Workplace relationships – the challenges of boundaries

Published in Blog by Pardis Samiee on August 19th 2021

Office relationships just aren’t the same over zoom.  The informal interactions, jokes, chance meetings and that friendly smile just when you need it, disappeared almost overnight as we moved to working remotely.

As the number of meetings increased we started to experience contact without connection. We still saw our colleagues on a screen but found it impossible to connect in the ways we were used to. The traditional workplace relationship changed quickly and without warning. As we start to go back to work, many of us are wondering if we can just as easily switch back to connecting with colleagues in the ways we did before.

The answer is incredibly personal. Whilst one person might leap straight back in and re-connect with everyone on the first day back, others might find it a little harder after 18 months outside of the office environment. In most cases, we have no idea what people have experienced whilst at home. Therefore, the support of managers and colleagues can be integral to a person feeling a sense of normality again without the anxiety and stress that many are experiencing.

One in four office workers admit to having been romantically involved with someone in the office at some point in their careers. 

The fun and contentment of close relationships at work can be very comforting, particularly if we feel we are lacking those in our personal lives. As such, it is not uncommon for boundaries to be crossed. One in four office workers admit to having been romantically involved with someone in the office at some point in their careers. Of course, these are not always affairs but after such a long time at home, the temptation to “over-connect” might be that little bit stronger.

Generally, people don’t go looking for affairs and office romances are no exception. But there is often opportunity and time, both of which we have little of in our personal lives, especially where young children are in the mix. There is time to be able to hold a proper conversation without interruption and someone has the time to listen. There is time to enjoy lunch together and discuss work problems that need a second opinion or new idea. There is time where we don’t just have to talk about life logistics and what we are having for dinner.

We can all show our best side at work. Outgoing, friendly, energetic, knowledgable and sometimes powerful. What our colleagues don’t see is the tired, sloppy downtime that we all need, that is natural to save for the home environment. A relationship with just the good bits is like the first flushes of love, unrealistic and unsustainable which is maybe why the average affair lasts just 6 months.

Affairs happen for all sorts of reasons and sometimes those involved don’t even know why they start. As we start to move back to the office, reconnect and start new work relationships we might begin to feel a bit confused about our thoughts. It is perfectly normal, but it can be helpful to talk about why we feel the way we do.

Tavistock Relationships have been helping people for over 70 years. Whether you have an issue in your couple relationship or want to seek help as an individual – they are ready to help. Whether you are married or single, divorced or separate, straight, gay or transgender, our therapists can help you navigate thoughts and emotions at a time when most people are experiencing feelings they may not have had before.

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