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Sign here for office love

By Nick Easen for CNN

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It has been estimated that 30 percent of us meet our life partner at work.
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(CNN) -- Considering how much time we spend at work, it is scarcely surprising to find that office romances are part of everyday life.

In a survey earlier this year, romance blossomed for nearly two-thirds of employees within the British workplace.

Worried about the effects proliferating office-based relationships have on productivity, more UK corporations are introducing "love contracts" to deter them.

A recent survey of nearly 1,300 employers found that 20 percent already have a policy on intimate staff relationships. The same number again are considering introducing them, according to London law firm Fox Williams.

Romance clauses in some employee agreements can require workers to: tell bosses if they become involved with a colleague, confirm the relationship is voluntary and keep managers informed if things change.

Although not unusual in North America, and in Europe-based multinational companies of U.S. parent firms, it has yet to move across the Atlantic -- until now.

According to a 2002 study by the Society for Human Resource Management 20 percent of U.S. firms have policies on romance, while 81 percent of human resource bosses said office romances were dangerous.

A typical "consensual relationship agreement" can include guidelines on how love-struck staff should behave, including the need to limit displays of affection and safeguard corporate secrets.

Some even require employees to agree not to sue the company if the relationship breaks down; others even ban flirting in the workplace.

Last year British holiday firm Thomson warned 12,000 employees that any office romance that led to favoritism or discrimination would trigger disciplinary action.

Yet critics believe that these contracts drive couples into secret affairs and subterfuge.

"The impact and importance of office relationships are a perennial workplace issue," says Kimbra Green of Croner business consulting.

"Unless an office relationship is having a negative impact on the partners' ability to perform tasks, there is a strong argument saying their relationship has absolutely nothing to do with their employer."

Yet a 2001 European survey of 1,000 workers conducted by the Italian Gestalt Institute also found that office flirting was good for relieving work anxiety, as well as stress. And "erotic charges" helped about 70 percent of employees get through the day.

Human and Legal Resources, which advises on human capital, questioned more than 1,000 UK staff earlier this year. They found that 66 percent of those surveyed had found romance in the office.


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