April 25, 2019
Research by jobs board Totaljobs claims that three quarters of British workers (76 percent) want the amount of physical contact in the workplace reduced, whilst 42 percent go further and call for an outright ban on some interactions, from the workplace kiss (27 percent) to wishing hugs were a thing of the past (15 percent). The research claims that one in three (30 percent) workers experience an awkward greeting at work at least once a month, with those in their twenties experiencing the most.
One in five surveyed (22 percent) have had a ‘greeting clash’ in the workplace with the most embarrassing of those including:
- A quarter have been trapped in an unwanted hug (25 percent)
- One in five (19 percent) have been on the receiving end of an unexpected kiss
- One in seven (15 percent) have received an unwanted chest touch, after one has opted for a handshake, the other a hug
- One in eight (13 percent) have had an accidental kiss on the mouth thanks to ill-timed air kisses
- Another one in eight (12 percent) have had an accidental headbutt
In fact, some are so concerned with how they are interacted with in the workplace that a quarter (25 percent) actively avoid awkward colleagues or clients.
Psychologist and body language expert, Jo Hemmings shares advice on embarrassing encounters at work: “Interactions in the workplace have become a confusing and difficult terrain in recent years. Navigating what ostensibly seems like a simple ‘hello,’ is now a minefield for both initiator and recipient so no wonder two thirds of us want clear guidelines on interactions at work from awkward hugs to accident nose bumps”.
“It is important for companies to step up and offer much-needed guidance for staff around the rules of engagement in the workplace”.
The nation’s preferred choice of workplace greeting is a firm handshake – with two seconds or less of direct eye contact to leave us truly in our comfort zone. Interestingly, whilst nearly half (45 percent) of workers in their 40s and 50s prefer handshakes, only 35 percent of those in their 20s favour them with two-fifths (41 percent) preferring no physical contact when greeting colleagues or clients.
Whilst hugs are universally unpopular across ages, 18 percent of workers in their 20s claim to prefer a hug as their workplace greeting of choice, in contrast to only 5 percent of workers in their 40s and 50s. Kisses are also deemed a total no-no with over a quarter (27 percent) of those surveyed wanting them banned.
Two-fifths (41 percent) of men who greet people differently based on gender do so for fear of making the other person feel uncomfortable. An uncomfortable quarter (28 percent) who consciously change their greeting with women do so for fear of their interaction being perceived as sexual harassment.
Half of women prefer no physical interaction when it comes to greeting colleagues of either sex – male (51 percent) and female (53 percent).
A call for clear workplace guidelines
Despite having concerns over workplace behaviours, workers are unsure what is expected of them when interacting with clients and colleagues. Two-thirds (68 percent) think workplaces should have clear guidelines on what is considered an appropriate greeting at work to avoid causing offence. Shockingly, only one in seven (15 percent) have received any sort of guidance from their employer in the last year.
These situations shouldn’t be taken lightly, with a third (33 percent) claiming that their wellbeing has been affected following an awkward greeting. 15 percent said that replaying awkward or uncomfortable interactions in their head has negatively impacted their productivity, losing up to as much as a valuable hour of the working day.