ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that out of U.S. workers who are currently in a workplace romance or have been in one before, 57 percent said their primary motivation for beginning their romance was love, while only 1 percent 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. What is perhaps surprising is that many of these romantic endeavors begin with genuine or "pure" intentions.
Since over 2 in 5 U.S. workers know of someone who is currently in a workplace romance or who has been in one before, these love-driven motivations may be reassuring. In fact, three-fourths of U.S. workers (75 percent) are comfortable with people at their workplace being involved in a romantic relationship, and 83 percent 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 percent), and many still believe workplace romances are unprofessional (40 percent).
Workplace romance looks a little different for everyone and can range from flirting to going on dates and developing committed relationships. For example, 40 percent of U.S. workers say they have flirted with someone from their workplace, while nearly a quarter (24 percent) have gone on a date with someone from their workplace and 17 percent say they've been in an official relationship with someone from their workplace.
Other key findings include the following:
- Nearly 80 percent of U.S. workers who are in a workplace romance or have been in one before have dated their peers (79 percent), while 10 percent have dated their subordinates and 18 percent have dated their superiors.
- Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of U.S. workers have had a "work spouse," and of these workers, 20 percent have felt romantic feelings toward this individual.
- A quarter (25 percent) of U.S. workers say they are currently open to being involved in a workplace romance.
- Younger Millennial and Generation Z workers are significantly more likely to say they'd be open to being in a workplace romance (33 percent) than Older Millennial workers (15 percent), Generation X workers (27 percent), and Baby Boomer and Traditionalist workers (23 percent).
- Among the 27 percent of U.S. workers who are currently in a workplace romance or have been in one before, they developed their workplace romances through in-person dates/meetings (79 percent), phone calls (55 percent), direct messaging (46 percent) and work-related events such as happy hours and work parties (27 percent).
"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 chief executive officer 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 percent 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 workplace 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 percent have disclosed their relationship to their colleagues, while only 18 percent have disclosed their relationship to their employer.
It is important to note that while most U.S. workers who have been in a workplace romance say that work-related issues didn't contribute much or at all to their breakup (87 percent), 13 percent said that work-related issues contributed somewhat or a great deal. What's more, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. workers who have been in a workplace romance (18 percent) say it negatively impacted their career.
Taylor added, "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."
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. For the purposes of this survey, we refer to this group as "U.S. workers." The survey was administered from Jan. 13, 2023, to Jan. 17, 2023. All data was weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population. Citation: Workplace Romance & Relationships 2023, SHRM Research Institute, 2023
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