How the pandemic has affected relationships and what this means for work

Wednesday February 10, 2021

With February being the month of Valentine’s Day, we’re taking a moment to explore how new and existing relationships have been impacted by the pandemic, how this affects employees and subsequently employers.

Pre-pandemic, you could say that cupid had an all-access pass, and all he needed was for two people to be in the right place at the right time. Occasionally this would include the workplace, and in fact, one in ten couples that met at work went on to get married.

Relationships in lockdown

One year on from COVID and a few lockdowns later, opportunities to meet people in work or social settings have dramatically decreased. With less time at the water cooler and lack of work socials for singles to mingle, has the pandemic changed the course of relationships from here on out?

Some new couples took the plunge to move in together at warp speed, whilst others are separated and digitally dating.

Those already in relationships are suddenly spending a lot more time together. It’s a good opportunity to bond for some, but for others, it’s a time for new beginnings.

From being loved up and distracted to healing a broken heart, relationships can instigate a rollercoaster ride of emotions. That’s without the added pressures of a pandemic.

You may think that the personal affairs of employees are just that: personal and should be kept separate from work. However, the continuation of home working has well and truly blurred the lines between personal and professional for many people, making this much harder to maintain.

We know that there are certain circumstances when employers may want or need to step in, but perhaps don’t know the appropriate way to do so when it comes to the personal affairs of employees. Every situation will be unique, but if you recognise any of the following characteristics within your team, we have some top tips that might help.

Digitally dating and distracted
This employee was bitten by the love bug right before lockdown and has had to continue a new relationship through emojis and digital dates. It’s wonderful to see them happy, but you have noticed they seem distracted and their work is starting to suffer. What should you do?

Whilst you may believe that their new relationship is affecting their work it would be safer not to assume that this is the case. Book in some time to discuss their recent output and your expectations. You may find that the issues could be resolved through improved communication or training.

Lonely in lockdown
Living alone during lockdown or being separated from loved ones due to self-isolation can be tough. Support bubbles can help but not everyone will have access to one. With one in four adults reporting feelings of loneliness during lockdown, could an employee be suffering in silence?

Loneliness during lockdown can lead to poor mental health and well-being. It’s vital that employers remain aware of the risk placed on those living alone. Regular contact and an inclusive company culture can help, whilst a timetable of fun activities or training is a good idea to keep furloughed employees engaged and in touch.

Healing a broken heart
For those not living alone, being at home together 24/7 with no respite provided by work or social settings can be intense, and sadly, break-ups are reported to be on the rise. Going through a separation can be painful, especially if children are involved, and the current lockdown situation will no doubt be making things harder.

Signposting professional counselling and support groups will be helpful. Your employee assistance programme (EAP) will be a good place to start if you have one. If not, ask us.

Meanwhile, recommended organisations such as Family Lives and Relate can provide specific relationship advice and support.

The togetherness of work

With social distancing still a big part of daily life, we don’t yet know when the magic of meeting that special someone will return to normal.

In the meantime, feelings of value and inclusion are paramount for people to be able to pull through this time together, and great teamwork is an excellent place for both.

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