Office romances may be at a low, yet 36% of us still report dating a co-worker. Further, considering that another study says that 76% of its survey participants would be secretive about any office romance, if any of our co-workers are good at keeping secrets, that number could be much higher.

All this is to say that love, or some degree of it, does happen at work. Here is what you need to know if you are attracted to a co-worker.

That was easy!

While it is not as simple as pushing a button, the cleanest way from an HR standpoint, of having a relationship at work is to date someone outside of the direct line of influence. In other words, neither party in the relationship has the power to positively or negatively influence the other person’s work life.

That’s part one. Part two would be to also sign a love contract. Love contracts are an employer’s version of a prenup, in which both parties admit they are having a relationship and agree to several terms.

Generally, those terms are acknowledgments that the relationship is consensual, mutual and that they both know and understand the organization’s sexual harassment policies and will keep the company informed if they break up.

Complicated or complex?

Conversely, if one of the parties in the relationship can influence the other’s work life, the situation gets a little trickier.

In larger offices, assuming the parties admit it up front or someone finds out, one of the parties may be able to move to another office or department and maintain the relationship. However, in many smaller companies, this may not an option.

Thus, it is best for the couple to work with HR or leadership to figure out what is best for everyone. This can be challenging because if both parties remain working in the same place, it can at best be awkward and at worst co-workers will perceive disparities of treatment within the workplace.

Further, although approximately a third of office romances end in marriage, the other two-thirds do not. When that happens, one party ends up in a position to make the other party’s work life very uncomfortable.

Next steps

While it might seem ideal for organizations to create fraternization policies compelling enough to overcome love, it is better to be realistic. We spend a lot of time with people at work, often in intense situations and commonly in situations that afford us the opportunity to share and learn a lot about ourselves and our co-worker.

Because of this, many of us have work spouses. The problem is, a number of factors can “fast-forward relationships from work to personal.”

Thus, before crossing the line from having a partner-in-crime to commiserate with about work to increasing the number of outfits in your wardrobe that transition easily from office to evening, understand the policies, go into the relationship with eyes wide open, and realize that at least two careers could be at stake.