| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Nov 1 Gone is the time when dating a
co-worker was a hush hush affair.
These days, single people in search of romance or a life-time
partner have a much better chance finding that special person at
work rather than at bars or online, say authors Stephanie Losee
and Helaine Olen in their book "Office Mate: The Employee Handbook
for Finding - and Managing - Romance on the Job" (Adams Media,
The reason is simple. People just spend way too much time at
work, and that's where they really get to know potential mates and
see how they handle a wide range of situations.
"Your office is your little village," Olen told Reuters in an
interview. "And most relationships that evolve in the office tend
to evolve from friendships and not from instant physical
attraction. In a certain way, office relationships are more
Old-fashioned or not, the truth is that office dating is
fairly common. After more than a year researching and writing the
book, the authors found out that about 50 percent of U.S.
respondents admitted to having dated co-workers, while the number
in a similar British study was 70 percent.
Office romances are not only raising fewer and fewer eyebrows,
Losee said, but now they are more likely to get the blessing of
bosses and human resource departments.
According to the book, fewer than 5 percent of human resource
professionals in the United States felt that office romance should
be prohibited and, in 2006, only 9 percent of American firms had
blanket bans on relationships.
"For companies, it is becoming more a matter of how to manage
dating and romance in the workplace and less of a matter of
preventing it from happening," said Olen.
Some employers might even encourage dating because
productivity and commitment tend to increase when people are
Intended as a primer for readers looking to spark an office
romance without jeopardizing their careers, the book offers some
common-sense guidelines for the office dater, including tips on
when to make your "merger" with a coworker public.
But "Office Mate" also warns that workplace dating has its
pitfalls. The risks now are less related to possible sexual
harassment lawsuits than intense peer and corporate scrutiny.
"There's a lot at stake in the office and you have to
remember that everybody is watching, all the time," said Olen.
"You may have met your mate at work, but you should not conduct
your romance at work."
For example, office couples often tend to get careless with
company property and premises.
The authors recommend that you never to use e-mail or instant
messaging to communicate with your honey, don't hang out around
each other's desks, never fight at work, no favoritism and above
all, no office hanky panky.
"It's very hard, for example, to control the impulse of
using e-mails to communicate even about harmless things," said
Losee. "But people have to remember that nothing is really
private in an office."
Breakups are another delicate area. The book suggests that the
couple should discuss early on in the relationship how to behave
after a break-up.
"It sounds harsh at the initial stage of romance to discuss
the possible end of the relationship," Olen said. "But it may
help avoid a lot of awkward situations."
But according to "Office Mate," that's not a situation every
office couple will have to handle. Roughly a quarter of couples
who meet at work end up in long-term committed relationships.
That's certainly true of the authors, both of whom have been
married for more than a decade to men they met at the office.
"Office dating works," said Losee. "And that's why people keep