Study Finds Office Culture, Not Corporate Policy, Deters Most Workers from Dating a Colleague

September 2, 2008 – Grand Rapids, MI – Nearly half of office workers surveyed in the United States see advantages to an office romance, but an overwhelming majority choose to pursue love elsewhere due to office politics and perceptions. These results are the second in a four-part Workplace Index Survey of 279 workers on the nature of work commissioned by Steelcase, a global office environments manufacturer.

While only 17 percent of respondents have engaged in an office romance, many see personal advantages to dating a coworker. Just under 50 percent of American workers (47 percent) would enjoy dating a colleague that understands the issues they face at work, and 42 percent believe that their mood would improve, encouraging them to go to work each morning. A third of respondents would also welcome the ease of coordinated personal and professional lives.

Despite the lack of official restrictions on office romance – only a quarter of respondents said that their company prohibits office relationships – most employees are influenced by the unwritten rules of the work environment. Nearly 90 percent of office workers cite awkwardness if the relationship does not last as a chief deterrent, while 80 percent want to avoid being the subject of office gossip. Furthermore, 65 percent of respondents believe an office relationship is looked down upon by their work colleagues.

Gossip aside, there is hope for those who choose to pursue an office romance. Of respondents who have dated a coworker, a third of the relationships were long-term, and 15 percent led to an engagement or marriage.

Additional survey findings include:

  • 17 percent of respondents have dated a co-worker.
  • 85 percent of respondents believe an office romance would be a workplace distraction.
  • 74 percent of respondents believe they would have a difficult time drawing the line between their work and personal life if they engaged in an office romance.
  • 53 percent of respondents said their office romance was unsuccessful.
  • 43 percent of respondents know someone who has had an office romance.
  • 12 percent of respondents know someone who has had a long-term relationship with a coworker, while 34 percent know a coworker that turned an office romance into an engagement or marriage.

A similar European study found that 82 percent of respondents in France, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom have not dated a coworker. In the United States, 83 percent of respondents have not dated a coworker
The Steelcase Workplace Index Surveys address pertinent issues in today’s work environment. This continual workforce feedback is essential to the development of Steelcase’s knowledge of the workplace and to the company’s product development and corporate ventures aimed to increase worker effectiveness and productivity.

Results of parts 3 and 4 in the Nature of Work in 2008 series examine naps at work and social networking. Past surveys have covered working on office gossip, vacation, ergonomics and workspace personalization. Further information on workplace issues is available in the knowledge center on Steelcase’s Web site at

About Steelcase Inc.
Steelcase, the global leader in the office furniture industry, helps people have a better work experience by providing products, services and insights into the ways people work. The company designs and manufactures architecture, furniture and technology products. Founded in 1912 and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Steelcase (NYSE:SCS) serves customers through a network of over 600 independent dealers and approximately 13,000 employees worldwide. Fiscal 2008 revenue was $3.4 billion.

Jeanine Holquist