Want a date? No problem - it's all part of the job

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Indy Lifestyle Online
A company that is offering free enrolment with a dating agency to lovelorn employees means well - but it could all end in tears,

says Clare Garner.

If my bosses offered to pay for me to date my heart out, it would be fine by me. However, I have to say, they would be ill-advised to see it as an investment. Frankly, once I fell in love, the company could forget it. Hard work would immediately slip off the bottom of my list of priorities and hour upon hour would be wasted with me staring dreamily into the middle distance, cooing with my loved one on the telephone or sending passionate e-mails.

But presumably Pertemps Recruitment Partnership, an employment bureau that is offering free enrolment in a dating agency as part of its corporate package, is expecting some return for its services. To them the equation is simple: love interest equals happiness equals better employee.

From January, a third of Pertemps' 700 permanent employees will be given the novel corporate perk. "Our motivation is that if we can find them someone, we can make them happier," said Tim Watts, the chairman. "We have found the divorcees can become enormously miserable. If we can get them back on track we hope they will feel happier and do a better job."

The scheme is well-intentioned. Scientific evidence suggests that those in long-term relationships are happier than single or divorced people. A study by Roy Baumeister, professor of psychology at Case Western University, in Ohio, showed that those who are in happy relationships worry less about work failure and are less likely to feel unappreciated at work. They generally do not allow work to interfere with friendships or health and enjoy their holidays. Given the choice, they would choose a successful relationship over a successful career.

But, I wonder, have Pertemps really thought this one through? Going on blind dates is at best distracting and at worst depressing. Yet another lunch with yet another misfit is a pretty demoralising process and waiting for the call that never comes when Mrs Wronged finally meets Mr Right is even worse. Even assuming that the mission is accomplished and a successful match is made. Will the object of desire work harder? Hardly.

In fact, I fail to see the plus side for employers. Just think of the sickies Ms Previously Wed To Her Work will take because she is, well, just too tired from the night before. Think of the company phone bill, although, granted, it would work out cheaper than all those illicit 0898 work calls to the dating agency. And there are no prizes for guessing who will be skipping out of the door on the dot of six, regardless of whether the work is done.

And what happens three months down the line, when the relationship starts to fray at the edges and the wonderful new life that Ms PWTHW never knew she could have begins to fall apart? Surely it is only fair that Pertemps pick up the pieces at the other end by providing free counselling with Relate.

Paul Gilbert, professor of clinical psychology at Derby University, says companies should not see finding partners for employees as a cure- all. Far from the newly luvved-up feeling full of newfound confidence and energy that brings a sparkle not only to their eyes but to their work, Professor Gilbert says the early stages can be "quite a stressful time" and "quite anxiety-provoking".

Furthermore, falling in love "won't be good for those who are going to say: `Stuff work. I'm more interested in my love affair' ... Then there are the people who think it's great for the first six months and then the relationship breaks up and they're depressed and on Prozac and can't face the office."

What's good for health is not good for business. "If you're looking for high flying executives who are going to give 120 per cent, you want them to be living off adrenalin. They must be hard-edged and not too involved in intimate relationships," said Professor Gilbert. "The real high achievers are being rewarded for not paying attention to their relationships. They marry the firm."

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