Respondents to a survey conducted by recruitment website Totaljobs have given a damming report on the topic of physical contact at work. Whilst seventy-six percent want the amount of physical contact they experience in the workplace reduced, fourty-two percent would like an outright ban on certain interactions.
It appears that specific actions such as hugs and kisses are particularly unpopular, with twenty-seven and fifteen percent of respondents wanting to put a stop to these respective greetings. Whilst the most popular greeting was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a firm handshake accompanied by two seconds or less of direct eye contract.
These results reveal that many employees could be uncomfortable with the idea of more affectionate greetings at work and organisations would do well to consider how the #MeToo movement, and several recent high profile sexual harassment cases, have placed added emphasis on the dangers of unwelcome physical contact at work.
Interestingly, twenty-five percent of respondents said they had actively avoided a colleague or client due to their choice of greeting and thirty percent said they experience an awkward greeting at work at least once a month.
Whilst a choice of greeting may feel like a non-issue to many, the overwhelming results suggest that organisation would do well to review any long-standing practices when it comes to greetings and consider how these could make staff feel uncomfortable.
Organisations have a duty to protect staff from harassment at work at the hands of colleagues, management and third parties such as clients or service users. Therefore, any complaints of unwelcome physical contact must be investigated thoroughly and a clear grievance reporting procedure should be in place.
Whilst an outright ban on physical contact may seem like a severe solution, employers should look at ways to train staff so they are aware of how certain greetings or behaviour can constitute harassment. At the same time, introducing a policy on inappropriate behaviour and instructing senior staff to lead by example should help implement any cultural shift when it comes to workplace greetings .