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Navigating Romance and Friendships in the Workplace

On average we spend “about one-third of our lives at work. Based on a traditional 40-hour workweek, that's 2,080 hours a year with co-workers, direct reports or supervisors. Given the amount of time spent together, it's only natural that relationships take root”. Relationships in the workplace can prove to be difficult, if they aren’t handled properly. These situations can put a strain on everyone in the workplace. It comes down to good communication and transparency with the leadership of your organization. Whether romances in the workplace are embraced or looked down upon, employers should be clear with their employees about company policies regarding the situation.

Since COVID, a lot of workplaces have gone remote and this may seem like a better alternative to the traditional office setting in regards to workplace romance or even workplace harassment. “Traliant's survey asked U.S. workers what they view as workplace misconduct in a virtual setting. Here's what they shared:

  • A colleague asking them out over email, video call or chat platform (57 percent).

  • Sending a flirty GIF (e.g., kiss, heart, hug, etc.) (56 percent).

  • Responding to written communications with a flirty emoji (e.g., kiss emoji, heart emoji, etc.) (55 percent).

  • Inappropriate background/setting during a video call (55 percent)”

These examples show inappropriate behaviors and that the potential for sexual harassment doesn't go away in a remote work environment. Employers have to be aware of all aspects of a workplace relationship. Employees should feel comfortable enough in the office to share if they are being harassed. This can be combated by having a Harassment Policy in place, though they aren't necessarily required. A harassment Policy can be helpful in many ways. It can tell your employees what harassment looks like if they aren't sure. It can also show them what is inappropriate during conversations with colleagues. This is beneficial to your company because if a situation were to arise, it reduces the risk that the company will be held liable if they have a policy in place and have completed harassment training with all employees.

While workplace romance can be a difficult situation, it's not ideal to shut down all relationships that form. Friendships may even deserve greater attention. “More than convenience, close companionships at work have a positive impact on a person's career, job satisfaction, sense of belonging and more:

  • 85 percent of U.S. workers who have close friends at work say it has positively impacted their careers.

  • U.S. workers who have close friends at work (80 percent) are significantly more likely to say they feel a strong sense of belonging to their organization than those without close friends at work (63 percent).

  • U.S. workers who have close friends at work (86 percent) are significantly more likely to say they are satisfied with their job than those without close friends at work (74 percent).”

Companies that allow the space to form or even encourage friendships to develop may also have a competitive edge—increased retention rates. When employees feel safe talking to each other, your company will have better retention rates. Allowing employees the space to develop these friendships may seem difficult, but company picnics or your annual Holiday party may be just the space that allows for your employees to get to know each other. These relationships may seem miniscule in the grand scheme of your business but taking a day during the year to allow employees time to talk to each other may provide valuable retention rates in today's ever changing job climate.

At B. Stephens HR Consulting, we realize the importance of keeping your company protected and we have a Harassment Policy and training we would love to share with you. We also know how important it is for your employees to have someone to talk to outside of your organization and we can be a listening ear. Just let us know how we can help!

B.Stephens HR Consulting

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