Photo from Copy Sluts shoot, by Maggie Lee
When you first started working in an office, it was great. You told all your friends how the sense of routine made you feel like a real person again and stopped your house turning into an after-hours speakeasy populated by whichever co-dependents you found at the bus stop that night. But about the same time you figured out that only interns bring a packed lunch, you realised that, actually, being an office worker sucks. You're not driven, you drink more coffee than a narcoleptic night watchman and you have the posture of a smashed fish. You sit and stare at your pallid reflection in the black bit around the screen of your work laptop every day, dreaming about getting away from these awful fucking people and going back to bed.
Still, there are only so many hundreds of hours anyone can spend silently resenting their peers. At some point you'll stop moping, give up pretending to work and head to the communal kitchen and – what's this? The sexy intern has given up pretending to do work too, and they've come to have their four-shot instant "latte" suspiciously close to you. Suddenly 30 minutes have passed and you're bonding about Lilyhammer over a bin full of Nespresso capsules and banana peel.
Open plan offices have made these tactical meetings a lot more difficult (see also: using the work phone without feeling awkward, eating a stinky, fish-based lunch) but don’t let that stand in your way. In an average eight-hour workday there are roughly four hours of necessary work to be done, so you're free to use the entire rest of your time nursing tenuous work crushes that you'll never follow through with to make the day pass faster. I'm pretty good at office flirting and I've only been taken aside by HR about it a few times, so here are some ways to add “respectful(ish) and fun inter-office flirting” to the Special Skills area of your CV.
ALWAYS FLIRT DOWN
Set your sights on someone who falls a few points down from your usual type. If you usually go for a ten, aim for the perma-hungover seven from sales. If you tend to pull in sixes, target the acne-ridden three who sits in the room where all the computers are but has a nice frown. Obviously you're not looking to date this person or even introduce them to your "real friends", so it totally doesn't matter what they look like. You'll be less likely to embark upon an awkward office fuck partnership for real if you don't find them hot and they'll probably make you tea. If you have a gf/bf, mention them whenever the double entendres start to feel more like single entendres, but also mention that you hate them in order to keep your prey interested and their days filled with yearning.
YOUR BOSS IS NOT A GOOD TARGET
Please try to keep your pheromones wafting at people at the same level of corporate serfdom as you are. I know it feels a bit thrilling to flirt with your boss, but it's also a terrible idea, primarily because they will either definitely have sex with you, or definitely fire you. People only really become the heads of companies so they can fuck and destroy people like you. Don't let yourself become more slewn meat for the pile, it's easy to forget that there are as many Ian Beales running companies as there are Don Drapers.
Work flirting is best if you're both in a relationship outside of the office, so things can stay at the Innuendo Inn and never take a turn down What Are We Doing Blvd. If you're not both in happy, wholesome relationships IRL, you're definitely going to be lonely, sad and drunk often enough to end up in the vicinity of each other's genitals within 18 months. And when it does happen, as well as murdering whatever vibe you had going on between the two of you, everyone in the office will know. This is less important for reasons of professional respect than it is for the fact that no one else in the office will want to fuck you. And then your jig will be up.
DON'T LET THEM KNOW THEY'VE INFILTRATED YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS
Telling your office crush about the sex dream you had involving them, loads of soggy hand towels and, I dunno, a huge pile of binders is absolutely not at all ever appropriate. First of all, nobody gives a shit about your lame dreams which are either dull, made up or just ripped off Twin Peaks. And secondly, there is no response that will benefit you here: you'll either get an awkward laugh and a perma-blank until you inevitably get "relocated" (to the warehouse, with the other perverts) or bombarded with sexts to your company BlackBerry. Given that no device in human history has been more perfectly engineered for professional self-sabotage than the smartphone, I'd say it's probably best to either switch to a phone you can still play Snake on or keep your subconscious to yourself.
KEEP IT IN THE WORKPLACE
If you two are texting or instant-messaging outside of work hours, you are not work flirting, you are just regular flirting, and that is not the same thing. GET A GRIP. There's a policy to be adhered to here and you guys are freelancing. Flirting in the office is your productive day at Conde Nast, flirting outside is writing for the Razzle letters page.
DON'T FLAUNT IT
It’s your prerogative to flirt out of boredom at work, but it is also the prerogative of everyone else to gossip about it. A certain level of discretion is required unless you’re actively trying to provide kitchen talk for your office mates. It might not seem like much, but “they went to Pret together again” is like anecdotal ambrosia to people who would otherwise have “I’ve been thinking about a juice cleanse” or "What night is steak night at Wetherspoons again?" Definitely keep things to internal Instant Messenger, I know it's a shame about the lack of appropriate smileys but you'll thank me when your real-life partner comes to meet you after work and the receptionist doesn't "accidentally" let slip that she assumed you were dating the marketing intern you eat lunch with every single day.
DON'T EVEN GO TO THE CHRISTMAS PARTY
Christmas parties are supposed to be fun but realistically when you're two tramadols and three pills in you're probably going to do something horrendously embarrassing, like fart in front of your boss in the smoking area or tell your office crush that you actually deeply love them. Don't be an asshole, or before you know it, today's funny jpg stash will have morphed into tomorrow's wedding photos.
I hope that helped. If it didn't, here's a brief synopsis: no texting, no touching and definitely no outside interaction. Good luck! (I hope you don't lose your job.)
Follow Monica on Twitter: @monicaheisey
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