Rules of engagement
A nine-to-five workday spent dangerously close with the opposite sex in a sequestered office cubicle makes it painstakingly difficult for things not to get steamy once in a while. While it's best to keep those teenage kicks to yourself now that you're a responsible twenty or thirty- something working man or woman, a fortuitous side-glance from the other party may be that green light you've been waiting for since the first day at work. Good vibes followed by some good old-fashioned courtship have all the makings of a happy ending, but keep in mind some common-sense yet oft-violated rules.
Hands (and eyes) off until you're off the clock
Tempting as it might be to flash an apparently private smile to your significant other now and then, how long before you're staring off in the wrong direction in the middle of a board meeting? Inattentive to your fellow co-workers and outright disrespectful to your higher-ups, public displays of affection are undeniably unprofessional. While raising eyebrows is one thing, don't give superiors and peers extra reason to put you under scrutiny by being clumsy with your workplace romance (they probably have enough reasons as it is.)
It may seem impossible at first to resist rushing over to your SO's desk every time you find a cute cat GIF, but being within close quarters of each other at work is an invitation for trouble. Department changes may not be as feasible an option in this country as it's played out to be in movies, so make sure to keep your time together at the workplace reasonable. Savour the half-hour lunch and tea breaks and avoid making the rest 99 percent of the office feel uncomfortable and unwelcome every single time the two of you are within breathing distance of one another. For all you know, you might just be doing your career a disfavour each time you decide to discuss lovey-dovey mumbo-jumbo with your beau instead of the latest EPL match with your boss.
Don't break the rules because of love
As preposterous and insensitive it may seem to you for the company to have an anti-progressive conservative take on office romances, your job does come first. Keep those budding feelings on a leash, especially if there is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to fraternisation. This of course might not be the case, but if it's smooth sailing for you and your lover all the way, you may finally have to fill out a form for that department change. No matter how discreet and sensible a pair might be, too close a working relationship will invite problems for everyone.
Other than rules pertaining to general professionalism, there's always the HR side of matters. Put off making that grand first move until you actually know the person—you can never be too sure as to what he or she might find harassing. Best to steer clear of a super awkward conversation with the HR coordinator. And chances are you won't even get away with a relatively harmless section transfer.
The other big no-no when it comes to workplace romance is dating your boss or subordinate. This one probably need not even be mentioned—any normal person would and should find the idea of it wholly unethical (and a little gross). Yet this is hardly uncommon. You probably don't want your lover to have control over your pay as well as your career path (isn't the thought of it suffocating enough?). And if you two have a falling out, best case scenario is you're going to have to see the face of the man or woman who ruined your life for the rest of eternity, or at least a very, very long time.
Equally inexcusable and despicable is doing your sweetheart's cumbersome expense reports and project proposals for them. Unless you're doing everybody else's work for them as well, don't do your girlfriend's or boyfriend's. Most colleagues would react badly to such displays of favouritism (and can you blame them?), Also, there's got to be something somewhere in that big book of company code of conduct against it.
Skip the love notes
There's probably nothing standing in the way of you and your lover having an intense half day-long Facebook conversation. However, when it comes to one-on-one time with your SO, it's best to keep the intimate stuff offline. As risqué and appealing a quick flirtatious message might be, remember that firstly, you are on company time and shouldn't be spending your hours this way; secondly, there's a high chance of a nosey co-worker breathing down your back or peeking at your computer screen from the table on the side, just waiting to spill all your seedy secrets to the rest of the office (and possibly your boss); thirdly, your office may have an external monitoring system and everything you thought was intended for your lover's eyes alone really isn't.
Although being found out eventually is inevitable, overly obvious gestures and making every other person in the office your confidante is not a good decision. Gossip of the wrong kind spreads fast. Also, not everyone wants to know the grisly details of your love life. So before you open your big mouth, imagine the petrified look on your partner's face when he or she hears from the grapevine you've been yakking off about last Friday night, and think twice.