Larissa and Tom were attracted to each other immediately and within weeks knew that they wanted to be more than colleagues and friends.
While they worked together, they never considered this an issue. In fact, they didn’t go on any dates because they saw each other at work. And, surrounded by supportive colleagues who really just didn’t care about their relationship, it was smooth sailing.
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“Nothing about our relationship was secret or taboo and when you’re in a professional office environment I found it really easy and natural to act accordingly - we were never affectionate towards each other at work as we’d just feel weird doing anything 'relationshipy' in the office environment,” Larissa says.
“I think also because everyone in the office was aware of the relationship and there was nothing secret about it - it was easier for it not to be something of note to our colleagues or weird for other people.”
And, adds Tom, they worked on separate floors of the office, so there was still some distance maintained.
The surprising statistic
While 30 per cent of Australians have either been in or are in a romantic relationship at work, only 38 per cent of Australians believe it’s acceptable to start a romantic relationship at work, new insights from SEEK reveal.
Among this cohort, 20 per cent are baby boomers.
And, 42 per cent of Australians believe you shouldn’t work at the same place as your partner.
While Tom and Larissa no longer work at the same company, they’re both surprised by the figures.
“I think the fact that only 38 percent of people think it’s acceptable to have a relationship at work is ridiculous,” Larissa said.
“When you spend the majority of your life at work surrounded by people in the same industry/sharing the same passions/interests, in my mind, the workplace becomes one of the most likely places to find someone you’re attracted to.”
“I think it also depends on the emotional maturity of the two people involved in the relationship - I guess if it turns sour it can really destroy a job for those involved.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by SEEK psychologist Sabina Read.
“We spend so much of our time at work, often engaged with others on projects and challenges, so it makes sense that friendships and romantic bonds develop. However, relationships are complex at the best of times, so when workplace connections become intimate, the ripple effect can be significant.”
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However, 74 per cent of Australians admit they aren’t bothered by the idea of workplace romances, while four in five Australians think people should be able to be in a relationship with whoever they want.
“It probably depends on the job you're in and the workplace culture as to whether it's appropriate to start a relationship in the workplace,” Tom says.
“And it also depends on how serious the relationship is and whether the two people are mature enough to keep working together if the relationship doesn't work out… Everyone's situation is different so it's good to keep an open mind and find what works for you.”
How to navigate an office relationship
According to Amy Gallo, contributing editor at the Harvard Business Review, you need to know the risks before you embark on the romance.
In addition to the potential hurt feelings, you also need to be conscious of any potential conflicts of interest.
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Will you favour your colleague over other colleagues? This is an even bigger consideration if one of you has more power in the workplace than the other. Here, you should probably just back away and avoid the relationship altogether. It’s not a good look to date the boss, and can have serious career and personal ramifications.
You should also check out your company’s policies. They might explicitly prohibit workers from beginning relationships with coworkers.
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