Is Flirting At Work Unprofessional? Workplace Ethics, Office Romance & Dating Tips

8th February 2022

At HR Online, we know there’s something a little taboo about the idea of office relationships, which perhaps explains why it’s such a contentious subject for many professionals. 

A study reports that 52% of UK office workers believe that office romances decrease productivity and creativity, although 74% of the same individuals report having been involved in a workplace affair. 

So, what gives?

Many people look to the stars for answers when it comes to their love lives. For others, it can also be tempting to look under the metaphorical cubicle partitions. The problem is that the lines between professional behaviour, finding a job and your personal life can become blurred when it comes to dating a colleague you see regularly. 

  • What are the workplace rules that apply? 
  • How do you navigate this situation? 

In this guide, we seek to answer these questions, and more.

How To Date In The Office & Keep Things Professional?

Keeping things professional makes for a healthy, happy work environment

Given the many pitfalls that come from mixing business with pleasure, it’s a good idea to have a plan for ensuring that your dating life and work-life remain separate.

The good news is, there is nothing wrong with office dating as long as both parties abide by a set of workplace ethics, boundaries, and don’t undermine trust in your team. The specific rules may differ depending on your professional situation, but in general, the best thing to do is to be considerate towards your significant other, company, and coworkers.

Without further ado, here are some tips on how to date at work:

Get Familiar With Company Policies On Relations


The first thing you should do in a budding office romance is to check your company policy. Most companies have strict rules about flirting, dating, and office relationships. 

For instance, Google famously discourages employees from dating people whom they manage or report to. Other companies may have anti-fraternisation or dating policies that encompass both managers and subordinates, or people from different departments.

Getting to know company policy also gives you time to make sure that you both agree on the pros and cons of dating someone from the office. 

  • Will one of you need to switch teams? 
  • Is it worth leaving the company if you can’t see them? 

Discussing company policy beforehand will help both of you avoid awkward confrontations in the future.

Once you know company policy, sit down with a trusted friend in HR and ask yourself if it is appropriate to date this person. If so, try to figure out where the company draws the line when it comes to dating between employees in professional contexts. 

Remember that your company’s policies are there for your protection as well as the company’s, so use them as a guide.

Manage Perceptions, Expectations & Where You Want To Be

Pursuing a romantic relationship with a coworker means navigating the awkward world of office politics. 

To avoid any drama: 

  • Do your best to stay professional at all times. 
  • Keep workplace discussions to career topics, and make sure that no one sees you going in and out of each other’s offices too often. 
  • Office gossip is the fastest way to get in trouble, so avoid acting like anything but professional.
  • Steer clear of giving your significant other any special favours or preferential treatment. This may seem obvious, but you should also be careful about actions or words that may be misconstrued by those around you. Even if you both agree that the relationship is above board, other people in the office may see it differently.

As long as you’re sensitive to those around you, dating a coworker should be a relatively drama-free experience. Just be sure not to play favourites or act unprofessionally. 

Remember – no love affair is worth a career misstep that could cost you your job!

Open Communication is Key

Cliché as this may sound, the best way to avoid problems in an office relationship is to be open and honest with each other. It’s not uncommon for couples to go through a period where they’re unsure if their feelings are reciprocated or if their partner wants to keep things strictly professional. Open communication allows you to establish ground rules that will keep both of you happy.

Don’t be afraid to discuss your respective feelings and expectations. 

  • What does dating in an office setting look like for both of you? 
  • Are they comfortable with casual eye contact? 

If anything seems unclear, ask about it until you’re satisfied with the answer. Both of you should be respectful of each other’s professional goals and boundaries, regardless of what is said in private.

Once you’ve both established firm rules, it’s easier to enjoy each other’s company in a healthy and balanced way. When you feel comfortable talking about what you want out of the relationship, it’s much easier to work through any problems that may arise down the line.

Seek Advice & Guidance

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. 

Many people are not comfortable dating coworkers, so don’t think you’re alone in your situation. In addition to a close friend or trusted family member, it never hurt s to get advice from an unbiased source who has been in a similar situation before. Married couples who have survived working together are often a great resource.

For some people, it might also be worth speaking to an employment attorney. If you are in a high-stakes position or are concerned about your company’s policies, it might be worth consulting with an expert who will help you define any legalities involved with dating a coworker.

Though it’s helpful to ask others for advice, don’t take everything that you’re told as the final say on how you should handle yourself in your relationship. 

Your friends and family may be sincere, but their advice is also coloured by their own personal experiences. If you know that your relationship with your coworker is beneficial to both of you and your work environment, it’s ok to ignore any unsolicited suggestions, even if they come from trusted sources.

Keep Your Personal Lives Personal

It’s a good idea to keep your personal and professional lives separate as much as possible. 

  • Avoid any discussions of your dating life with coworkers or supervisors. 
  • Resist the temptation to share anything with people at work about problems that go on outside office hours. This will help to avoid the workplace drama that comes with co-workers knowing about your personal life.
  • Be extremely careful about using work time or resources to carry out a relationship. 
  • Avoid long lunches with your significant other. 
  • Don’t text or email them during work hours or use company computers to plan your date nights
  • Never, ever ask a coworker to cover for you while you’re on a date with your new love interest.

Common sense will go a long way when it comes to keeping your personal and professional lives separate. When in doubt, ask yourself if the behaviour you’re considering is something that you would do with any other coworker. If it’s not, keep your distance until after work hours are over!

Office Dating, Remarks

We all love a good office romance, but there are some rules to follow to make sure that you uphold workplace ethics and keep your coworkers happy.

Follow the general rule: what you do in private is your business, but avoid bringing any workplace drama into it. Keep your personal and professional lives separate as much as possible. When in doubt, consult with others who might have more experience with dating coworkers, or speak to an attorney. 

Remember – the goal of every workplace relationship is to keep things professional, but always be open to falling in love.