Office Romances

Jude Bailey had her eye on "office spunk" Simon Lentjes from the first day they started a graduate program at AGL in Sydney.

They started a clandestine relationship a year later and initially kept things hush-hush.

"We were in our early-20s and didn't have a huge care factor, so we would always turn up to work late, lots of long lunch breaks and sometimes we'd turn up in the same clothes the next day."

Fast forward 15 years and Jude and Simon's office romance is a case of "happily ever after." The couple are married, with two daughters and live in Margaret River, in Western Australia.

Jude and Simon aren't alone in finding love in the office.

According to a survey by CareerOne.com.au which questioned 941 people, one in three of us have been romantically involved with a colleague.

Psychologist Anne Hollonds from Relationships Australia says the workplace is a fertile ground for finding love.

"You spend so many hours there, and you have a lot in common...you can form very strong emotional connections and friendships," she says.

Jude, who changed her last name to Lentjes, says it was a relief when they decided to tell their colleagues.

"We thought nobody knew but they all did...they enjoyed the spectacle.

"When we finally did come clean everyone just laughed at us. The more you try to hide it the more obvious it is."

But not all workplace trysts have a fairytale ending.

During a two year courtship, Annabel and Tim* sat at desks only five metres apart, at a Melbourne publishing house.

"We broke up four months ago, but we still work at the same place," Annabel says.

"I'm considering trying to find a new job and I think he's looking too."

The pair had moved in together and found it hard separating their work and private lives, Annabel says.

"It's a lot easier to get involved in one of these relationships than to break up," she says.

"I didn't think about the consequences, I thought we could go back to just being friendly and chatting in the lunchroom but you can't when you have that (romantic) history together.

"It's hard to make that transition, concentrate on work and keep the bosses impressed, when you see him each day and just want to go cry in the toilets."

Jude Lentjes admits the personal and professional life balance was easier when Simon moved to a new department.

"You didn't see them until after work or lunch time, it was less distracting," she says.

Hollonds advises those who find love at work to proceed with caution.

"At the beginning everything seems so hunky dorry but you have to anticipate the worst," she says.

"What if you have a fight the night before work and you're really angry? The next day in the office, it will show, you can't hide it.

"Or you split up under bad circumstances and have to face each other every day.

"They are real and common scenarios, don't delude yourself it's not going to happen to you."

Office love birds also need to consider their professional reputation.

Jude Lentjes admits that as her relationship with Simon blossomed, their work output diminished.

"I think we became highly inefficient because you always had one ear open for what (the other) was doing," she says.

How to make a workplace relationship work:

• Date someone from a different department

• Keep work time as work time

• Be discreet and professional

• Weigh up the risks and consider the consequences if the relationship goes pear shaped. Are you prepared to risk your career?

• Beware of conflicts of interest or situations that could result in accusations of favouritism

• Don't flaunt your relationship, be subtle

• Avoid public displays of affection at work

• Don't bring lovers' tiffs to the workplace

• Don't let your office romance affect your work productivity

• Don't email or message each other on Facebook all day

• Don't have an office romance if it involves an extramarital affair

• Don't dump your office lover at work

* Name has been changed

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