Among the spectator sports at the office, one of the very favorites is romance-watching. And an intramural romance has about the same chance of escaping detection as a receptionist has of getting a $50,000 Christmas bonus.

Nevertheless, many of the smitten try to be secretive at first. From junior clerks to senior executives, they can be as coy as 13-year-olds, especially at the approach stage.

Suddenly the computer programmer starts making two trips a day across a whole building to sharpen his pencils in the sales department . . . or the accountant decides that certain memos should be hand-delivered . . .or the personnel manager opts to attend meetings she had shunned before. And almost as suddenly, half the company knows who is interested in whom.

Some of these hopeless subterfuges can even persist into the early stage of dating, while new ones also appear.

The clock-watching secretary begins to work later than her boss. the sandwich-at-his-desk type starts leaving the building for two-hour lunches the same time someone else does. Two people form a car pool that makes no geographic or economic sense. Or, in a high-tech version of grammar school, John and Mary pass notes to each other on their computer terminals.

Before long, of course, the remarks of their cohorts make it clear to every couple that their relationship is far from a secret. And once it's acknowledged, people start openly taking stands.

It's not quite true that all the office loves a lover. Extramarital affairs still meet with disapproval. And even "eligibles" are not universally cheered. Sometimes there will be friends of one who put down the other because of personal dislike or the local caste system. ("You've got corporate clients and he draws up wills!") Occasionally there will be a third party who's jealous. And coworkers can get annoyed if constant romancing during office hours interferes with their own jobs.

Generally, though, most of us will be rooting for the new team, with a soft spot in our hearts in spite of the teasing on our lips. And if they should marry, there will be an outpouring of good feeling and generous giving that is seldom matched when only the bride or groom is a company employe. Apparently we're particularly touched when we've been so privy to a romance as it unfolded.

Considering what softies we are, I can hardly believe that there are companies, as I'm told, which prohibit employes from dating one another. And I find this harder still to justify, even on the most cold-blooded grounds. A company with no sympathy for our humanity will have fewer humans to choose from. And people do make the best personnel.