Affairs at Work: How Common Are They & What Are The Consequences?

One of the most common questions that gets asked about affairs is, “How do affairs start?” Well, one of the most common places for affairs to begin is at work.

This might shock you to hear, but affairs are a lot more common than people realise. In fact, a poll conducted by YouGov in 2015 revealed that one in five people admitted to having affairs. And that’s just the ones who admitted it!

It’s perfectly normal to have a lot of questions about affairs, and affairs at work in particular. Let’s have a closer look at this issue. 

How Do Affairs Start at Work?

A lot of people have a very cliched idea of how affairs start. Strangers bumping into each other in a crowded bar, an instant attraction, etc. But the truth can often be a lot more straightforward.

It is very common for affairs to start at work, and one of the main reasons for this is that there are a lot of different potential catalysts. Once you start breaking them down, it’s almost surprising that it doesn’t happen more often.

Here are some of the main examples of how affairs start at work. 

man and women in love at work

Frequent One-on-One Time

This might sound a little simple, but one of the most common ways for people to hook up in the office is because they are in each other’s company a lot of the time.

You know the idea. You get to know someone, you see them every day, and some days, it’s just the two of you working late in the office. It’s only natural that sparks might start to fly.

Work Travel

Work trips are one of the most common ways that affairs start at work. It’s not unusual at all for people to find that they are on the road together, in hotel rooms next to each other.

People go out for a drink together to celebrate a job well done at the big meeting; you are both far away from the office and, more importantly, from your significant others. 

One thing can very easily lead to another. 

Affair on Travel trip

Office Social Events

This one fits in a little more neatly with the cliché of people drunkenly meeting up in a bar and starting a fling. Office social events are often (not always, but often) boozy affairs, and that can play a factor.

But it’s also about seeing someone in a setting that is more relaxed and informal after a purely work-based relationship. You might see someone in a different light, and that can change everything.

Emotional Dependency

You’ll have heard about work spouses. Well, there is a huge amount of truth to that. People need someone to emotionally rely on at work. Someone who gets the stress and the pressure because they are in the same boat.

Emotional dependency can come about very easily, and it can often turn into something more. 

If you know that you can rely on someone to be there for you, then you are going to open up, be yourself, and look for comfort.

Couple flirting at work

Digital Interactions

Digital interactions should not be overlooked when it comes to reasons behind a workplace romance. We’re constantly pinging our colleagues, and it’s the kind of regular and often intimate contact that doesn’t happen very often.

If you know that someone is always there, then you can be more yourself. It feels less low stakes. Cheeky flirting can start quite naturally and then something more. 

How Common Are Affairs at Work in the UK?

We’ve referred to the fact that workplace romances are common in the UK, but the numbers might shock you. 

There are numbers that show that 44% of people say that they know co-workers who have had affairs at work. 19% of people admit to having an affair with a co-worker, and 65% of people have had a relationship with one. (Metro)

Those numbers are pretty staggering, and what is important to remember is that these are the people who are willing to admit to it

There are so many different reasons for people to start workplace affairs. What is also apparent is that a lot of people have acted on them.

affair in the office

What Are the Signs of Workplace Affairs?

A lot of people like to think that they would be able to tell if their partner was having an affair. Who knows them better, after all? And then there are a lot of people who find it all too easy to convince themselves that their spouse is cheating.

The truth is that there are some telltale signs of emotional affairs at work and physical affairs at work, so let’s have a look at some of the most common.

Increased Secrecy

Here’s one that is generally a good indicator of whether someone is having an affair regardless of where it started.

Increased secrecy doesn’t always mean office romances are going on, but it does show that your partner has something to hide. They might feel like they start to need to hide the truth about unrelated things just in case something slips out.

Change in Work Patterns

You’ve seen the film where someone starts working late at the office, and it turns out they’re having an affair? Well, there’s more than a grain of truth to it.

Changes in work patterns are one of the easiest ways to cover your tracks if you’re having a workplace affair. It’s something that is out of your hands, and it’s difficult for a partner to blame you for it. 

However, it is a common sign that someone is cheating.

man touching partner at work

Physical Cues

Physical cues are very important and can tell you a lot about what’s going on under the surface. 

You might notice that there is more physical contact between your partner and their colleague. It might not be sexual or even appear intimate, but there will be an ease about the connection that will speak volumes if they are having an affair. 

Exclusion of Others

You might notice that colleagues your partner was previously very friendly with and used to see a lot suddenly fall out of the picture. 

You might stop hearing certain names or stop seeing people who used to pop around or be there for after-work drinks. This can be completely innocent, but it might also be a sign that your partner doesn’t have time for anyone else at work.

Defensive Behaviour

Defensive behaviour can speak volumes even if the person using it doesn’t mean it to.

How someone reacts to being challenged often tells you what’s going on beneath the surface. 

A defensive reaction to a question like “You’re spending a lot of time with them, aren’t you?” will show that they have already worried about you asking.

Man unhappy being accused of affair

Frequent Personal Communication

There are a lot of reasons why someone might have frequent personal communication with their colleague. It’s perfectly normal to need to do this, and it’s also perfectly normal to have a friendly relationship with someone you work with.

However, if they’re getting a lot of messages outside of work hours about unrelated things, it might be a sign that there is a deeper connection there than professional friendship.

Shift in Emotional Availability

Most people don’t have a limitless supply of emotional availability. We tend to save it for the people who matter most.

If your partner is less emotionally available for you, it might be a sign that they are giving that space to someone else. However, it might also be a sign that they are going through something on their own. Either way, emotional affairs are not uncommon in the workplace.

What Does the UK Law Say About Workplace Relationships and Affairs?

The short version of this is that the UK law doesn’t have anything to say about workplace relationships and affairs.

It’s in the Human Rights Act of 1998 that employees are entitled to a private life, and that means that they can have relationships and affairs at work if they want to.

However, employers often put things in their contracts that complicate things a bit. A lot of companies require their staff to tell HR if they are in a romantic relationship with a colleague.

Human resources meeting

Is it OK to Have a Romantic Relationship With Someone at Work?

The answer to this question will depend on how you feel. Relationships don’t start out of nowhere. They often happen because something is missing in your life.

Married affairs are a lot more common than you might think, and there are so many different causes. Often, it’s because there is a lack of physical or emotional intimacy in the current relationship. Sometimes, it’s because the person is looking for excitement.

The question isn’t, is it OK to have an affair? It’s why do you want to have one. 

If you are looking to explore outside your marriage, a married dating site might be a better option. At Illicit Encounters, you can find people who are in the same situation and who are looking for the same thing.

Rounding Up: The Ins & Outs of Workplace Affairs

What we’ve learned over the course of this article is that affairs at work are common. There are a lot of different ways that these relationships can start.

There are also a lot of different ways that you can spot whether someone is having a workplace affair. You might think it would be easier to hide, but the telltale signs are always going to be there.

While the UK law doesn’t have anything to say about affairs at work, you might find that your company employee handbook is a bit more strict. 


Are Affairs Common in the Workplace?

Affairs in the workplace are very common. Just under 20% of people surveyed admitted to having an affair at work, while many more said that they knew someone who had had a workplace affair.

How Do Work Affairs Usually Start?

Affairs at work usually start because of the amount of time people spend with each other. They can start on business trips or at work social events where they are away from the office and their responsibilities. 

How Long Do Work Affairs Usually Last?

The question of how long work affairs last is a tricky one to answer. It depends on what the people involved are getting from the affair that they aren’t getting elsewhere. Affairs that start spontaneously won’t have the kind of structure that you’d find at a married dating site.

What is an Inappropriate Relationship in the Workplace?

An inappropriate relationship in the workplace will be clearly defined by the employee handbook at your company. If there is an imbalance of power, then that is definitely inappropriate. However, a relationship that is started willingly by both parties is a little trickier to define.

What are the Signs of an Emotional Affair at Work?

Signs of an emotional affair at work include increased secrecy and defensiveness. You may notice more personal work messages and changes to their work patterns. They may be less emotionally available and start to exclude others.

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