I never considered work romantic – until I heard about the ‘office 10’ | Zoe Williams


New York magazine has introduced me to the concept of the office 10: the person who would be middlingly attractive in a normal scenario, but in the closed-circuit environment of the workplace is unbelievably beautiful. It’s a feature of the “self-contained, temporary social ecosystem” that makes you adjust your settings. Only those people exist; since you sort them accordingly, one of them must be the most beautiful person in your world.

If you factor in the boredom of work and the huge proportion of it that is meaningless, the office 10 becomes its raison d’être, the person who can propel you out of bed on the off-chance that they might go to Pret at the same time as you, or might think similarly about Liz Truss. Be real: you are probably their office 10 as well. It’s a closed ecosystem, remember?

The idea of the office spouse – the colleague with whom you spend so much time, in intellectual concord, that you reach a point of intimacy and shorthand such that other people have to avert their eyes when you have a meeting – is so well worn as to have been drained of its importance. People genuinely mourn their work husband or wife when they move jobs, but they have to suck it up. The career precinct isn’t supposed to be about feelings – it’s where you go to be go-getting.

Look, I haven’t had an office job since the 20th century, but this isn’t my memory of it. It had much more of a prison dynamic. Not in a bad way; rather, a constant pitch of wits between a band of delinquents and the omnipresent authorities who had to be placated and evaded. It wasn’t a romcom – more Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. But it had its dramas, its intoxications.

It’s funny that, in all the post-pandemic work-life battles – between those who would happily never set foot at work again, those who couldn’t wait to return, those who think office fetishisation is a late-capitalist conspiracy to maintain the value of the real estate and those who think work-from-homers are snowflakes – the main upside of the office – its 10 – never really came up.

Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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