Love on the agenda for UK workers as stigma of office romance lifts

Survey shows 64% of managers don’t mind workplace relationships if kept professional

  • 4 out of ten (40%) people had a workplace relationship
  • More than a quarter (27%) of workplace romances end in marriage
  • Almost 1 in 3 (30%) kept relationship secret

This Valentine’s Day, a new study has revealed that romance is rife in the UK workplace. Conducted by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), the survey of more than 1,000 UK workers and managers shows that the office is still a top spot for meeting a special someone and love in the workplace is not so forbidden after all.

Despite the rise in contemporary solutions such as dating apps and online dating, more than 40% of workers are finding love in a more traditional setting – the office. The ILM survey showed that 37% have gone on to become a couple with their workplace love and many colleagues go on to form deep and lasting romances with over a quarter ending in marriage or civil partnerships.

However, staff still err on the side of caution with a fifth (21%) claiming their romance would be frowned upon by colleagues and 30% kept it a secret. One in ten said their office relationship had a negative impact on their working life. 

Charles Elvin, Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management, said:

“Our survey shows that workplace romances are inevitable and not as destructive on careers as people may fear. Employers may want to think twice before vetoing love at work, or they risk forcing staff to hide their relationships, creating a culture of secrecy and deceit.”

“The key is how employers handle workplace relationships; if organisations and their managers set clear guidance or policies with boundaries, then certain situations can be prevented. It will also help if policies are communicated down from various members – as sometimes the boss is the last to know.”

The survey also revealed that while around a third of workplace romances started at social events outside of work, 36% began their relationship in the office itself. The majority of relationships (70%) were with same level colleagues, however 12% were with a junior member of staff, and nearly one in ten (9%) have had a fling with their boss. 

Emma from West Yorkshire, one of the ILM survey respondents commented: “The workplace is definitely a good place to meet someone – after all, you spend most of your time there. I met someone from another department at a Christmas party some years ago and we are due to marry in March. You can’t help where you meet the right person.”

So love may be in the office air this Valentine’s Day, with two thirds of workers claiming they would consider a workplace romance in future.