End of the affair: are office romances really over?

The world’s biggest asset management firm is insisting that all workplace relationships must be assessed by HR. And with so many of us at home, workplace flings could be history

Name: Office romances.

Age: As old as offices, so about 300 years.

Appearance: Dead as a doornail.

I love a good office romance. The sneaking around. The furtive glances. The mounds and mounds of impassable HR regulations.

Pardon? There’s no such thing as a clandestine office romance any more. It simply cannot be done.

No? Not if BlackRock has anything to do with it. The world’s biggest asset management firm has just told all 16,000 of its staff that it is to implement a new “relationships at work” policy.

That sounds a bit dystopian. Maybe a bit. The policy states that employees have to disclose “all personal relationships with other BlackRock employees or contingent workers, as well as personal relationships with employees of a service provider, vendor or other third party (including a client), if the non-BlackRock employee is within a group that interacts with BlackRock.”

Yikes. And what if they don’t? Well, last year BlackRock fired two executives who failed to disclose workplace relationships, so that.

And what if they do? Every relationship is to be assessed by HR and, if there is a chance that it will create an actual or perceived conflict of interest, they could be subject to “alternative work arrangements”.

This is fully dystopian. I know. Probably better to keep it in your pants at the Christmas party, all said.

Companies shouldn’t be allowed to dictate matters of the heart. If bosses hadn’t spent so many years exploiting ingrained power dynamics for their own sexual benefit, we probably wouldn’t be wrapped in all this red tape.

But still, it feels totalitarian. Oh, get over yourself. It’s not like anyone was going to have an office romance anyway.

Why? Because most people have been working from home this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hard to flirt with your work crush when the only time you see them is during daily Zoom meetings with the rest of your team.

True. And if you do go to the office, it’s not like you can sneak around after hours, either. It’s very hard to conduct a late-night affair when everything closes at 10pm.

So thanks to punitive HR rules and a global pandemic, I cannot have another office affair. That’s right. Also, all your colleagues think you are weird and sleazy. That’s another big reason.

Do say: “The office romance is dead.”

Don’t say: “Do you think the Yodel delivery guy is single?”