In many modern workplaces, productivity isn’t the only thing that flourishes. It’s not uncommon for relationships between coworkers to develop from professional to friendly all the way to romantic.

Office romances are a veritable fact of the working world today. While employers shouldn’t waste effort on trying to stamp them out, it’s still important to set clear boundaries for conduct in the office. These situations can be delicate, and establishing what is appropriate and what isn’t can go a long way toward preserving a friendly, welcoming atmosphere at your company.

Establishing the rules
It may seem like a simple term, but “office romance” can comprise a wide range of interactions and relationships among people in all parts of a company. Savvy employers will bear this in mind when crafting an appropriate policy – a full-out ban on any sort of romance between any company employees, for example, will likely be viewed as draconian and can actually lead to lower morale.

The Society for Human Resource Management shared some statistics on the office romance landscape. According to the source, 53 percent of these relationships are between people in different departments. Some 32 percent of romances were reported to occur between employees of the same rank, while the dreaded supervisor-subordinate relationship only accounted for 8 percent.

Perhaps the most common rule when it comes to romance is that supervisors are discouraged or even forbidden from developing romantic relationships with people who work directly under them, while interdepartmental relationships typically fly under the radar.

Control the atmosphere
Few things can rev up the company gossip machine like a romance between coworkers – suspected or actual. While typically good-natured, this type of discussion can erode productivity and make for an uncomfortable office environment.

The easiest way to control this, according to Inc. magazine, is to foster a policy of complete transparency. Romantically involved coworkers should refrain from any displays or indication of their relationship while at work – even if company policies don’t explicitly forbid these types of relationships. Public displays of affection and extended lunch breaks should be avoided, as it’s important to maintain a clear distinction between personal and professional lives while at work.

Small-business owners who are having difficulty navigating these understandably tricky waters can turn to PEO companies for advice on HR matters. These HR outsourcing professionals can help companies understand the HR, legal and social factors influencing a given policy.