DISCLAIMER: This post provides general information about workplace dating. It does not contain legal advice. Before you choose to incorporate a workplace dating policy in your procedures, we recommend you consult an employment attorney in the jurisdiction(s) where your employees work.
When dating a co-worker in a hybrid or remote workplace, it’s especially important to be mindful of the boundaries between home and work. You’ve probably already realized this. If you’re not good at setting and honoring these boundaries, you’re likely to have many types of personal issues spill into the workplace.
- Have set times for work and for play. Despite the overlapping relationships, it is usually best to keep them separate, unless one area is causing problems in another. All relationships take work, but workplace dating relationships take extra work. If you’re not one to go above and beyond in either area, it’s probably not a good idea to try this.
- Establish physical boundaries for work and play, if possible. Our brains like simple rules. Take some of the risk of conflict out of your work and dating relationships by keeping some areas dedicated only for one relationship. For example, don’t work in the bedroom, if you can avoid it, and don’t flirt in the office when you’re there.
- Don’t make a big deal out of your relationship when you’re working. Your employer usually doesn’t care who you’re dating, as long as you’re meeting the requirements of your job. If you’re publicizing your relationship in a way that makes it seem like a priority, when you’re underperforming, your employer might assume it’s the relationship that’s causing the disruption. Ideally, your performance will be the same, regardless of who you are dating or whether you are dating at all.
I Shouldn’t Have to Say This…
The below actions must be avoided at all costs, yet employment lawyers still see complaints about these types of behaviors:
- Sex at work
- Sex during work hours
- Nakedness in the background of Zoom meetings
- Flirting during meetings, in-person or online
- Anything other than work when you’re supposed to be working
- Lying about the relationship
- Management dating an employee whose work they might have to supervise
Even in a Remote Work Environment, Managers Are Wise Not to Date Where They Work
I wish all managers knew and respected the high risk of a sexual harassment claim when they date an employee who they might supervise or otherwise be positioned to influence. No matter what the lower-ranked employee might say about feeling like there is a power imbalance, it’s there. If the relationship is important enough, one of you needs to find a different employer. The workplace is not a good source for casual hook-ups. Once you’re in management, it is not a source you should consider at all. Remote and hybrid environments do not change that.
Most employers prohibit dating and other non-professional relationships between managers and employees to reduce their risk of complaints. This is a wise and reasonable practice. It’s not unusual for employees to have misplaced feelings for their bosses because of the power supervisors hold. This makes these relationships challenging and likely to fail.
Supervisors need to focus on employee work performance during work hours anyway. That’s part of the agreement when they accept their roles, and this provision is based on solid grounds. Everyone thinks their relationship will be different, but the statistics and case law suggest otherwise.