Human Resources



The office romance: Fun or folly?

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We all know the jokes. If the boardroom’s rocking don’t bother knocking.

But of course, a relationship can be about so much more than just an office fling. It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that most of us want love and companionship, and if that can be found in the workplace then why not. But is it a good idea?

Office romances bring with them all the potential risks and rewards of out-of-office relationships – but carry with them an added layer of danger. The blending of employees’ professional and personal life in such an intimate way has the potential to be a recipe for disaster.

Additionally there is the risk of creating a workplace atmosphere fuelled by gossip and innuendo, which could prove a distraction to an organisation’s professional culture.

“Workplace romances can adversely affect employee morale and productivity by distracting the romantic partners and their co-workers. They also may lead to conflict and claims of disparate treatment or sexual harassment,” said Dana Chang Dikas, a lawyer with employment law firm Fisher Phillips.

Regardless, the office romance is here to stay. According to 2017 figures from the Quartz website, the workplace is one of the most common way that couples meet (11%), fourth behind dating apps like Tinder (39%), a bar/restaurant (27%) and through friends (20%).

On a more positive note, 25% of workplace relationships eventually lead to marriage, while 71% of workers said they wouldn’t mind if their colleagues were having an affair in the office, it was reported on the Happy Worker website.

Is it acceptable for employees to have an office romance?

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In the majority of situations, HR managers can mitigate the potential risks of workplace relationships via a well-defined set of policies that are clearly communicated to employees. For employers, managing office romances is all about reducing possible harm.

“The negatives can be managed by employers addressing workplace relationships head-on. Blanket ‘no fraternising’ policies don’t work. Employers must communicate their conduct and behavioural expectations to employees and take proactive steps to avoid potential liability,” added Dikas.

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