Study: Remote Work Increases Office Romances

Amid a changing office landscape, workplace romances are on the rise. A new survey from SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, found that 50 percent of workers have had a crush on a colleague, and more than one-third (34 percent) of U.S. workers have been involved in or are currently involved in a workplace romance, up 7 percentage points from last year.

With remote work moving many organizations from the office to home and shifting in-person meetings to Zoom gatherings, it may be surprising to some people that SHRM’s poll found that nearly two in five workers have been asked on a date by someone they work with, and one in four have asked a colleague out on a date.

According to the findings, one-quarter of U.S. workers either began a new workplace romance during the COVID-19 pandemic or have continued an existing workplace romance that began prior to the pandemic. Nearly one-quarter of U.S. workers have or had someone they consider their “work spouse,” and 45 percent have felt romantic feelings toward this individual.

“During a period where we’re spending more time isolated than together, workers are looking for meaningful connections. If employees find romance in the workplace, be it remotely or at the worksite, they should try to be transparent—especially if the relationship poses a conflict of interest,” said SHRM president and CEO Johnny Taylor. “As the culture of our workplaces continually grow and evolve, it’s in the best interest of employers and HR professionals to consider implementing guidance or update existing workplace-romance policies.”

The survey also revealed that 78 percent of U.S. employees said their employer does not require that they disclose a workplace romance, and a majority of workers (75 percent) have not disclosed their relationship to their employer.

“The average person will spend about 90,000 hours at work throughout their lifetime. With this in mind, workplace romances are bound to happen. However, HR professionals have a responsibility to protect employees from favoritism, retaliation and incidents of sexual harassment,” said SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP. “Ultimately, HR should encourage both honesty and professionalism to keep working relationships—and workplaces—running smoothly.”