Meeting your significant other at work is a taboo as old as time. It’s a scandal most try to avoid. In fact, I’m pretty sure one of the yielding warnings my mother offered up when I accepted my first full-time job involved engaging with an office romance.
Deciding to get involved with someone you share a cubicle with can be enticing for all the wrong (or right) reasons. There’s a reason Pornhub dedicates an entire category to workplace themed encounters — being naughty when you shouldn’t, with someone you shouldn’t, somewhere you shouldn’t — it’s hot.
However, I challenge its “Oh no you didn’t” status with, well, if not at work… where the bloody hell are you supposed to meet your potential future Mr or Mrs?
I’m a romantic at heart and I’m still waiting for my meet-cute moment in the grocery store or on an airplane — both soppy rom-com plots which seem wildly implausible, now more so than ever. Us single folk are out here trying to avoid people in the Woolies aisle, let alone trying to “smize” above our facemasks. Even in a BC (before COVID-19) time, the majority of millennials would rather find love IRL, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone on this.
When you spend 70% of the year at work, if you are on the market, and even if you aren’t (a story for another article), you’re naturally going to be browsing what’s on offer. Wondering how best to navigate an office romance and get out unscathed? Consider this advice from someone who didn’t listen to their Mum.
DO: Check it’s allowed
It might seem obvious, but some companies have a zero fraternisation policy — strictly no office romance allowed. So before you fall head over heels and start researching your Maldives honeymoon on your lunch break, make sure you’re playing by the rules.
They say you can’t put a price on love, but a missing paycheque may disagree.
DO: Make sure you’re genuinely interested in them
OK, so maybe they don’t have to be “the one,” but your feelings and initial instinct should be that you genuinely like them and believe there is an authentic spark. You’ll be putting yourselves out there and running the risk of having to continue to work together even if it doesn’t work out.
Do not risk it for the biscuit if it’s not the real deal. Satisfaction can be found elsewhere, so don’t go from professional to personal unless you mean it.
DON’T: Hook up with them for the first time blackout drunk
For the love of God, avoid the Christmas Party cliché.
There’s a reason there are so many bad movies about it. If you really do like each other, you should be making the effort to spend time actually getting to know each other without the liquid courage and not just saying “fuck it” (in all senses) because you’ve had too many Fireball shots.
Trust me, it’s not worth the hangover. Nor the hangxiety.
DO: Keep it on the DL at first
Take things slowly, especially when it comes to letting everyone from your CFO to the receptionist know you’re getting some action. I don’t condone lying, but a little secrecy can be exciting and something else you two share. When you finally get to escape at 6 PM and embrace down the block, it’ll be that much lustier.
DON’T: Keep your office romance private for too long
If you do, it can backfire for all parties involved.
There are only so many mornings in a row you can “coincidentally” walk in five minutes apart. You’ll eventually become stressed that people are catching on (they are), and it’ll make you question the relationship itself. Why don’t you really want people to know?
Find out if you’re on the same page, then make it official or cut it off. Share the news with your closest colleagues so you don’t let rumours — good or bad — spread like water cooler wildfire.
DON’T: Get yourself into a sticky situation with company property
I have vivid memories of furiously Googling “How to erase WhatsApp messages permanently” the day my then-BF was handing back in his work phone. I didn’t want anything NSFW or remotely raunchy falling into the delighted hands of the new sales rep hire.
Keep it classy and resist the urge to send an Outlook calendar invite for a recurring rendezvous in the printer room.
DON’T: Make it uncomfortable for everyone else
Leave all PDA and relationship drama in the elevator.
Hopefully, your colleagues are happy and supportive of you both finding love. However, this will quickly dissipate if you are caught smooching at the lunch table or having an ugly cry in the bathroom because you had a tiff the night before.
Keep the details as private as possible as, after all, you are there to work.
DON’T: Only talk about work
When you get home, that is your well deserved and much-required break from office BS.
It’s very easy to continue hashing out the day’s woes when the person you’re venting to totally gets it. But you’ll end up creating an imbalance between what’s yours as a couple and yours as colleagues.
Talk about literally anything else because it means you both won’t be thinking about that big meeting tomorrow but instead enjoying each other’s company and making memories special only to yourselves.
DO: Enjoy it
Some might frown upon it, sure, but life’s too short to sit back and watch an opportunity go by.
You obviously have a lot in common and those shared interests are a great gateway to a healthy relationship.
It’s also fun always having someone to go and get sushi with or send a cheeky message to whilst in the same room to see their reaction. It can be insanely attractive to see your person in boss mode. You will get a front-row seat to watching them be smart, strong and just generally kicking ass.
No one can guarantee how the story will end. The stakes might be higher, the fallout could be bigger, but you didn’t get to where you are in your career by playing it safe now did you?
The only other downside of an office romance: if you put a ring on it, you better know ahead of time who from the team is copping an invite to the wedding.