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E-mail plays cupid, breaks office barriers

London, Sept. 28: Electronic mail, voicemail and text messages have broken boundaries in the office and made it easier for people to flirt, a survey has found.

Researchers questioned 221 workers and found that 31 per cent had experienced 'physical and emotional' intimacy with someone in the office.

A further 8 per cent said they had conducted a purely physical relationship with a colleague, while 21 per cent said they had enjoyed only an emotional one.

Many said that their relationship started via e-mail, a device that enabled them to conduct their affair in private.

The findings, based on interviews with workers aged between 21 and 40, are in Intimacy, a book by Andrew and Nada Kakabadse.

'Typing messages which appear on screen is easier than making a direct comment face-to-face,' they say.

'A number of respondents view e-mail as a seductive tool, as messages can be more easily sent while ensuring for perceived higher levels of confidentiality.'

'But others in the study consider information technology as a negative mode of communication and highlight the increased possibility of sexual harassment,' they said.

'Being 'bombarded' with e-mails and voicemails, no face-to-face interaction, is reported as an equally harassing experience as personal confrontation.'

Judi James, a workplace psychologist and author of the book Sex at Work, said she was not surprised by the findings.

'We work very long hours which means that many of us are tied to the office,' she said.

'This means that many of us end up finding our partners at work. This can be a good thing. It definitely makes work more fun.'

But she warned people to think long and hard before committing themselves to a colleague.

'You have to think about what would happen if you broke up,' she said.

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