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Every 14th February, Saint Valentine’s Day inspires a global outpouring of romance. It prompts us to exchange an estimated one billion Valentine’s greetings worldwide in a card-giving frenzy that is second only to our efforts at Christmas . So it’s no surprise that the Valentine’s spirit infects many of us in mid-February – but should it enter our workplaces?
Some businesses embrace the day as a chance to reward staff. After all, Valentine’s Day is a time to show appreciation, too. In Korea and Japan the day is such an institution at work that women are almost obliged to hand out Valentine’s chocolates to all their colleagues . It’s also customary for children in some US classrooms to give a Valentine’s card to their teacher (and often to each of their classmates, too).
But in the UK, Valentine Day’s gestures tend to be declarations of love. Couples exchange cards and gifts, but singletons also seize the day to open their hearts to secret crushes.
If the person you fancy is a workmate, you’re not alone. A previous Jobsite survey on Valentine’s Day revealed that two out of five UK employees were looking for love at work – and many succeed. In fact, some estimates indicate that around 70% of people have had romantic relationships with co-workers.
But no matter how common it is, romance can make for some awkward workplace moments. And the last thing you’d want to do is make the object of your affection feel uncomfortable at work.
So if you’re thinking of giving a card to your secret workplace valentine, take a little pause (you can’t hurry love, remember). Then put yourself in your would-be valentine’s shoes and imagine how your romantic gesture will come across. Will he or she definitely welcome it? Or is there a chance it could embarrass or be inappropriate? If you’re unsure, perhaps choose a private moment to check with a mutual friend at work that you trust. If there’s any doubt that your Valentine’s card will thrill, perhaps it’s best not delivered. Remember that under the Equality Act, unwelcome advances count as harassment. Consider your workplace policies, too – some employers frown on co-worker relationships.
If you are giving a Valentine’s card to a colleague, there’s only one way to get it right: be discreet. No matter how your valentine feels about you, they may still squirm at the thought of romance in front of their boss or team. Save those blushes by keeping it professional during the workday, then deliver your romantic gesture after work (or perhaps by email if you have your colleague’s private email address). Even better, suggest a post-work coffee or drink at a slightly out-of-the-way venue to avoid prying eyes – and meet there instead of leaving work together, to prevent gossip. Who knows? It could become a first date.