If you get the sense that there are more workplace hookups happening than ever before, you'd be right. In cubicles, breakrooms and happy hours — everyone's getting together.
A new survey conducted by Approved Index asked 1,550 U.K. office workers about their love lives and found that a whopping 65% of office workers have been involved in at least one workplace romance during their careers. Of those fledgling office romances, 30% lead to serious relationships or romances, according to the survey. The takeaway: Offices are becoming not only a popular means of meeting a new partner, but an incredibly fruitful one.
This is right in line with another survey, released Wednesday by CareerBuilder.com, that looked at 3,056 full-time workers across many industries, of which 37% of workers had dated a coworker. Of those industrious lovers who had an office romance, 1 in 4 have dated a superior or boss.
Those kind of numbers may have once caused HR reps to get squeamish or sent couples sneaking to the copy room, but with more relationships being disclosed in the workplace than ever before, employers have readjusted their office romance policies. And it shouldn't come as a surprise: When it comes down to it, the office is actually the perfect environment for finding modern love.
Welcome to a new norm: Whereas work flings were once possible grounds for firing, they're now being embraced by more relaxed companies. As noted by Today, the progressive attitudes of millennials (a cohort that could make up more than 75% of the workforce by 2025) have greatly contributed to this seachange in corporate culture.
"I think the younger generation is going to be more inclined to do this and be OK with it," Tim Eisenhauer, co-founder and president of HR technology firm Axero Solutions, told Today.
In fact, the younger the company and the employee, the more openly inter-office dating seem to be embraced. Jessica Tom, 30, a novelist and marketing professional, first met her current boyfriend when, after weeks of flirtatious potlucks and shared crossword puzzles, they finally went on a date. While initially hiding the romance, even going so far as to change each other's names and photos on Gchat, Jessica and her boyfriend finally came out to their bosses after three months.
"They were really happy for us, though were a little confused because I guess we hid it well from them," Jessica told Mic. "We didn't think there were any particular taboos against office relationships. D and I didn't really work together either, so there were no major issues of favoritism. But we wanted to avoid awkwardness at work and also once it's out... it's out."
Mallory, age 28, who met her current fiancé while working as an HR coordinator at a financial tech company, told Mic that despite any nervousness, "it is much more preferable to date someone fully vetted by your company rather than meeting a random stranger in a bar." And in a time when we're constantly seeking new ways to meet (hello, OkCupid), more and more people are finding the office to be a good spot.
An ideal incubator for romance: The prevalence of office romances makes perfect sense as we seek ways to connect with like-minded people. According to the Pew Research Center, 1 in 5 adults ages 24 to 34 have used online dating, which means that more and more, sites like OkCupid and Tinder are becoming the primary way to meet new dating prospects — largely because organic run-ins or classic old Hollywood meet-cutes seem harder to come by.
But with the average work week rounding out to over 47 hours, the people millennials end up spending the most time with is their coworkers. And the longer you spend at work, the more likely it is you'll find a match there. "Spending more time with colleagues outside of contracted hours means getting to know them on a more personal level is inevitable and that's where romance can flourish," Trilby Rajna, website and content editor for the Approved Index survey, told Mic.
In addition to being in constant communication over email and chat, long hours mean coffee breaks, early-hour commutes and Gchats that suddenly diverge into conversations about the best grilled cheese cart in the neighborhood or the latest release on Netflix. These connections can spark up in the moments when the line between the personal and professional becomes very fine.
According to the CareerBuilder survey, "among those who have had an office romance, most say their office romance began at happy hour (12%), followed by late nights on the job (11%), lunches (11%) and chance meetings outside of work (10%)."
In that way, the office is the setting for that incubation period between meeting and dating that we struggle to experience in the "real world," without the same kind of intimate socializing and enclosed structure high school and college used to provide. As Mallory explained to Mic:
"As a child or teenager, you have school as a built-in daily social setting with certain amount of people that we are forced to interact with. The office is exactly that for adults. Not only that, coworkers have more in common on a day-to-day basis."
Gchat-flirt away, with caution: The stigma of dating someone you work with follows some potential romances around the office. The Career Builder survey found that more than one-third of workers who engage in office relationships tend to keep it on the down low. "Because I was in HR, we tried to keep it discreet for as long as possible," said Mallory. Then there's the potential for career-altering breakups. According to the CareerBuilder survey, 5% of workers who have had an office romance say they have left a job because of a breakup.
But most office romances and hookups don't strongly impact the workplace as much as you may think, as young workers like Jessica told Mic. And based on the new survey findings, it's only becoming more common.