Tim was 28 and had been married for two years when he started working as a commercial producer at a company in Santa Monica, California. He immediately took a liking to the receptionist, a tanned, friendly 25-year-old.
"She couldn't have been nicer or have represented the company in a more positive way," he recalls. "Also, there was her body."
When she was promoted to assistant producer, they had such a good time working closely togetherhe would give her advice about how to get ahead as a producer, she would IM him about music, and they would have a few beers after work together to unwindthat Tim began to look forward to arriving at the office the way some guys anticipate leaving it.
"My marriage started to go south," Tim, now 32, says. "Whether it was because of her, who knows? But I wasn't happy at home, and I was so happy going to work."
Six months after the flirtation began, Tim and his wife separated. A week later, he and the receptionist turned producer consummated their office flirtation. Soon they'd had sex in all seven of the company's editing suites.
If this sounds like the kind of scenario that exists only in porn movies, you should start looking up from your spreadsheets once in a while. Through the nineties, office affairs were typically confined to hurried liaisons after holiday parties or at boozy Las Vegas sales conferences. And even then, most men feared those dalliances would get them fired or sued for sexual harassment. But now sexual harassment claims have decreased21 percent fewer were filed in 2007 than in 1997and a more relaxed environment has well-paid professionals trolling the corridors for willing sex partners like the overheated colleagues on The Office do, without worrying about getting sued.
"There's an enthusiasm and almost brazenness on the part of employees [about] seeking out workplace romance," says Mark Oldman, cofounder of the career-information website Vault. "It doesn't carry the social stigma that it did." According to Vault's January 2008 survey of office workers, 46 percent said they'd had a workplace tryst, and 13 percent said they hadn't but were willing to.
It shouldn't be too hard for them. When Tim took a job at another company, leaving the assistant producer behind, it wasn't long before he began sleeping with a coworker at his new office.
Kevin, a 32-year-old website designer in New York, says he kept a mental inventory of the good-looking girls at the 250-person interactive agency he used to work for. During his seven years there he had eight liaisons, ranging from one-night stands to affairs to serious relationships.
Kevin was never sued over his intra-office fraternization, but he did get a reputation. One woman he slept with confronted him about his habit of fishing off the company pier. The fact that he was an admitted veteran of the office affair made him less appealing to her. "People like the idea that this is considered taboo," he says.