Once considered forbidden, office romances seem more popular than ever, according to the results of two new workplace surveys.
Nearly four in 10 workers would consider dating a co-worker, the same number have actually done so and one-quarter of these romances have led to marriage, finds a survey released by Spherion, a recruiting and staffing firm, on Jan. 29.
"The results of this survey confirm what we know intuitivelythat many workers find opportunities for romance where they work," says John Heins, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Spherion, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
"The new wrinkle is the explosion of online venues such as blogs, YouTube and social networking sites, which provide very public means for personal news to be shared. Becoming a target of gossip on the Internet does have the potential to affect career advancement and job security, especially when the relationship is clearly not appropriate. Workers today should be realistic about whether they can keep a workplace romance secret and should also be aware of the inherent risks," Heins said.
Though 41 percent of U.S. workers feel that a workplace romance could jeopardize their job security or advancement opportunities (up from 36 percent in 2006), 39 percent have already "gone there," so to speak, and not even quietly.
Though 35 percent considered these entanglements a top secret, 42 percent of workers conducted their romances openly, in the eye-view of their co-workers.
Overall, the women surveyed were more leery than men of engaging in workplace romances. They were more apt to feel that a romantic relationship at work might jeopardize their jobs (47 percent versus 36 percent of the men), and were more likely to have kept those that they had under wraps (41 percent compared to 31 percent of the men).
These workplace romances sound anything but fleeting. While more women were likely to date for several years (21 percent) compared to men (11 percent), men were somewhat more inclined to take it to the altar (27 percent versus 23). Older workers were more likely to have married their cubicle sweethearts than their under-30 counterparts, but the younger ones were far more likely to date openly.
Despite the wide popularity of romancing across work lines, it seems the people upstairs are still looking the other way. Just 16 percent of the workers surveyed said their employer had a policy regarding workplace romance. Nearly one-third (31 percent) were not sure if such a policy existed.
"Given that most of us spend at least a third of our day at work," Heins said, "theres plenty of opportunity to consider a workplace romance. Certainly, its a companys decision whether to allow or discourage co-worker dating, but the fact that nearly one-third of workers arent sure whether their employers have such a policy is somewhat concerning."
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Heins added that organizations need to clearly communicate their policy if one exists, and if there is no policy, they should develop one.
The findings of Spherions office romance survey echoed those of a similar one released by CareerBuilder.com on Feb. 12. Cupids arrow was all over the office place, it found, with 43 percent of workers reporting that theyd dated a co-worker, 34 percent of those who had dated ended up marrying the individual and 10 percent said they had a crush on a co-worker at the time the survey was taken.
This survey, however, paid much more mind to the scandalous potential of inter-office dating. Thirty-four percent said they had no choice but to keep their relationship with a co-worker a secret. Twenty-two percent admitted theyd dated a married colleague and 27 percent had dated a higher-up. A full 14 percent said they had dated their own boss.
How do all of these office love affairs begin? Twelve percent said their relationship hatched when they ran into the co-worker outside of work; 11 percent said it happened over lunch; 10 percent blamed an after-work happy hour; and 9 percent said they found love while burning the midnight oil at the office.
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