How to have a secret office relationship (and get away with it)

Originally published in The New York Review of Books

Avoid having sex in the canteen

There’s something undeniably sexy about the salad counter. And should there be cucumbers on offer, hormone levels will be sky-high. However, and speaking from experience, not only will having sex in the canteen disturb your co-workers’ lunches but will also negatively impact upon your future career. Unless you’re so good at sex that it impresses your line manager/you’re having sex with your line manager.

Badmouth your partner at every opportunity.

The key to keeping a secret is not letting people know you’re keeping a secret. Therefore whenever you talk to a co-worker, and particularly one in a position of influence, criticise your office sex partner. Ensure you do it in a particularly personal way and try your best to ensure that the points you raise are focused on workplace competence. How long is Avi taking to complete that project? Have you noticed the amount of time Anna spends in the toilet? Brian’s definitely been using all the milk from the communal fridge. Doesn’t Sarah go home early?

Ensure that any touching takes place under the table.

The only good thing about meetings is that they take place around tables. And the only good thing about tables is what happens beneath them. Who doesn’t enjoy a game of footsie during a breakdown of the past quarter’s sales results? Or a handjob during the launch of a marketing strategy? The key to keeping your relationship secret, however, is to keep such heavy petting under the table. Never on top.

Ensure that sexual contact is proceeded by a tight non-disclosure agreement.

Relationships, like life, will inevitably end. See off a drunken revelation about the snog in the cleaner’s cupboard by ensuring your office sex partner has signed a binding agreement never to mention your illicit affair. And, in the event that such an agreement is broken, ensure that the financial penalty is so severe that you can at least buy yourself a new car/attract a new sex partner by your new-found wealth.

Speak euphemistically

Adults enjoy deconstructing a love-making session in the same way that pundits review a football game. Self-review and target-setting is a healthy part of the corporate mindset that can be applied to all parts of modern life. However, such conversations, if conducted in the office, run the risk of letting the cat out of the bag. Therefore, ensure you employ euphemisms when discussing your relationship.


“I sure unblocked that drain last night.”

“The conductor’s baton led the orchestra.”

“They had to close the Blackwall Tunnel due to the traffic.”

“Terrible weather we’re having.”

Bring your children to the office.

You never suspect parents of having secret affairs. Not when they make a point of bringing their kids to the office. Perception is key here. If your co-workers consider you a proud mom/dad whose raison d’être is bringing up kids (rather than nailing the cutey from reception), who’s ever going to suspect anything? Perception becomes reality.

Use ‘dress-down’ days effectively.

T-shirts with slogans have recently become popular. Why not have a few printed with slogans that deflect attention from your affair? ‘I’m having an affair … with Jesus’ or ‘I love my wife’. That kind of thing.

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