Worldwide nearly 58% of employees have engaged in a romantic relationship with a colleague. Almost half of them do not know what their organisation's office romance/employee dating policy is. Many organisations do not have structured policies on workplace dating and romance.
Says Radhika Mohta, Matchmaker and Relationship Coach, ‘studies show 1 in 4 relationships that start at work, lead to marriage. People spend forty hours a week at the workplace, where they are fully alert and active. They cannot have their guard up all the time and it is here one can figure out who is kind, generous, and sometimes, also self-centred. Hence, the workplace is an enabler where people are most authentic and this makes office romance flourish.’
While TCS was the OG in creating its marriage policy back in 2015, many organisations today do not have set rules on dating and they mostly ‘react’ to cases as they happen. Here is why companies (big or small) should have a dating/ romance/ marriage policy.
The pandemic has made dating safer (especially for women) as they do not have to go meet a stranger and step out of their comfort zones. They can also virtually spend quality time with a date and that has made relationships much simpler and easier to sustain.
Says Radhika, who also runs a Cohort Based Course (CBC) on dating, “People are working out of many cities and small towns today. They are seeking for partners they can share a frequency with and that has led to relaxed geographical preferences. Video calls are much more acceptable for ‘vibe-checks’ and a trend here is people take their prospective dates on house tours and are much more vulnerable as they share an authentic part of their lives with a date.”
Companies like Google and Facebook have set very clear guidelines on romantic relationships among colleagues and especially after the #me-too movement, ‘unless yes, any other response accounts for a no.’ Radhika hence shares how the boundaries can sometimes be very thin and hence for smaller companies, these restrictions have to be well-defined.
Workplace Romance Policy Should Include
A workplace romance policy is essential in today's work environment. It should include:
- Clear Definitions: Define what constitutes a workplace romance.
- Disclosure Requirements: Guidelines on when and how relationships should be disclosed.
- Behavior Standards: Outline acceptable conduct in the workplace.
- Conflict of Interest Rules: Address potential conflicts, especially in supervisory roles.
- Consequences of Policy Violations: Clearly state the repercussions of not adhering to the policy.
This policy is about balance. It respects privacy while maintaining a professional work environment.
Remote work has softened the barriers between work and home.
In her book, Apples and Oranges, Dr. Varsha Sreevatsa, Founder at LetsDRIVE; Proponent of Cognitive Diversity and Total Inclusion talks about cognitive diversity. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is not only limited to workplaces but it pours into every aspect of our lives. Homophily is a tendency of humans to be with similar people and this applies to the workspace as well.
Adds Dr. Varsha, “dating in the workplace is going to be a growing trend since we are mentally confined to the workplace (there is no boundary between work and home anymore) and that gives more reason for people to seek out companionship at work.”
For CHROs, founders, and decision-makers, developing an open mindset towards this growing trend is therefore important. Earlier, rules were made to maintain decency and reduce complications and avoid pitfalls like discrimination, uncalled for hikes and promotions, and loss of confidentiality. For example, an IT company had a policy that prohibited dating someone from the same reporting line.
The pandemic has further accentuated loneliness and there is a heightened need for emotional bonding therefore the workplace is a breeding ground for relationships. Since attraction cannot be forced or predicted, policymakers have to rewrite the rules for this digital age where interactions are taking on new avatars.
Employee Relationships in the Workplace Policy Template
Creating a policy on employee relationships? Here's a template to start with:
- Introduction: State the purpose of the policy.
- Scope: Define who the policy applies to.
- Policy Statement: Outline your stance on workplace relationships.
- Disclosure Requirements: Explain when and how employees should report relationships.
- Conduct Guidelines: Detail expected behavior for involved employees.
- Conflict of Interest: Provide solutions for potential conflicts, like reassignment.
- Enforcement: Describe how the policy will be enforced and potential consequences.
This template is a foundation. Customize it to fit your organization's culture and needs.
Why is Workplace Dating Seemingly More Accepted Now?
Workplace dating is more accepted now for several reasons:
- Changing Social Norms: Societal views on workplace romance have evolved.
- Increased Time at Work: People spend more time at work, leading to more workplace relationships.
- Better Policies: Many companies now have clear policies, making workplace dating more manageable.
- Focus on Employee Happiness: There's a greater understanding that happy employees are productive employees.
This acceptance reflects a more modern, understanding approach to work-life balance.
What to Do When Relationships Go Awry
When workplace relationships sour, it's important to:
- Maintain Professionalism: Keep personal issues out of the workplace.
- Revisit the Romance Policy: Ensure both parties understand the policy.
- Seek HR Support: HR can provide guidance and mediate if necessary.
- Consider Reassignment: If the situation impacts work, reassignment might be necessary.
Handling these situations delicately is key to maintaining a healthy work environment.
What do early movers say?
In her previous role, as HR at Flam Arokiya Mary was responsible for putting together the workplace/employee dating policy, among other cultural initiatives. The company came up with an innovative policy to give away subscriptions to Bumble/ Tinder/ dating apps to employees/ interns as part of their hiring strategy. Arokiya says that these policies are important especially where organisations hire younger employees as it also leads to travel and accommodation savings for the employees and retention for the company.
However, she also warns that this can be tricky if dating employees are from cross-functional departments (example: HR and Finance/ or accounting) and it is recommended that they declare their relationship to keep office matters confidential. She recommends the following pointers to keep in mind while drafting an employee dating policy:
1️⃣ Dating employees to declare confidentiality if they are from conflicting departments.
2️⃣ Dating employees are not part of the same reporting line/ or in some cases not Managers and their direct reportees.
3️⃣ Clear definition of boundaries (what is acceptable and what is not) and consequences of breaking policies.
4️⃣ When does a spouse have to potentially leave the organisation or change department (where relevant).
5️⃣ Clear definitions of sexual misconduct and harassment.
Workplace relationships are on the rise. Hence, it does not make sense to plan for when-it-happens. It is always better to be well-armored and that also makes employees feel safe in the workplace.
Just as we were closing our story, we saw an update from Trell giving their employees a special holiday this Valentine’s Day. So, things are slowly heating up :)
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