Remote work has changed a lot.
From back-to-back Zoom calls to exploring the joys (and chaos) of having cats as coworkers, remote work can sometimes feel like a whole new world.
But one thing that hasn’t changed with remote work is the prevalence of office romance… and thus, the need for an effective and up-to-date dating policy. (To clarify: office romance between humans, not cats.)
I lied just then. The prevalence of workplace dating has changed. It’s gone up. A 2021 survey reported that over one-third (34 percent) of employees in the U.S. have been involved in or are currently involved in a workplace romance — which is more than seven percentage points higher than 2020.
While sitcoms may play up the will-they-won’t-they plot line, there’s far less ambiguity in real life. Workplace romance happens. Unfortunately, one of the byproducts of office dating is that it can lead to complex interpersonal situations, some of which could be compounded by our new, remote ways of working. This is where companies can be proactive by implementing thorough and realistic dating policies.
When a company is proactive about policies related to office romance, they can help create a culture of openness and trust. Not only that, but it’s a whole lot more efficient and effective to mitigate problems rather than scramble to fix them once they’ve happened. And, as we’ve established, they’ll happen.
With that in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind to create an effective dating policy.
Think about your audience
Remember that, like all policies, the audience for a dating policy is not made up of one kind of person but rather a variety of perspectives. And no, I’m not just talking about the difference between people who use the phrase meet-cute and people who don’t. From first-time and junior employees, to employees coming from companies with dramatically different work cultures, to folks who are new to remote or hybrid working environments, your team members likely have very different ideas of what constitutes an acceptable office romance. It’s important to make sure your policy assumes no base-level knowledge so that everyone can understand the boundaries — physical, emotional, in-person, online, and otherwise — regardless of their prior experience.
Make it easy to grasp
Set your employees up for success by using easy-to-digest and relatable language. Oftentimes, companies lean on overly corporate, complex, or legal language with their dating policies. And while that might feel safer from a policy-maker perspective, there’s nothing effective about a policy that people don’t understand or feel disinclined to read.
Making your language approachable and easy to grasp will not only boost your team’s understanding and retention of your company’s dating policy; it will also send a clear signal that this is a policy you care about, one you’ve put a lot of thought into, and that you’ve written it with your employees’ reading experience in mind.
Open up the process
If you ask me, the key to any successful relationship is communication. And that doesn’t just go for the romantic ones. So when you roll out your company’s dating policy, don’t just put it out there. Set up channels for questions and discussion (I recommend office hours!). Create an FAQ so employees can have more insight into some of the thought-processes that went into making the policy. And be sure that there are clear lines of communication around where employees should go (and what next steps look like if there’s an incident).
Lean on us
If you’re looking for a sample dating policy, you can have ours! We at Ethena have found it to be effective for a few reasons: The tone is approachable, it draws clear boundaries, and it provides real-world, relevant examples.
Ethena is a compliance training platform with intuitive and powerful admin tools, built to make training easy, engaging, and effective.
Looking for more resources on office romance, harassment prevention, or other workplace nuances? Check out our harassment prevention training! And if you’re interested in exploring Ethena’s training solution, Talk to a member of our team.