Academics have blamed the rise of internet dating and concerns that advances could be misinterpreted as sexual harassment in the wake of the #MeToo scandal. Picture: tOrange.biz

London - For decades, many workers have found their perfect match after locking eyes over the water cooler.

But it seems office romances are dying out – with just one in ten couples getting together in the workplace, research shows.

Academics have blamed the rise of internet dating and concerns that advances could be misinterpreted as sexual harassment in the wake of the #MeToo scandal.

The Stanford University study, based on surveys of straight Americans, found that the phenomenon of colleagues finding love was at its height during the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1995, nearly a fifth – 19 percent – said they had met "through or as co-workers", but the figure dropped to 11 percent by 2017. 

Over the same period, the number of those who said they met online increased from two percent to 39 percent. The research also found that the internet had displaced friends and family as the go-to matchmaker.

The proportion of couples introduced through friends fell from 33 percent in 1995 to 20 percent in 2017, while those meeting through family members went from 15 percent to seven percent.

The research follows concern over #MeToo’s impact on work relationships since the movement began nearly two years ago. Steve McKay, professor of social research at Lincoln University, said there was a growing gulf between what was acceptable online and in the office.

"Being accused of chatting someone up in the workplace is seen as more creepy, even if in the past it would be seen as quite normal," he told the Sunday Times.

Susanna Abse, of the British Psychoanalytic Council, noted a "prudish" attitude towards office romance. She said that those dating online "don’t have the opportunity you have at work, which is to be alongside somebody for months and months".

Daily Mail