Office Grace

Here’s a multiple choice question: What do young professionals spend most of their time doing?

A. Working

B. Sleeping

C. Leisure and sports activities

D. Washing their footwear from the Hunt

E. Household activities

The answer, of course, is working. In fact, it’s not even close: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, persons employed full time spent 9.1 hours working on an average weekday, 7.6 hours sleeping, 3.0 hours doing leisure and sports activities, and 0.9 hours doing household activities.

Given those stats, it’s easy to see why office romances happen as often as they do. If a person is spending three times as much time working (9.1 hours) than playing (3.0), the chances of meeting someone with similar interests and backgrounds inside the corporate salt mines over an average 45-hour workweek seems as likely as a printer experiencing a paper jam.

In fact, career publisher Vault reports that 58 percent of employed Americans between the ages of 25-40 have admitted to having an office romance (and since some of these “romances” were likely done while one or both parties involved are married or in serious relationships, that number is likely higher). To take matters a step further, 23 percent admit to having sex in the office. That said, be wary of that large conference room table the next time you put your breakfast bagel down without a plate…that may not be cream cheese left behind.

The advantages of an office courtship are easy to list: For starters, time spent socializing no longer needs to be used to try to find a significant other since he or she is already willing and able to go to Happy Hour once those damn TPS reports are completed before deadline.

Dating someone in the office also makes going to work much more tolerable. Sure, you may loathe the job itself, but since that special someone who is sitting only two cubes away is available for flirty emails, holding-hands-across-the-table lunches and the aforementioned exhilarating elevator or conference room keep-the-change quickie, suddenly those tedious weekdays ain’t so bad…

Mentioned earlier in this column was the important built-in benefit of meeting someone at work with similar interests and backgrounds…and that’s huge when choosing a worthy potential partner from the otherwise muddled dating pool. For example, let’s say you work in finance. The girl or guy you’re dating, who happens to work for the same company in the same building, does the same. You therefore know that she likely majored in the same field as you, likely runs in a similar circle of friends, and most definitely will be willing to listen to every complaint you may have about working for that particular company or in the industry in general, which many non-same-office-couples do the moment they get home from their respective jobs.

Another plus: He or she won’t beg you to stay in a bed a little longer and certainly won’t bitch about you not being able to meet for dinner because you’re working late. The understanding and common ground has been already been established. And as we all know, managing expectations in a relationship is everything.

Of course, the reasons listed above only sound like optimum conditions because they are written in a context of when things are going well between two co-workers in a non-platonic relationship.

But when an office romance crumbles, well, the pain seems to certainly outweigh the pleasure.

According to a survey by Monster Worldwide last year, 35 percent of U.S. employees said that office romance should not be allowed because it leads to too many problems. Of course, this depends on how seriously you take your career or how much you enjoy working at a particular company.

If you don’t care about the job, let the buttons fly. However, if your job is your profession, a place where you want to exceed your goals and go all the way to the top, keep those pants on. The loss of integrity and respect when you unsuccessfully date people at work may be too much to overcome, as your co-workers may believe you’re only there to add a few more notches to the bedpost.

Another reason to avoid familiar relations at the office: Too much exposure to your boyfriend/girlfriend/co-worker. Being in steady contact with the person you happen to be sleeping with may cause tension within the relationship. Everyone, particularly men, yearns for private reflection time, going out with friends and fulfilling hobbies. Therefore, going to work and going home and waking up with the same person may cause the relationship to implode under its own weight.

Dating colleagues can also be harmful to a relationship, particularly between those who may be vying for the same promotion, thereby impairing any existing relationship. And if a breakup occurs, it only gets even more awkward when one party enjoys career advancement, while the other is left behind. Accusations of favoritism may manifest, and let’s not forget a career-threatening sexual harassment suit that, even if unfounded, will destroy one’s reputation within the walls of that company forever.

Ultimately, we are a generation that lives and dies by instant gratification. If an office hottie—man or woman—seems interested in grabbing a drink after work for reasons outside of relieving stress or basic thirst, most of us will conveniently forget about the ramifications of the office romance in the unending pursuit of true love, lust, or morbid curiosity.

The basic fact is, the cons of such actions will not prevent most from exploring the temptation of convenient and possibly, compatible affection.

Just don’t say you weren’t warned…

Now get back to work.