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Workplace Romance on the Rise

February 12, 2022

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, what a better time to talk about office romance. The COVID-19 pandemic saw a rise in workplace romances that has remained steady over the past year. A new survey from SHRM found that a third of U.S. workers (33%) report that they’re currently involved or have been involved in a workplace romance—6 percentage points higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

With 50% of workers reporting that they’ve had a crush on a coworker, workplace romances aren’t an anomaly. In fact, three-quarters of U.S. workers (75%) say they’re comfortable with people at their workplace being involved in a workplace romance, and more than a quarter of U.S. workers (26%) are currently open to being involved in a workplace romance.

Other key findings include:

  • More than a quarter of U.S. workers (26%) either began a new workplace romance during the COVID-19 pandemic or have continued an existing workplace romance that began prior to the pandemic.
  • 65% of U.S. workers who are in or have been involved in a workplace romance dated their peers, while 12% dated their subordinates, and 19% dated their superiors.
  • 28% of U.S. workers have or had someone they consider their “work spouse,” and of these workers, 26% have felt romantic feelings toward this individual.

“As the pandemic continues to keep many of us apart, it’s no surprise that workers are looking for connection amongst their colleagues—remotely or otherwise,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM president and chief executive officer. “But if workers are finding romance in the workplace, it’s key that employers have a workplace romance policy in place to prevent harmful situations should relationships go awry.”

The survey also found that 77% of U.S. workers say their employer doesn’t require them to disclose a workplace romance, and a majority of workers (77%) who have been in a workplace romance have not disclosed their relationship to their employer.

“It is the responsibility of HR professionals to protect employees in these situations, be it from favoritism, retaliation, or sexual harassment,” Taylor added. “It’s important to encourage transparency and professionalism while providing information on acceptable and unacceptable conduct, including instructions on when relationships need to be reported and to whom.”

Sample policies regarding workplace fraternization/dating can be found here. Employers should ensure that all supervisors are trained on the policy and how to handle a situation should it arise.

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