Twenty-two percent of people meet their actual romantic partner at work, compared to 13% online and 18% through friends. Picture: Pixabay

Are you developing a crush on one of your colleagues? Read this professional advice before going head-first into a relationship, writes Marchelle Abrahams.

We spend an average of up to 47 hours per week at work. It’s only natural that some of us would develop a little crush on a colleague or co-worker. Even the latest stats from online career portal totaljobs show a definite inclination towards the trend.

They found that 22 percent of people meet their actual romantic partner at work, in comparison to 13 percent online and 18 percent through friends.

“Most adults spend a minimum of 1 680 hours per year in the office, so you are likely to spend more time with your co-workers than almost anyone else,” David Brudö, the chief executive and co-founder of mental well-being app Remente, told The Independent UK.

“While you do not have a say in who your co-workers are, chances are that you will have common interests,” he said.

Relationship counsellor and author Gregory L Jantz made reference to this when writing for Psychology Today on why professional relationships often turn romantic.

“Effort, intensity, time and togetherness create a potent combination, often vital to completing a given assignment. This sense of connection can, in turn, lead to intimacy,” he writes.

“The more time people spend together, the more comfortable they may become with each other. The more comfortable people become, the more they share.

“The more they share, the more they begin to view themselves as a couple, partnered together.”

Many of us have workplace spouses, but what happens when that line becomes blurred? Picture: Tosaylib

It’s no wonder that we’re catching feelings behind the water cooler.

Mediator, divorce and relationship coach Stacey Lewis agrees, stating that when you’re at work, you often assume a “work persona”: “It is not usually appropriate to bring one’s issues to work,” she says.

“As a result of this, it is often possible to be perceived in one’s best light in the workplace. This, together with the fact that you spend a large amount of time with work colleagues, could set the stage for the blossoming of a workplace romance.”

Besides the close proximity, there seems to be other reasons why people decide to embark on workplace relationships.

Robert E Quinn is the co-founder of the Centre for Positive Organisations in the US.

The author and motivational speaker has done extensive research on the topic and found that there are three main motivations for workplace liaisons: love, job motivation and ego (personal excitement, adventure, sex).

The latter may be a big contributing factor. It’s the excitement of getting caught and keeping things under wraps.

Also, contrary to our forward thinking attitudes, there’s still a stigma attached to dating a co-worker. This could be why many prefer to keep things discreet.

According to the totaljobs survey, about 60% said they felt the pressure to act more professionally when they were in a work relationship, and 51% said they were concerned about gossip.

Google workplace romances and the general consensus is: Just don’t do it! There are many cautionary tales of broken hearts.

However, there seems to be a gap between reality and attitudes towards workplace romantic relationships. Each of us knows someone who met their partner at work. Maybe it worked out, maybe it didn’t.

If you’re a fan of British TV series The Office, you’ll know Dawn and Tim never really managed to get together until the very last episode. Picture: YouTube

Relationship coach and professional matchmaker Kas Naidoo says that when two people strike up a romance in the office, it comes down to maturity as well as their position in the business.

“If both people are mature enough to understand that there is a possibility of the relationship not working, and they are both sure that they will be able to part ways without it adversely affecting their work, then I don’t see a problem,” she adds.

“However, in my years of experience as a relationship coach and matchmaker, it is very seldom that people are actually able to remain friends after a breakup.”

Lewis is of the same opinion: “In a normal relationship situation, you would be able to have a clean break after a break-up and it may even be possible that you may never have to encounter an ex-partner again.

“In this situation, you would still have to relate to each other as colleagues. If it ended badly, this may temper the way you relate to each other as colleagues and may have a negative impact on working relationships and the work environment.”

Nonetheless, she does have sage advice for those who are happy to follow their hearts: Be conscious in your relationship and aware of appropriate boundaries at the workplace.