Don't declare your passion for a colleague this Valentine's Day before reading our tips for the perfect office romance.
1 Don't assume that an office romance is a bad thing

Your life is probably a bit sad if you don't strike up a workplace relationship sometime. In some occupations, unsocial hours and the pressures of the job mean that you are thrown together a lot. And don't forget that the workplace romance has the blessing of Britain's first couple – Tony Blair and Cherie Booth met as trainee barristers.

2 Don't kiss and tell

Avoid telling other people about the first kiss. Once the relationship is established, you should tell some colleagues. Your body language will give you away no matter how discreet you are. Your smile will occasionally be too broad or you will stand a centimetre too close. You must avoid the situation where everyone knows you are involved but you still think it is a secret. Otherwise, you risk becoming a pub joke.

3 Tackle any conflicts of interest

The best option is often for one partner to move departments if one is the boss of the other. You might survive as boss and secretary but colleagues will be suspicious if a junior partner is promoted or paid more than other employees.

4 Watch out for "anti-bonking" clauses

Some firms insist that employees in sensitive areas, such as the finance department, or those working with the company's trade secrets do not got involved with colleagues. The experiences of Mata Hari show how a lover can extract confidential information.

5 If you do go public, tell your boss first

A decent boss will be flattered by your thoughtfulness and will often be supportive if others attack you later. But your boss may feel foolish and less inclined to help you if he or she is the last to know. Discuss potential problems – you have to go on sales trips together, say – and suggest solutions – you could avoid trips where it is just the two of you and stay in separate rooms when you travel in a group.

6 Be professional

Avoid the situation where everyone knows you are involved but you still think it is a secret

Avoid any kind of intimacy in front of colleagues. Don't discuss where you are buying your garden furniture or what the new sofa looks like. This is meat and drink to the office gossips, who always need subjects to keep them going in the pub.

7 Maintain your independence

Show that you can still think independently of each other by taking a different stance on some issues. This is quite possible – one of Norway's recent prime ministers was married to the leader of the opposition. You need to stress that you are two independent people at work, rather than a couple who will support each other and disagree with others on all workplace issues.

8 Don't fool around at work

The growing prevalence of CCTV in the workplace means that late-night liaisons should be approached with considerable caution. Naughty messages are a no-no in a world where e-mails are never private and can be traced years later.

9 Take care if your liaison breaks taboos

You will get the ageing lothario tag if you start dating someone 30 years your junior. You get yourself in particularly hot water if you are committing adultery: foreign secretary Robin Cook is still an occasional object of derision even though he left his wife to marry his lover.

10 Keep your break-up out of the office

You can get over the worst if you appear confident and decent. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky suffered repeated humiliations when their Oval Office antics were exposed but they retained some dignity because they avoided the worst sin: dishing the dirt and being spiteful about each other.