Posted by: healingtheworkplace | January 21, 2010

Hugging in the Workplace

Hi, I was listening to the radio awhile ago and learned that today (January 21) is International Hug Day.

As is my usual habit I decided to dig for more information on the internet. International Hug Day was “born in the USA in 1986”. I’m not sure who came up with the idea but it didn’t take long for the idea to “take off” and spread around the world.

Since 1986 there has been a lot written about the health benefits of hugging:

  • hugging is good for your heart
  • hugging reduces blood pressure
  • hugging reduces stress levels

Basically, being hugged on a regular basis is good for your overall health.

Now, when it comes to hugging in the workplace you need to consider a few things:

First of all whether or not hugging is acceptable at work will depend on your workplace culture.

Workplace culture refers to those “things”, both tangible and intangible, that make your workplace unique. Is your workplace male or female oriented? Do you work in a sawmill or a daycare centre? Is your workplace formal and conservative (think banking) or is it informal and liberal (think design studio)?

Don’t make assumptions! Things are not always what they seem to be and even in male dominated cultures certain indivduals may be comfortble with hugging. Or vice-versa.  Let’s not stereotype women either. Not all women like to hug.

Second, hugging is a very individual thing. Some people like to be hugged and see hugging as a friendly gesture. Others are not comfortable and would prefer to shake hands, or not be touched at all.

Third, hugging is a cultural thing…as in it may be more acceptable in certain countries and among certain nationalities.

Of course there are different ways to give a hug. Standing beside someone and putting your arm around their shoulders is probably the least offensive way of giving someone a squeeze.

According to Patricia Mathews hugging is not illegal but could be viewed as harassment if the person being hugged is not receptive.

So, bottom line…hugging is a good thing but only if the person you are intent on hugging is in agreement. Children are included in this and they will let you know in no uncertain terms if they DON’T want to be hugged.

Lesley

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