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Can Office Romance Work?
Things to consider before you leap

Generation ago, working full-time was defined as Monday through Friday, 9-5. Then, some years back, the professional's hours became 9-6 (and beyond!). These days, technology means people are accessible to the workplace nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week via the Internet, cell phones and blackberries. All of this working doesn't leave much time for relaxing, nevermind dating!

Yet, love remains at the top of most people's agendas. So how is the single professional supposed to find it? The answer is simple (and increasingly more common). It's true that more and more people are finding love on the job. While inter-office dating is still not completely acceptable in some circles - not to mention sexual harrassment laws - studies reveal that work is one of the most common places couples meet. In fact, four in ten of us admit to having been romantically linked to a co-worker.

People who work together tend to have things in common - even if it's only where they spend the bulk of their time. Add to this an increasingly casual workplace, where co-workers often become friends, and it's easy to understand how something more develops. It's not always easy - or considered acceptable (especially if your romantic interest is a boss or subordinate) - to pair up at work. So if you're one of the hard working unattached millions, who's considering a workplace relationship, this one's for you!

Before you ask
Get to know your potential paramour well before you ask them out. Because you work together, there are far more consequences to a "bad night" than in other situations. Make sure you have enough of a rapport to "talk about it later" should things not go well. Know what you're getting into as much as you can. If you take things slower, there is less of a chance that things will end badly. If you ask someone out at work and they say "no" don't ask them again. This could spell trouble for you with Human Resources.

Know your business
One of the first things you should think about before you consider proceeding on a crush or some chemistry, is your company's policy on dating within the office. If it's forbidden, you have to be willing to leave if a romance pans out. If it's not, you have to consider the climate anyway.

If your company doesn't have a policy, don't think it's a get-out-of-jail-free card. You may still have to deal with some sideways stares, which is nothing compared to the awkwardness you'll face should things not work out. In short, weigh things wisely, particularly if you're breaking the rules. If you simply want to make out with the cute person in marketing but don't see much relationship potential, you probably don't want to go there (unless you like being the focus of gossip). On the other hand, if all that time with the cutie from credit has led to a serious connection, the risk may be worth it.

Game on
If you do decide to date a co-worker, set up some rules from the get go. First and foremost, agree that no matter what happens, you will maintain a "civilized" working relationship. This means that whether you go on one date and don't hit it off, or wind up seriously involved a few months later and in the middle of a spat, you will avoid awkwardness at work. Of course you'll have to revisit this issue depending on what happens along the way - breakups, arguments, whatever. But it's important to address the possible complications upfront - whether it's for one night or the rest of your life!

Mistaken identity
The number one rule in office romance is don't mistake excitement for a relationship. Let's face it: any activity that feels clandestine (secret kisses at the car, lunch dates passed off as meetings, longing stares across the corridor) is going to provide a certain thrill factor. Even if you haven't acted on your feelings, just the tension can sometimes be enough to significantly increase the sparks you're sensing. This feeling of chemistry can be real or simply linked to the inherent naughtiness in something that has to be kept a secret. In many cases, it's a little bit of both. Just rememeber real attraction and forbidden behavior can combine to create a powerful elixir that may feel stronger than it really is.

Public displays
Sure PDA is tempting… the after-hours quickie in the conference room or the stairwell session under the guise of a Starbuck's run. But trust us, you'll live to regret it! Whether it's the maintenance man, the CEO or worse (a surveillance camera that catches you in the act!), someone is bound to see you sooner or later. No matter how good the action, it won't be worth the rumors, embarrassment and possible consequences to your career! Be smart and ask yourself, Would it feel as thrilling if the entire office knew the details or could see me? Never mind what it will feel like if it turns into a sexual harassment case - and it can!

The end
If you do wind up involved with someone at work, don't forget what you originally came to the office to do: your job! It can be easy (particularly if you spend a lot of time with that person each day) to spend less time working and more time chatting or flirting, but the simple truth is this: an office romancer needs to do a great job at their job. You never want to hear that you got the promotion because you were sleeping with the boss.

You decrease your odds of facing this awkward situation by always doing your best at work - and remaining uninvolved in what your partner does, if not professionally, than on a personal level, at least while you're inside the office!

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