When I tell people that I work in the same office as my Fiancé they look at me like I’ve just told them I used to be a Spice Girl. It’s a look of horror followed by confusion concluded with a wry smile.
I can see why they might react like this because until I found myself in this position I had never imagined I’d be seeing my future husbands face around the clock. I always thought you needed space from a partner and if you spent all day together you’d surely have nothing to talk about in the evening? Right?
Then there are the professional repercussions; How do you separate your work life from your personal life if your personal life is sitting in a business meeting with you saying something you don’t agree with… This hasn’t happened to me (yet) but how can I ensure neither my personal nor working relationship is affected? This also extends to our colleagues. Do they have to take sides should we have a tiff about whose turn it was to take the bins out (it’s always his) or do they have to sit stifled by an atmosphere you could cut with a paper knife?
I do believe there are a lot of couples out there who for whatever reason, could not work on the same street as their partner without the
threat of divorce but as I’m finding out there are also a lot of couples who prove it can be harmonious for all. I’ve recently been in a meeting with a global mining consultancy that prides itself on being co-founded by a husband and wife team 25 years ago.
So what makes for a winning working relationship that is beneficial to the company and your love life? In my case, my fiancé was a colleague and friend to start with so we had already built a solid working relationship. This means that going into a relationship there were no nasty surprises about how we behaved in the office as we already knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Three other main factors include:
Honesty. I’ve once worked in a small office when the most obvious of affairs was going on between two team members but they denied it all for months. This only caused gossip to rocket and resulted in a general wariness and bad feeling around the pair. I credit the honest approach we took for the positive reaction we received from our colleagues and peers.
Support. I know of companies where it is strongly frowned upon for staff to engage in ‘extracurricular activities’. Surely this just breeds dishonesty as let’s face it, the heart (or any other organ for that matter) wants what it wants regardless of what a mean boss might say. Again I’ve been lucky that our MD told us “I’m 110% behind your relationship unless it starts to affect the business”. Fair enough!
Awareness. Awareness. Awareness. I recently had to hiss at my fiancé for calling me ‘baby’ in the office… he hadn’t even realised he’d said it but it proved we needed watch our language as well as our body language whilst at work. There’s nothing worse than a PDA by strangers on the street never mind when you’re sitting at your desk trying to work! So we try to prise ourselves apart on a morning, attempting where possible to arrive at work separately and take lunches at different times to ensure our colleagues see us as individuals and not a clique.
It’s still early days in our work/personal life fusion but it really is no big deal. Work is work and home is home and luckily we’re mutually passionate about both.
Abigail Elwell – Senior Consultant