9 surprising truths about dating and relationships at work

It probably comes as no surprise that out of all of the people who are in relationships, a huge proportion of them started at work. It makes a lot of sense though, doesn’t it? – most workplaces are filled with grown, unmarried adults with expendable cash who spend a lot of time together.

On that note, here are a few facts about dating and relationships in the workplace that may or may not strike you as eye-opening:

  1. Fewer employees are dating coworkers today than in the past ten years.
  2. Even so, 36% of employees are in a romantic relationship with someone they work with: that’s one in three!
  3. More than half of American professionals say they have participated in an office romance at one point
  4. More people meet their romantic partner at work (22%) than through friends (18%), online (13%), or finding each other during a night out (10%).
  5. 31% of people who enter into a relationship with a coworker end up marrying that coworkers.
  6. 35% of women who have dated a coworker dated somebody who was above them in the org chart compared to just 23% of men.
  7. 37% of work couples keep their relationship secret.
  8. Most work relationships start when coworkers run into each other outside of the work setting.
  9. Most people are opposed to office romances; 6 percent of workers believing that they’re completely unacceptable, 33 percent disapproving when they’re between co-workers at different levels; and 30 percent believing that co-workers who collaborate on projects shouldn’t collaborate on anything else.

The “why” behind workplace relationships

It’s no wonder so many relationships start at work considering that, as U.S. workers, we will typically spend 90,000 hours working during a lifetime (or, 1,680 hours per year in the office). Perhaps an even stronger factor is that we spend more time with coworkers with than with our partners or children.

All of this time together leads to inevitable learning about one another. You learn about your coworkers’ interests, observe their reactions to a variety of situations, and often spend time talking about life both inside and outside of work. And all of this learning about one another closely mimics the courtship process, inevitably resulting in new romantic relationships in many cases.

So, what’s allowed when it comes to dating at work?

Many people keep workplace relationships under wraps because they assume they’re forbidden, but most organizations don’t have a blanket policy that forbids all relationships. (Note: We may see more non-fraternization policies emerge in light of the #MeToo era.) Whether dating a coworker is permitted or not will depend on your employer’s policy, so the first step if you’ve entered into a relationship is to check the policy. When dating is allowed and there is any mention of it in policy-form, your employer might require disclosure of the relationship so they can take measures to prevent conflicts of interest; that is, your significant other should not directly supervise you or make decisions about your wages, for example.

Tips for if you’re thinking about (or are already in) a relationship with a coworker

If you’re open to dating a coworker or are already passed the point of no return, at least be cautious and follow the rules:

  • Never date your boss and never date somebody at work to boost your career or get ahead.
  • Keep your personal relationship and your professional relationship as separate as possible; avoid public displays of affection and when you’re out of the office, try not to have every conversation be about work!
  • Review the policy at your workplace and make sure your relationship is permitted and you’ve taken appropriate steps to disclose it, if required to do so.
  • Prepare for the worst early on. There’s a solid chance that any relationship can end in a breakup eventually. With that reality in mind, consider and discuss with your partner how you’ll continue your professional roles should your personal relationship end. Even if you do your best to work this point out, in the end, one of you might have to look for a job somewhere else to keep your sanity.
  • Know your employer. In other words, know what current and previous employees are saying about your employer to learn what to expect in practice and other details like whether workplace relationships already exist in the company (and if so if they’re done openly or in secret), and how people generally feel about it.

This is all great food for thought, but at the end of the day…”the heart wants what it wants”, right? Or whatever that pop singer said in that one song. The truth is that you’re likely going to have a relationship with who you want to regardless of the rules…so if it’s going to be with someone at work, it’s always good to know what you’re getting yourself into!

This article was originally published on Kununu.