One of the main storylines from the hit TV show “The Office” centered around the romantic relationship of characters Jim and Pam. The two started the show as flirty friends who dangled a will-they-won’t-they line in front of the audience before finally falling in love, getting married and having children.
It seems now that storyline has become more fact than fiction.
According to The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Feintzeig, workers in their 20s and 30s are more comfortable with dating their co-workers than older workers are. Experts told Feintzeig that modern workers are more likely to blend their personal lives with their professional lives because of social media and the open-office mentality, which opens doors for social and dating situations for co-workers.
Employees often work around the clock, too, and that keeps them in the office or with co-workers longer, Feintzeig reported.
“We get a lot of personal needs met through organizations,” Renee Cowan, an assistant professor at the University of Texas in San Antonio told Feintzeig. “It’s just kind of a natural thing to meet people at work.”
Office relationships often have good results, too. One-third of office romances end in marriage, according to a 2012 survey from Career Builder. And most workers don’t see office romances as much of a problem as long as the workers remain productive.
This new wave of office romance has caused many companies to rewrite their dating policies. WSJ’s report talks of American Apparel Inc., which rewrote its code to forbid relationships between managers and subordinates, or where one of the workers has power within the company, according to Feintzeig.
In part, this is to mitigate potential issues from breakups. According to Business News Daily, when office romances end badly, some employees leave their companies, which costs employers money searching for replacements.
But companies have made things work before, despite breakups. Laura O’Neill and Ben Van Leeuwen, for example, were a married couple who started Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream in 2008 (along with Van Leeuwen’s brother Pete). Laura and Ben broke up in 2012, but their business still functions today because they decided to focus on business and put their relationship issues behind them.
"We talk about the business all the time," O’Neill said to Fast Company. "We’re very much still in the ‘head-down’ phase to grow the business into something that can sustain the three of us … No one is getting rich right now. It’s all about all of us working really hard and being really respectful of each other and making it a very good work environment."