Another year, another sign that office romances are gradually becoming more and more acceptable in workplaces throughout the United States. Indeed, the most striking statistic from this year's Vault Office Romance survey is that just 5 percent of respondents believe that no office romances are appropriate, down from 9 percent in 2011. Additionally, more respondents than ever (29%) are of the opinion that all romantic connections in the workplace are appropriate—including those between managers and their direct reports.
While that kind of statistic sounds like a potential headache for employers, another surprising finding is that HR professionals are among the most likely to have had some kind of fling with a colleague: 57 percent of respondents in the field admitted to having participated in a workplace romance at some point in their career. That placed them just behind those in retail (62%) and technology (60%), level with those in manufacturing professions, and slightly ahead of insurance professionals (54%) in the romance stakes.
At the other end of the passion scale, marketing professionals are the least likely to hook up with one another—perhaps a sign that they're using their skills to get noticed by professionals in other fields. Whether that same explanation holds up for those in accounting (45%), healthcare (47%), energy (48%), or finance and banking (49%), however, is another matter!
This year's survey, which was taken by some 2,274 respondents, also revealed that the concept of the office spouse is alive and well—27 percent of all respondents reported having a strong platonic bond with a workmate. To those who have such relationships, the importance is difficult to overstate. As one respondent put it, "We can both talk openly about ideas and issues within the workplace and it provides that letting off steam outlet as well as someone to talk to. I know her husband and we get along well also even though he does not work in our industry."
Let's be honest: while platonic relationships might be interesting to some, there's one thing we all really want to learn from an office romance survey: who's doing what, with whom, and where—not to mention finding out whether our colleagues are leveraging their "assets" to help them climb the career ladder.
The answers: while 51% of our respondents have had an office romance at some point in their careers, 23% admitted to being involved in one within the past year, while 20% of respondents were in a relationship with a colleague when they participated in the survey.
While 47% of respondents this year claimed to be aware of infidelity on the part of a colleague who is married or in a long-term relationship, just 19% owned up to having had an affair themselves. For the first time this year, however, we asked those respondents whether they suffered any negative effects as a result of the affair—either at home or in the workplace. As might be expected, existing relationships were affected more often than careers—23 percent of those who had had affairs admitted that it had ended either their own or their colleague’s marriage/long-term relationship, while just 14 percent reported career setbacks related to the affair.
In terms of salacious details, it doesn't get much more risqué than the 29% of respondents who admitted to having enjoyed a tryst in the workplace—mostly after hours, but not always (!). But spare a thought for their coworkers: not only do they have to stock up on industrial-sized vats of hand sanitizer, almost a third of those surveyed believe that a colleague has gained a career advantage by getting involved with a co-worker or superior.
Finally, despite plenty of evidence of the risks and downsides of getting intimately involved with a colleague, there are perks that go beyond whatever it is happens when everyone else has gone home: the survey found that, while the largest percentage of office romances were casual in nature, 10% of respondents met their spouse or partner at work.
As we head into Valentine's Day, then, it's little wonder that more than 60% of those who have engaged in at least one office romance say they would do it again.
"We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very hard times. "
The central theme of the domestic portion of President Obama's penultimate State of the Union speech last night was all about the progress the economy has made since the darkest days of the recession, coupled with a few ideas—most of which are unlikely to make it through Congress alive—about where to go from here.
Next week, Firsthand will be hosting its second annual Women in STEM Virtual Career Fair. The fair will provide women studying science, technology, engineering, or math or already in STEM roles with the opportunity to meet with employers, find new and exciting jobs, learn career lessons, expand their professional networks, and engage with event sponsors.