Office romance is on the rise—today, 47 percent of American professionals say they've dated within the workplace—and, say experts, it's also the latest, greatest place to meet a mate. But the changing landscape brings both increased perks and perils. While some companies see it as a way to positively affect work-life balance others are leery. There are a few things to know about before turning a work spouse into a real spouse—or at least romantic partner. Office Dating Rules You May Not Know
Why Work? Why Now?
We're working more hours than ever before, according to the Center for WorkLife Policy. Plus, we're staying single longer. "Add to that the dressing down of the stuffy workplace, a new emphasis on teamwork on the job, and you have a window of romantic opportunity," says Janet Lever, PhD, professor of sociology at California State University, Los Angeles, who has studied human sexuality for 25 years. In fact, says Lever, in recent years the office has outpaced all other locations (including college) when it comes to finding love. Anthropologist Helen Fisher, who is also the chief scientific advisor to, likens the modern-day office to a "romantic Petri dish.”
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This is in part because the work-life pyramid is inverting, warns Arlie Russell Hochschild, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Our jobs have become the vibrant part of our days, while our personal lives practically fit on the head of a pin. And intra-office relationships further blur the boundaries: Take Kristine, 31, who met her boyfriend—a fellow newspaper reporter—on the job. They soon moved in together. "It's great to have someone who understands why a day was so hard," she says. "But sometimes it seems like all we talk about is work."
Everyone Has An Office Spouse
Clocking longer hours at work also means less time spent at home. So now we're creating someone to "come home to," right in the confines of cubeland. According to a recent Office Romance Survey, published by career services company Vault, 23 percent of workers have an "office husband" or "wife"—that is, a coworker (often of the opposite sex) with whom you have a close platonic relationship.
This is the person you look out for, share information with, and consider before making a coffee run. But the rapport isn't necessarily sexual. The surrogate feeds our emotional needs in a professional sense, something a real spouse, who lacks day-to-day knowledge of your workplace, can't do. Angela, 32, developed a deep friendship with her coworker Brian when they worked together at an advertising firm. "We became close quickly by virtue of seeing each other five days a week," she explains. "My day didn't feel complete unless I'd processed everything with Brian. The funny part is, we never saw each other outside the office, even though he was dating a friend of mine!" Is Office Flirting Good For Business?
Courting an office spouse is a phenomenon that Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a Long Beach, California-based psychotherapist specializing in relationships, calls "hyper-cliquing"—bonding with a single colleague at the expense of the group. But, she warns, having a nine-to-five hubby can be problematic if your ties become so intense that they threaten preexisting relationships.
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