Smooch with caution (Picture: Metro.co.uk)
Stephanie* flushes whenever she recalls a work Christmas party from 2017.
Freshly graduated and not long into her first corporate role, the then-22 year old was keen to have a ‘classy and chilled’ Christmas ‘do.
‘At least I thought I did, until I heard there was a free bar,’ she laughs, before averting her eyes.
Despite filling up on the lavish three-course meal beforehand, as well as slathering biscuits with heaps of cheese, it was the apparently bottomless bottles of bubbly that sent Stephanie into a spin – finding herself in a flirtatious tete a tete with a colleague she had a bit of a crush on.
‘After snogging on the dance floor in front of everyone, we ended up back at mine,’ she says, cringing at the memory. ‘I was so embarrassed the next morning.’
Stephanie’s story is one that will be familiar to most of us – while we may have moved on from the halcyon days of photocopying our bottoms, the Christmas party is still a breeding ground ripe for bad decisions (just ask Downing Street).
Research from Ann Summers has found that an astonishing 39% of us have had sex at a Christmas office bash, with those who work in IT the most likely to have a holiday hook-up.
While many of us will have had our work parties cancelled, those whose do go ahead might still find themselves considering a makeout sesh – even with Omicron looming large.
But why do Christmas parties lead to so many off us copping off?
‘Christmas is a time where it’s colder outside and we humans, especially when single, seek physiological and psychological warmth,’ she explains.
Something about a free bar and the office being up in lights makes us get frisky (Picture: Getty Images/Design Pics RF)
‘It makes sense that people are drawn to those that they are already familiar with, perhaps close to emotionally and also in geographical proximity.
‘We’re human, these things happen and you are welcome to let your hair down once in a while.’
Lee Biggins, CEO and Founder of CV Library, acknowledges it’s a ‘risk’ to ever have a romantic relationship with a co-worker – be it casual or full-blown.
‘Don’t just stumble into a relationship,’ he says. ‘What if it doesn’t work out? Will you be able to move past feelings of hurt and continue doing your job?
‘What’s more, prepare to have your professionalism called into question. Especially if the relationship is with someone at a higher or lower level than you; some colleagues are bound to think there’s a conflict of interest.
‘Ultimately, you need to discuss the risks with your romantic interest and decide how you’re going to minimise them.’
While Stephanie acknowledges she didn’t feel her Christmas party encounter held her back professionally in any way, she did feel particularly awkward that her seniors knew she had hooked up with someone she worked with.
‘I did feel uncomfortable knowing I was the subject of office gossip,’ she says.
‘Particularly as I hadn’t really been at the company that long. No-one actually said anything to me about it, but I know both my colleague and I were the punchline of a few jokes.’
The party hook-up also left Stephanie and her colleague in a grey area about their professional relationship. While the pair had been acquaintances beforehand, subsequent interactions in the office afterwards were initially ‘toe-curling’.
‘We just felt really awkward around each other,’ Stephanie says. ‘Luckily, we didn’t work too closely together, so we didn’t have to interact too often, but it made even just nipping to the kitchen for a tea really awkward, in case he was in there.’
In these situations, Sarah urges for a full and frank conversations between both parties to smooth over any awkwardness.
But things can get awkward the next time you’re at work (Picture: Getty Images)
‘Honesty is the best way to proceed,’ she explains. ‘We all make mistakes and we can sometimes have regrets, but the best way to move forward from encounters and romantic experiences in the office if it’s no longer wanted or welcomed, is to just let the other person know.
‘This is best done verbally or via message to say you’d like to keep things professional and whilst it felt right in the moment there is no plans for the two of you to build any more momentum.
‘If you value your professional career development, you can explain that you both acted out of sorts and were both in the Christmas spirit and it’s not the way you wish to move forward.
‘Again, communicating honestly and clearly stating what you want your future to look like with that company and in your career moreover the one-off experience, should put you in good stead.
‘These things do happen but consensually speaking, it takes two to tango and so you should both step up to the plate with any difficulties that arise from it and move forward professionally, especially if you don’t wish to continue with any sort of romantic relationship.
‘Assert yourself professionally and make sure you go above and beyond in your role so peers can see that your role is more important than any Christmas party endeavours.’
In Stephanie’s case, the Christmas party shenanigans were soon forgotten in the new year, when work started to get busy again and her relationship with her colleague did not continue.
However, a study by LoveHoney found one fifth of people who hook up at Christmas end up dating in the new year, which could only fuel intrigue in your relationship.
Lee argues that if love does blossom between you and your colleague during your Christmas party, it can actually be beneficial to your work life.
‘If your office romance is professional, it won’t interfere with your job in the slightest,’ he said. ‘In fact, it may even benefit your career to have someone you can rely on for emotional support in the office.
‘However, any relationship has its learning curves, so don’t panic if you’re struggling to toe the line. Learn from your errors and adapt quickly. You’re not likely to make the same mistakes twice!
‘It might not be easy navigating an office romance, but it could have life-altering consequences for you. After all, money will come and go, but your close network of loved ones will always be there for you.’
*Name has been changed to protect from embarrassment.
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