People are busy. With long work weeks, school, and other activities, work-life balance for young professionals has been taking a hit. In the quest for love, busy schedules could hamper people’s ability to meet new people. As a result, they may often turn to meeting people at their workplace. 

Dating a coworker, while not against the law, could have several professional and personal implications. Nonetheless, such office romances are becoming increasingly common. 

A common occurrence 

According to Vault’s 2017 Office Romance survey, 57 per cent of respondents had engaged in a workplace romance of some sort, with one in 10 saying that they met their spouse at work. 

While younger people are more likely to be happily single, significant dating trends like this may still be true for our own generation since many people will have their network largely based on their workplace. After all, if you are spending 40 hours a week somewhere, you might as well take the time to meet the people you spend long hours with. 

The main appeal of dating someone in your workplace is that it is an easy and natural way to meet new people. Global News reported in 2019 that a survey by Report Linker found that 27 per cent of US adults look for potential dates at work. The physical proximity at work and the “mere-exposure effect” — a psychological phenomenon where simply being around someone often makes it more likely that we will like them — are some explanations for why we might fall for coworkers, in the same way that classmates might catch feelings for each other. 

Meeting people at work may help reduce the burden of navigating intimidating dating apps or otherwise finding people online. People are busy, and naturally, they look for those around them who are available.

Workplace-related concerns 

Since there are no laws barring workplace relationships, it is difficult for an employer to outright ban relationships between employees. Plus, people might simply hide their relationships. However, this doesn’t mean that employers have no power over the matter. 

Employers are free to set workplace policies that may limit personal relationships at work, such as a ban against public display of affection, preferential treatment, and more. These rules may fall within policies that ensure professionalism, or simply protect employees from sexual harassment and abuse in rightful anticipation of what a bad relationship fallout might entail. 

For these reasons, employers may want to know about a workplace relationship. Some companies may even have a disclosure policy if you are dating a coworker, and dishonesty may be a sufficient reason for dismissal. 

Whether or not you should date your coworker is another story. As an employee, it is important to consider all the factors involved, as well as your workplace’s policies regarding romances, harassment, and conflict of interests. Pay attention to whether these policies were in your contract, if managers or human resource employees actually implement them, and whether you trust that these people have had the training to handle a situation of conflict. Additionally, dating a coworker of a different seniority level creates a power imbalance and a potential conflict of interests. 

A student weighs in

Quinn Moroz is a third-year student in the Life Sciences program. She wrote in an email to The Varsity about her experience dating a coworker. Moroz met her boyfriend while working at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic. Since the clinic was going to shut down eventually, Moroz did not consider the potential fallout from a breakup.

“For us, I think the timing and situation were just right for a work relationship, and we were both good at keeping it completely professional, but at the end of the day it seems that workplace romance is difficult to do correctly,” wrote Moroz. 

“Balancing a relationship with work and school requires some planning and sacrifice on both our ends,” added Moroz  on how she balances her relationship commitments. “Something that worked for us is looking through our calendars to put at least one hour of time aside to talk, usually at night before we go to sleep, to check up on our relationship and air out our grievances so there’s no resentment undermining our relationship.” 

If you’re hitting it off with a co-worker, then a workplace relationship may just work out for you — but be prepared to handle the extra complications.