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Is it okay to hug in the workplace?

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

Hugging in the workplace is somewhat of a gray area when it comes to inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Hugging in the workplace. Two co-workers hugging in the office.

So, is hugging your co-workers' sexual harassment?

Here's when we would normally include the "I don't know" emoji, because it can really depend. There are so many factors that should be considered. Here's a breakdown of some the things we should keep in mind when it comes to hugging in the workplace:

1. Who's the person we're hugging?

What kind of relationship is there between huggee and hugger. Have we just met this person? Do we spend time with them outside of work? Depending on the type of relationship we've created with this person, can help determine if we should go straight for a hug, or maybe ask for a high-five instead.

2. Does the person like hugs.

Have you ever asked the individual if they like to hug? It should be noted that even if someone has said yes to a hug once, it does not mean that they will always want a hug. If you're unsure, it's always best to ask.

3. Did we ask the person if we could give them a hug?

Before wrapping those arms around someone, ask if they would like a hug. It's as simple as that. By asking the person you'll know whether or not you can or should hug them. Reminder to the huggers out there: just because someone says no to a hug doesn't mean that they don't like you. It just means that they don't want a hug right now, or may never want a hug, and that's okay.

4. How long is the hug?

Now there's no right or wrong answer to this one. But we've all had that hug that lasts just a little to long and feels uncomfortable and awkward. If you start to feel someone moving away, it's safe to assume that the hug is now over.

5. Are our hands wandering to other areas of the huggees body?

This is an obvious DO NOT DO. Your hands should not wander anywhere on your co-worker's body, that's just creepy and could be considered assault depending on where those hands end up.

Hugging in the workplace is a very complex and complicated subject. For some hugging co-workers is a way to feel connected to one another. And for others, hugging feels awkward, weird and uncomfortable. When it comes to workplace hugs, always ask before you embrace.


Hugging in the workplace activity:

Creating conversation and discussion around hugging in the workplace can help your team understand one another better. Here's a quick activity you can do with your team to spark meaningful conversations:

Workplace harassment training activity. Hugging in the workplace training activity.

Have the team raise their hands if they love giving and receiving hugs from their coworkers.

Make sure they keep those hands up. Have the group look around the room. Now, have them lower their hands.

Ask the team who does not like giving or receiving hugs from their coworkers. Have the group look around the room.

To spark meaningful conversation about hugging in the workplace, here are a few questions you can ask the team:

  • Does anyone want to share why they love giving hugs?

  • Does anyone want to share why they don't like giving or receiving hugs?

  • What are some things or circumstances that could change who you would give or receive a hug from?

  • What factors into whether a hug is appropriate or inappropriate?

A good rule to follow when it comes to hugs in the workplace is to ask first. A simple, "is it okay if I hug you?" or "would it be okay if I hugged you" are quick and easy ways to make sure that the hug is okay.

Have questions or comments? We'd love to hear from you!

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