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Crossing the Line: Relationships at Work

relationships at work

For many of us, work takes up a huge chunk of the week, and we often see our colleagues more than some of our own family! But how often does this turn into friendship, or even something more? Relationships at work can be platonic or romantic, but are they ever a good idea?

We surveyed 2,000 Americans across a range of industries, to reveal the sectors and work environments where people are most likely to make friends and enjoy romantic relationships. Discover which generation is most open to office romance, how many of your co-workers are likely to fancy the boss, and the odds of that colleague you crush on liking you back.

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How common are relationships at work?

Many workplaces are social settings, with conversation and engagement often straying beyond business chat. But how common are office relationships and friendships, and how likely are Americans to develop feelings for their co-workers?

Office romances

Despite the added layer of risk associated with an office romance, our research interestingly reveals that only a third of Americans are wholly opposed to relationships at work. In fact, according to our survey, 7% of Americans met their spouse at work, 19% have had a romantic relationship with someone from the office, and half would consider a workplace fling or affair.

And the rest of us aren’t shy in showing our affection either. A third of Americans would admit to having a crush on a colleague, 15% have romantically messaged a co-worker outside of office hours, and 1-in-10 would admit to having feelings for their boss.

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Making friends at work

But of course, not all relationships at work are of the romantic sort, and many people find their closest friends in the office, whether from bonding over a break room coffee or heading out to lunch as a team. In fact, as many as 94% of Americans consider their colleagues to be more than acquaintances, with over half (52%) making close friends in the office.

Office relationships by age and gender

Office romance has long-felt like somewhat of a taboo topic for many people, but we seem to be shifting away from this way of thinking. According to our research, Americans aged 18-24 are by far the most accepting of workplace relationships, with two thirds open to the possibility and 10% currently in a relationship with a colleague. Compare this to those aged 65+, of which less than half approve.

By gender, men (24%) are much more likely to consider a workplace relationship than women (16%). 4-in-10 males admitting to having a crush on a co-worker and 10% harboring feelings for their boss. Meanwhile, just a third of women contemplate romance with a colleague. And less than 1-in-10 (8%) have a crush on their boss.

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Which sectors are most likely to see workplace relationships?

Turning our attention to the workplace – which sectors are most likely to see friendship and romance between co-workers?

The industries to enter to make friends at work

As far as platonic relationships go, environment and agriculture is the best industry to enter to make friends. 4-in-5 say they’re close to their colleagues – perhaps thanks to the informal setting and the absence of traditional annoying co-worker habits. Closely behind, the following industries complete the top ten for making friends:

  • Business, consulting, and management (73%)
  • Information technology (70%)
  • Leisure, sport, and tourism (64%)
  • Recruitment and HR(63%)
  • Accountancy, banking, and finance (62%)
  • Charity and voluntary work(60%)
  • Marketing, advertising, and PR (59%)
  • Engineering and manufacturing (59%)
  • Social care (57%)

However, those in retail are the least likely of any industry to make friends at work. Just 36% of these workers are close to their colleagues.

Which setting is best for workplace romance?

When it comes to romance, it’s the science and pharmaceuticals industry that steals the show. Half of these workers are open to the possibility of a workplace romance. The next most likely sectors for office relationships are:

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Interestingly, those in law and law enforcement are among the least likely to engage in relationships at work. They’re alongside Americans working in the transport, energy and utilities, and education sectors.

With people returning to the workplace, it’ll be interesting to see how many co-workers can’t get enough of each other this year. Will we see a spike in workplace romance in 2022?


This article was originally published on Moneypenny.com and has been modified for Sass.

relationships at work

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