Pandemic Office Romances Breathe New Life Into Work

Office romances before pandemic were few and far in between. However, the pandemic has helped many colleagues connect and know each other better, leading to a rise in romantic relationships.

According to a survey of US-based workers by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a quarter of respondents revealed that they began a romantic relationship with a colleague during the pandemic or continued an existing romance in the past year. Almost half the respondents admitted that they have developed a crush on someone in the past year – a 7% increase in comparison to the previous year.

office romances before pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an unexpected boom in workplace romances.

Why wouldn’t you date a colleague? Here is someone who has already been vetted by the company for his or her skills, undergone a background check, and is sufficiently competent at their job. Add to it the fact that you spend a major chunk of your waking hours in their company, it is the right atmosphere to foster a romance. The only thing most people need to check is whether their values align with that of their romantic interest. As someone once said, “proximity is the greatest prerequisite to love.” Research has shown us that people who sit physically closer together in the same office or classroom are more likely to form relationships than those who sit farther apart.

Studies show that office romances before pandemic were on a decline. But as per the new SHRM survey, 20% of workers continued relationships they started before the pandemic while 6% admitted that they have started pandemic office romances. Johnny Taylor Jr., SHRM’s president and CEO reveals that though most pandemic office romances started with in-person dates, they kept the relationship going with messages and video calls. He adds, “Since most of these romances were continuations, it’s likely they were just going on in-person dates as usual rather than through platforms like Zoom.”

In the survey, which had 550 American participants and was conducted mid-January, 75% of the workers said that their workplace romance ended pre-pandemic.

The rule of workplace dating can be a tricky maneuver. While some companies ban workplace romances outright others just require their employees to keep it professional at work. The survey revealed that 33% of US workers are currently involved in or have been involved in a workplace romance. It stood at 27% pre-pandemic. Furthermore, white-collar workers believe that returning to the office will boost their sex lives.  Although office romances before pandemic were common, the additional level of communication required while working remotely aided in reframing the rules of workplace dating.

The Rules of Workplace Dating

Workplace dating involves consensual romantic relationships and sexual relations. The workplace is a professional setting and must be treated as such. Getting overtly romantic at your workplace can make one’s colleagues feel uncomfortable and raise questions about your professionalism.

One of the most famous cases of a successful workplace romance is that of Barack and Michelle Obama.  However, office romances have seen their fair share of horror stories. Sometimes, one or both of the partners have had to move workplaces due to the fallout.

Co-workers who are on the same team and involved in a long-term relationship will need to notify HR or their superiors at some point. Although it might lead to them being put on different teams, it is best to avoid situations where one’s professional image can be tarnished by allegations of partiality. Another thing to consider is the size of the company. In a small company, these things can affect power dynamics while it can be much more comfortable in a larger setup.

Fostering workplace romances can be tricky for the employer but when a company has a good culture and teams that get along well, it is inevitable that people will be drawn to those like themselves.

Anna Verasai
Anna Versai is a Team Writer at The HR Digest; she covers topics related to Recruitment, Workplace Culture, Interview Tips, Employee Benefits, HR News and HR Leadership. She also writes for Technowize, providing her views on the Upcoming Technology, Product Reviews, and the latest apps and softwares.

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