Threat of sexual harassment aside, work is one of the best breeding grounds for romance around. Yet could it be on the road to extinction?

High gas prices are forcing employers to allow more employees to work from home. And, worse still, the down economy has caused some to lose their jobs altogether. But all hope is not lost.

The office as a hub for romance has long been an area of intrigue. Inadvertently inviting opportunities for intimacy, it affects many in the workplace. A 2008 study by Vault.com found that 46 percent of respondents had been involved with an office romance. A 2006 CareerBuilder.com survey found that 34 percent of respondents married a fellow co-worker.

This is no surprise given professionals typically spend more time in the office than anywhere else. Having no time to meet someone -- for sex and/or love -- it’s only natural that coworkers become potential partners. Between spending long hours together and learning a lot about each other, coworkers can easily fall for each other and/or fall into bed.

Yet the times, they are a ’changin.’ A growing number of employers are allowing their workers to operate from home. Thanks to Governor Tim Kaine’s efforts, Virginia alone has 5,000 state employees “teleworking,” with thousands more eligible for this incredibly convenient setup.

Being self-employed myself, I’ve been milking the benefits of working from home for years. I’ve been known to get up before dawn, brew a pot of coffee, and work ‘til noon - in my pajamas. It’s great, as many are now realizing.

Working from home requires no commute or transportation costs. You save money by not eating out for lunch. You’re in charge of your own flexible schedule. You don’t have to deal with any annoying coworkers. You don’t have to face a boss who might make you feel ill at ease ...

Much to their surprise, employers are finding that these perks are resulting in greater productivity. This is major in forecasting the future, including the hit our love lives are going to take.

Much to their employees’ chagrin, working from home is slowly going to hurt one’s “game.” With the office regarded as a main source of romantic encounters, many singles may be wondering how they’re going to meet, fall in love, and marry someone special. I’ve certainly thought about such, on occasion, given my working from home status.

Teleworking wipes out opportunities work-wooers have been taking for granted. They’re no longer developing friendships with potential beaus. They’re no longer sharing meals or flirting with co-workers at after-work “happy hours.” They no longer have easy access to potential passion.

Needless to say, working from home can kill your love life. While stellar with your work load, you can easily find yourself a sloth when it comes to seduction efforts. Since you don’t have to dress up, do your hair, or throw on make up daily, it can be really easy to do no more than shower before throwing on sweats. It can be really easy to leave finding love up to the universe -- and then doing nothing to make it happen.

Even weekend efforts risk being lackadaisical. Your off days can sneak up on you and you realize that you haven’t made any plans. Your “work hard, play hard” crew has been disbanded. No one is there to motivate you to hit the scene as you once did, including your boss. Your work social calendar has also taken a hit. Being a teleworker often means no longer having to attend work functions, holiday parties, birthday parties, company picnics ... basically any of those oft-mandatory fetes, often dreaded, that invite non-threatening opportunities to flirt.

So what’s a single to do? First, get out of the house. In conquering this feat, you can look for love at:

— A wine tasting

— Coffee shop

— Bookstore

— Bar/nightclub/pub/pool hall/hotel lounge

— Speed dating events

— Charity events or volunteer activities

— The park

— Parties, e.g., cocktail party

— Gallery openings

— Gym

— Grocery store

— Church groups

— Sporting events

— Planes and trains (basically, any means of public transportation)

If you don’t make it out of the house, there are always online match-making companies or networking Web sites, like Facebook. And you can still roll the dice with a “telework” romance. After all, many prefer meeting people via work to blind dates and online dating Web sites. While not as convenient as meeting face-to-face, teleworking romance has its plusses.

First, in getting things going, it gives you the excuse to meet casually outside of work. And once things heat up, you can be discreet. It minimizes the risk of the relationship being “leaked.” It involves no office gossip, jealousy, tension or the threat of the head honcho finding out (unless you’re dating the boss). Finally, it helps you to keep your professionalism in tact, especially if things take a nosedive, much like the economy.

In Know Sex News …

Sex Education Growing Online. In light of a lack of comprehensive sex education in public schools, much needed information is being increasingly offered online. Companies like SexHealthGuru.com are offering browsers short video segments on topics like safer sex, sexually transmitted infections, contraception, pregnancy, and orgasm.

Illinois Hospitals Lacking Adequate Sexual Assault Care. A survey of comprehensive medical care management (CMCM) for sexual assault victims found that very few hospitals in Illinois provide sufficient care for victims. Ideal CMCM includes acute medical care upon presentation, rape crisis counseling, infection management, the provision of emergency contraceptives, and HIV management. Sexual assault affects 17 million women in the United States.

Economic and Psychological Impact of STDs Examined. A study from the University of Washington finds that risk factors for recent diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection in those ages 18 to 27 include: childhood sexual abuse, frequent alcohol use, depression, and gang participation.

Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."

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