I am not alone in meeting my boyfriend at work. HR Magazine cites the work environment as responsible for a whopping 20% of the UK’s marriages – and an even greater percentage of affairs.
It’s not really surprising: if you work full time you spend roughly 24% of your life at work and, with stress and socialising added to the mix, you go through some intense periods with your colleagues. But while work affairs are nothing new, they can be tricky for both the players and employers to negotiate, especially when it comes to extra-marital affairs and work relationships that end badly.
“A relationship that is allowed to be out in the open is far easier to manage through means such as ensuring the couple do not work together and minimising any opportunities for favouritism or discrimination,” says family law expert Richard Collins. “There is no fun in gossiping about something that is already common knowledge.”
So how do you make a work relationship, well, work? With us, my boyfriend and I both moved on to other jobs in the course of time, so we’re no longer colleagues. For more pearls of wisdom, let’s turn to the stars and slebs that met through work – and maintain a relationship in the public eye.
Steffi Graf, one half of the golden couple of tennis, says that empathy helped her support husband Andre Agassi: “I’d retired when I met Andre but I still knew what he was going through. Understanding what his needs were – the things that have to be said and the ones that don’t – was important to both of us.”
Angelina Jolie, who was styled as the temptress in the super-high profile affair that saw Brad Pitt lured away from wife Jennifer Anniston on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith, has publicly admitted to confusion and guilt. After admitting that she and Pitt ‘fell in love’ while working on the film she said: “To be intimate with a married man, when my own father cheated on my mother, is not something I could forgive. I could not look at myself in the morning if I did that. I wouldn’t be attracted to a man who would cheat on his wife.”
Seven children and a few years later, she seems to have put her scruples aside, citing normal life and interests outside of work as the key to relationship success: “My alter ego is who I am 100%, which is a mother who is changing diapers and colouring all night long. As Brad and I get older were going to do fewer films. I’ve been working for a long time, he’s been working for a long time. We’ve had a nice run and don’t want to be doing this our whole lives.”
Since most work relationships don’t take place on court or on set, perhaps the most useful insights come from one of the most successful business couples in the world. Bill and Melinda Gates met in 1987 at a Microsoft press event in Manhattan, New York. Twenty five years later they’re still going strong, working hard at giving away most of their fortune. ‘Teamwork’ and ‘communication’ seem to be their buzzwords.
“In my parents I saw a model where they were really always communicating, doing things together. They were really kind of a team. I wanted some of that magic myself,” says Bill.
Melinda says: “We set out what’s going to be our work time versus family time. We talk a lot in our home together about where we’re going, what I’m doing. I think this is very much a collaborative effort.”