Office Romances & 4 Ways to Manage Them

With so much of our time spent at the office, office romances and relationships between coworkers have become a common occurrence. According to the most recent American Time Use Survey, Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 with children in their household spent an average of 8.8 hours on working and related activities each weekday.

Specifically, the hospitality and tourism industry ranked highest among industries where office romances are most common, with 61% of employees saying they’ve had some kind of workplace relationship.

Singles aren’t the only employees taking part in workplace relationships. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), one in six office romances takes part with one or both of the parties having a spouse or significant other.

Here are some helpful tips to manage office romances at your company:

1. Address the issue: Rather than letting situations work themselves out. Take a stance on the subject. Some companies choose to ban office relationships, while others set boundaries for them. Whatever’s best for your company, be proactive and address the matter.

2. Establish a company policy on office relationships: The policy should address employee dating and consensual relationships occurring between co-workers and among co-workers and managers, supervisors and others in positions of corporate authority over terms and conditions of employment. It should also include examples of conduct that would be considered in violation of the policy and its consequences.

3. Implement Consensual Relationship Contracts: These contracts are rather common and help companies add an extra layer of protection to their operations. They also help managers discuss office romances in a positive, open manner. When drafting your consensual relationship contract, make sure to include these points:

  • the relationship is mutual and consensual
  • the relationship was never a condition of the terms of employment
  • it is the responsibility of each party to ensure the relationship does not impact job performance
  • company policies specific to office relationships (e.g., a prohibition on working in the same unit and next steps if required)
  • company expectations should the relationship end

4. Draft, publish and distribute a zero-tolerance policy for sexual or any other kind of harassment in the workplace, including threats or intimidation. Remember, in some instances, the liability for charges of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment could land on the employer…so it’s your responsibility to avoid these situations at your workplace.

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