Human beings are social creatures. We have an inherent need to feel like we belong, that our decisions are validated and as entrepreneurs, that our business ideas are well received.
That being said, how appropriate is hugging in the workplace? Should it be something we do more of, or is it seen as showing ‘too much’ affection?
The science of hugging
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, social needs are only second to food, water, shelter, and security.
As a need, rather than a want, it’s important that this is met - or it will be sorely missed. Loneliness is strongly linked with poor mental health, and it can be easy to feel more lonely when working for yourself, as a freelancer, entrepreneur, or business owner.
Some of the best social interactions come from physical closeness, such as a hug. When we hug, our brains release a hormone called oxytocin, making us feel happy. This also lowers our cortisol levels, reducing stress.
How to get that “hugged” feeling at work
Despite the scientific benefits of hugging, it may be seen as a step too far in some workplaces in the UK and US.
While the French kiss both cheeks as a welcome gesture, and Indian PM Narendra Modi likes to hug acquaintances such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or former President Barack Obama, physical closeness in our workplaces very often only extends to a handshake.
For some workplaces, hugging may be something that is encouraged, particularly considering the positive benefits mentioned above. However, there are also ways you can stimulate the same benefits of hugging while still remaining professional, and without invading someone’s physical space should they not feel so comfortable:
1. Put trust in others
In a scientific study, oxytocin was found to be released by people when they feel trusted.
Having trust between yourself and coworkers - especially anyone you manage - is incredibly valuable, as it can make them more accountable to you, as well as build your mutual respect.
2. Spend time with your support network
Everyone deserves a good support network. This is a group of people who you can talk with, relate to, and care for - everyone from your grandparents to your colleagues can be in your support network.
Finding people who are in your position to swap stories with, learn from, and grow together, is both fulfilling and will give you that sense of belonging. It’s one of our essential tips to maximise your potential as an entrepreneur, too.
3. Get an office pet
If you work from home, or work in an office that permits animals, you may want to consider adopting a pet. Being affectionate with a dog or a cat has been scientifically proven to alleviate stress.
The management of a pet can also make you more accountable to yourself. Keeping to a routine is important for many pets, so meal times, walks, and general petting will stop you from overworking and neglecting your own needs.
So, what would your preference be?