Workplace romance can be complicated. Some human resource regulations even totally prohibit romantic relationships between colleagues. This is because relationships can cause personal issues, discomfort, and distraction from work. Breakups can cause hurt feelings and strong reactions, which can affect your entire staff.
However, lots of people do meet their partners at work. In fact, 22% of married couples in the U.S. report that they met their spouse at work. Employees spend much of their time in the office, and it’s expected that they will get to know each other socially.
It’s virtually impossible to totally prevent people from dating. Beyond that, you don’t want to create a workplace environment in which employees feel controlled. Regulations that explicitly forbid office relationships can garner a negative response. However, as a manager, you can influence how these relationships are handled in the workplace.
Read on for some important considerations for developing a workplace romance policy.
Relationships Cannot Be Prevented
You may want to totally ban employees from dating so you won’t need to deal with the problems it can cause. However, it’s impossible to do so. If two adults want to explore a relationship, they are likely going to find a way, despite your policies. That’s why it is critical to develop a realistic workplace romance policy.
You need to consider the fact that your employees deserve to be able to make their own personal choices. Plus, it’s best for you and your staff that you are aware of any relationships in case something goes wrong. Work with your HR personnel to draft a workplace romance policy that encourages honesty. You can ask employees to disclose relationships with the assurance that they will not be penalized. You can also ask them to sign a contract agreeing to keep their relationship private at work. For example, you can include policies regarding:
- Public displays of affection
- Sexual harassment
- Acceptable behavior and professionalism
- Relationships between certain employees (ex. managers and subordinates)
Other Employees May Become Uncomfortable
When in a relationship, it’s very normal to want to spend time with your partner. People may instinctively want to show affection to the person they’re dating, even at work. This is likely something you will have to deal with at some point. That’s why it’s important to outline acceptable behavior in your workplace romance policy. Otherwise, your other employees might start to feel uncomfortable with their colleagues’ behaviors. This can impact the entire work environment and cause distraction and a drain on productivity.
All of your employees deserve to feel comfortable at work. Make sure to promptly address any inappropriate behavior between colleagues who are dating.
Scheduling Issues Can Occur
When two employees are in a relationship, they may want to take the same days off. This could be for travel, holidays, vacations, or any number of other reasons. Consider the potential of both people in the relationship requesting to use their PTO at the same time. Can you and your workforce accommodate both individuals being absent at the same time? Using a robust time off management software to track and manage PTO requests is critical. This will ensure you are covered should two employees take the same days off.
Workplace Environment Can Be Affected
Relationships can have both positive and negative impacts on the workplace. For example, if you have a rigid, inflexible set of rules prohibiting or strongly discouraging them, employees may feel that you are impinging on their personal lives. On the other hand, if your policies are super flexible, employees may not take them seriously. This can lead to occurrences of sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behavior.
Your workplace environment can quickly become uncomfortable for many employees. It is important to try to find a middle ground where everyone feels respected.
Contracts Can’t Prevent All Problems
Since relationships are personal and intimate, sometimes things happen that can’t be prevented. Even if your employees have disclosed their relationship and signed all the documents, problems can still happen. Rumors can spread, arguments can take place , and mistakes can be made. Your employees are human beings; however, it is important to enforce your contract. Look at every situation on a case-by-case basis. You and your HR team will need to use your best judgment when it comes to handling any problems that arise.
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