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Human Resources

Romance is in the Air—At the Office

27% of U.S. workers say they are currently or have been in a workplace romance, a new SHRM survey revealed.

A new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that more than a quarter (27%) of U.S. workers are currently in a workplace romance or have been in one before—and 57 percent of those workers said their primary motivation for beginning their romance was love, while only 1% said it was job-related.

“Considering the amount of time we spend with our colleagues, romances and other relationships are bound to form in the workplace,” the SHRM said. “What is perhaps surprising is that many of these romantic endeavors begin with genuine or ‘pure’ intentions.”

Because more than two in five U.S. workers know of someone who is currently in an office romance or who has been in one before, these love-driven motivations may be reassuring. In fact, three-fourths of U.S. workers (75%) are comfortable with people at their workplace being involved in a romantic relationship, and 83% respect or would respect those who are in one. However, the majority of workers are not open to being involved in a workplace romance themselves (75%), and many still believe they are unprofessional (40%).

Workplace romance looks a little different for everyone and can range from flirting to going on dates and developing committed relationships. For example, 40% of U.S. workers say they have flirted with someone in their office, while nearly a quarter (24%) have gone on a date with someone from their workplace, and 17 percent say they have been in an official relationship with someone from their workplace.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Nearly 80% of U.S. workers who are in a workplace romance or have been in one before have dated their peers (79%), while 10% have dated their subordinates and 18% have dated their superiors.
  • Nearly one-quarter (24%) of U.S. workers have had a “work spouse,” and of these workers, 20% have felt romantic feelings toward this individual.  
  • A quarter (25%) of U.S. workers say they are currently open to being involved in an office romance.
  • Younger millennial and Generation Z workers are significantly more likely to say they would be open to being in a workplace romance (33%) than older millennial workers (15%), Gen X workers (27%), and baby boomer and traditionalist workers (23%).
  • Among the 27 percent of U.S. workers who are currently in a workplace romance or have been in one before, their romance bloomed through in-person dates/meetings (79%), phone calls (55%), direct messaging (46%), and work-related events, such as happy hours and work parties (27%).

“With many employees working in office and hybrid and remote arrangements, it is no surprise that employees find connection,” said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and CEO of SHRM. “But if workers are finding romance in their workplace setting, whether hybrid, remote, or in person, it’s key that employers have a workplace romance policy in place to protect employees in these situations, be it from favoritism, retaliation or sexual harassment, and to ensure working relationships—and workplaces—continue to run smoothly.”

The survey also found that 71% of U.S. workers say their employer does not require employees to disclose if they are involved in a workplace romance. And when it comes to disclosing office romances, U.S. workers are far more likely to disclose to their colleagues, rather than their employer. In fact, among U.S. workers who are currently involved in a workplace romance or have been before, 40% have disclosed their relationship to their colleagues, while only 18% have disclosed their relationship to their employer.

While most U.S. workers who have been in a workplace romance say that work-related issues did not contribute much or at all to their breakup (87%), 13% said that work-related issues contributed somewhat or a great deal. In addition, nearly one in five U.S. workers who have been in an office romance (18%) say it negatively impacted their career.

“The average person will spend about 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. It’s key to encourage transparency and professionalism while providing information on what is acceptable and unacceptable conduct, including instructions on when relationships need to be reported and to whom, especially if the relationship poses a conflict of interest,” Taylor said.

A sample of 632 working Americans was surveyed using the AmeriSpeak Omnibus, NORC at the University of Chicago’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. The survey was administered from Jan. 13 to Jan. 17, 2023. All data was weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population.