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall.
"But we've found that long-lasting and strong relationships come out of the workplace that outweigh the negative aspects."
Employees said that, among other things, it increased their loyalty to the company; and they found that workers in other departments treated them more positively, increasing communication and cooperation.
"The number of people who said that workplace relationships are a bad thing was far lower than we expected," said Mark Hall. "People who found benefits from their romances were easily in the majority, and said it made them work better."
Perhaps surprisingly, the positive benefits of office relationships are agreed upon by managers. Seven in ten managers surveyed said they believe employees in relationships with colleagues perform better. Eight-four percent said they had no policy on office romances and 18% actively banned them.
We know of at least one major banking organisation that allows office relationships to the point that they encourage marriage between staff members," said Hall.
"They know the benefits of workplace romance in terms of loyalty, hard work and bottom line."
One note of caution was that while many bosses backed workplace relationships, they preferred that the romancing was kept outside of work hours. Protecting found that bosses frowned on time wasted "mooning around" each other's desks in the early days of a romance, with some requesting that this was kept for lunch breaks and after work.
One boss said: "Once they're through that initial lovey-dovey stuff, it's business as usual. And we find that the office is a happier place for it. More of this kind of thing."
Others thought that there was a fine line to be trod between romance and workplace harassment, and a new sensitivity to the issue made it hard to tell the two apart.