Your relationship with your colleagues is likely to be very different to your relationships with family members and close friends. Sure, your colleagues can be your friends, but there can be uncertainty on boundaries within the workplace in terms of how to greet any co-worker, friend or not.

Hand-shake or hug? High-five? Or just a nod and smile? The debate of whether office hugging is too close for comfort is on-going; do you think it’s acceptable?

Research from The Creative Group revealed that 58% of executives said that hugging in a business setting is inappropriate and 72% said they rarely, if ever, hug clients or business contacts.

It can be seen as a crossed boundary as a hug can be an intimate thing, and some people’s hugs are more of a squeeze; not sure many would like that from an acquaintance at work.

Some people simply don’t like to be hugged by anyone, not just co-workers. Simply staying in their own personal space bubble suits some people most, and so hugging without asking or uncertainty when greeting someone can bring discomfort and a poor rapport between employees.

Hand-shakes are the formal approach for greeting people who you’ve just met or hardly know, as your arms give a physical distance between you; it’s the most polite but non-intimate form of touch at work.

Gender can come into consideration when looking at the topic of office hugging. Some men may feel wary of hugging the opposite sex, and women may find this uncomfortable and unprofessional or vice versa. Shane Snow, a tech journalist at Medium told the Huffington Post:

“When I run into a male acquaintance, I know exactly how to greet him: shake his hand,” he says. “Doesn't matter how long we've known each other. I even shake my dad's hand.”

But with female co-workers, Snow finds himself in uncertainty. “I feel like I'm trapped between two walls of a deep-space garbage compactor. On the first meeting, we shake hands. Easy. But the next time we cross paths? Is a handshake now too formal (especially if we got along well in the first meeting)? Will a hug be awkward?”

It can be a taboo issue but it shouldn’t really come down to gender in contemporary society. The general consensus in most business settings is a hand-shake is best, whoever you’re interacting with.

However, some keen workplace huggers think there are benefits to their touchy-feely greeting approach. From The Creative Group’s research, more than half said that hugging at work is at least somewhat common in the US, and Yves Doucet, CEO of software company Dovico, is a keen hugger and says that embracing at work “breeds teamwork, trust and better business results”.

Hugging is said to be beneficial for your health, with hugs boosting oxytocin levels which can ease feelings on isolation and loneliness. Long hugs can lift serotonin levels, which makes us happy and tension can also be released by a hug, which could be useful to reduce any stress employees experience at work.

It’s argued that healthier and happier employees are more productive ones, so hugging your boss may be beneficial…if that’s your thing. Otherwise, many offices offer alternative, less intimate ways to de-stress, maintain health and be productive at work, like sleep pods  - one at a time please - on-site gyms and choice of work-space with communal spaces with innovative design.

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.
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