Will new romances bloom at this year’s office Christmas party?

With the Christmas season in full swing, there will be thousands of work celebrations taking place up and down the land this weekend – events which could be the catalyst for new relationships or one-night stands between colleagues, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 UK office workers – conducted by office supply firm Viking – has revealed that nearly a third of the nation’s workers have had a one-night stand with a co-worker, and a quarter have embarked upon a long-term relationship.

Unsurprisingly, the findings reveal a wide variation of behaviours between workers of different generations – though it is clear that work-place romances are being increasingly commonplace.

Indeed, changing attitudes towards office relationships are likely to be a big factor in statistics which show 24% of people aged 25-34 have had a long-term relationship with a colleague, compared to just 12% of over-65s.

Sex between colleagues is becoming more common, too. 29% of those n the 25-34 bracket have had a one-night stand with someone at work, with just 12% of over-65s saying the same.

The survey also highlights that with a rising number of relationships occurring at work, more companies are introducing policies on such behaviour. 44% of 25 to 34-year-olds said they are aware of their employer’s policy regarding relationships at work, compared to just 17% of over-65s, with 60% saying their employer doesn’t have one.

However, Martine Robins, Director at The HR Dept, believes such a policy is an important step for companies to prevent complications around performance and staff management

She said: “I would recommend having clear guidelines and whether it’s a ‘romance policy’ or some other term, clearly stating the importance of being transparent. Particularly if there is likely to be a conflict of interest or a perception of favouritism.

“The effects of trying to deal with such a situation once it is in motion makes it very difficult for all concerned.”

Communicating an office romance policy will help combat some of the issues internal relationships can cause.

While office romance is on the rise, many people who have had relationships highlighted the struggles they faced at work. 37% of office workers said it decreased their productivity and creativity. A further 21% believe it increases stress, and one-in-five said it had a negative effect on their wellbeing.

Stuart Hearn, CEO & Founder of Clear Review, agrees there are risks – but says there are upsides too.

He said: “There are downsides to office romances. There is the potential for favouritism, distraction from work. But there is also potential for meaningful, lasting relationships, which is something to be celebrated — HR simply needs to ensure performance standards are being met and employees are as productive as ever.”

When asked about the worst thing about having a relationship with a colleague, 44% of 25-34-year-olds said being the subject of office gossip. For over 65s, the biggest issue with office romance was keeping it a secret (41%), showing that workplaces in the past were less accepting of internal relationships.

Another more common issue amongst young people was being unable to be physical during working hours. 36% of 25 to 34-year-olds said this was the worst thing about their relationship, compared to just 16% of over-65s.

However, while workers aged 25-34 find it more difficult not to be physical during office hours, they are also more accepting of sex at work. The survey questioned people on whether they thought it was acceptable to have sex in the office. Following a similar theme to the rest of the study, 54% of 25 to 34-year-olds say it’s okay, with almost a quarter (24%) having done it themselves.

This compares to just 19% of over-65s who believe it’s acceptable to have sex in the office, with 28% believing it to be unprofessional.