BARACK and Michelle Obama did it. Bill and Melinda Gates did it. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie did it. And so did thousands of other people all over the world, with or without happy endings.

What they did, of course, was meet their spouse or partner at work. It seems there's an awful lot of office romancing going on around the world, and especially in China, Malaysia, and India.

In one global survey, 57 per cent of respondents around the world said that there were romantic relationships in their office, but the number soared to 70 per cent in China, India, and Malaysia, seemingly the workplace romance centres of the world.

But don't have great expectations of love blooming in the office if you're heading off to work in Japan - there, only 33 per cent of people think there are office romances going on (though perhaps people are just more discreet about it).

The venue

If you're looking for love by the photocopier, what can you do, other than seeking relocation to China, India or Malaysia?

Your job sector can make a difference to your love chances. One survey says publishing, advertising, marketing, and real estate are the sectors with the most romantic action happening.

Accounting scored low in this survey, though another survey in the US said 45 per cent of those in the financial services had dated a co-worker. Transportation and logistics was full of passion in one survey, but deemed a romantic drought area in another, so experiences obviously vary.

More important than the job itself is probably the workplace. Work in an office where the same 10 people have sat at the same desks for decades and the chances of Cupid calling are slim.

Choose a workplace where there are new people coming and going and where people socialise and network and the hopes of meeting the love of your life must surely brighten.

The lesson here is choose your work environment carefully - in a busy multi-company location, your prince or princess charming may not even work in the same firm as you (which can help avoid accusations of career opportunism).

Think of that classic office-boy-meets- office-girl fairytale beginning - the eyes meeting across a crowded lift. So, while flexible workspace may just be a starting place to find love, there's no doubt that co-working in a dynamic business centre can do wonders for your social life as well as offering great networking opportunities.

The hook-up

You've found a conducive workspace, you've locked eyes across a business lounge; what happens next? E-mail and social media have changed the rules here, facilitating the first move but also creating traps for the unwary.

Apparently, many office romances are sparked nowadays by an e-mail or text ending with an X or an emoticon. If you're in the habit of putting Xs at the end of texts or e-mails as a matter of course, beware - it could be misconstrued, especially around Valentine's Day.

And be even more careful which emoticon you choose when e-mailing or texting. Seven out of 10 women consider a winking emoticon as tantamount to a date proposal, as do nine out of 10 men.

The rules

So that's the flirting covered, now onto the romance itself. Obviously, most office workers welcome office romances in the sense that it gives them something to gossip about - the meaningful looks, the hook-up, the highs and the lows, the ending. But obviously, there are pitfalls.

Nearly 80 per cent of people who've dated someone at work say they've not been treated negatively by colleagues after a romance has been made public, but you do need to be discreet. Here are a few tips to the modern etiquette of office romances:

  • Before you get too involved, check your firm's HR policies. Some companies have a no-romance policy.
  • Tell your boss, before he/she hears it through the grapevine.
  • Avoid PDAs (public displays of affection) in the office.
  • Don't date your supervisor or direct report.
  • Don't let it affect your work performance.
  • Keep away from the office tech - if you use your work e-mail or phone for your love comms, the whole IT dept will read them.

The break-up

And finally, what if it all goes wrong? Well, you won't be the first or the last, and you'll no doubt survive the gossip and the sour looks at the water cooler. But just as you didn't use the office IT system during the good times, certainly don't use it for your break-up e-mails - they'll probably go viral.

But once again, if you use flexible workspace, you're not locked into sitting at the same desk daily for months or years to come, dodging the aggrieved glances from your ex.

Instead, you're free to relocate rapidly to a different workspace in the same city, equally convenient, equally flexible. Just think - another business centre, another business lounge, another lift . . .

The writer is CEO, Regus Asia