Are Hugs a Good Idea In A Coworking Space?

Sensei Cat Johnson likes hugs, even in a coworking workplace [1].

OK, she’s from California (and Santa Cruz is California’s California!)  But I understand where she is coming from.

One of the entire points of coworking spaces is that they are a “respite from our isolation” [2]. Freelance and independent workers are even more isolated than other workers, and potentially subject to loneliness and the accompanying psychological distress.  In a coworking community, it is possible to be with other people, other like-minded people, and ideally, friends and colleagues.

Loneliness is horrible and widespread, and surely the opposite of loneliness is a hug.  So that’s good.  As her title says, “Hugs, Coworking and Health

‘Free Hugs’

Sensei Cat mentions a ‘Free Hugs’ at a Pride day (which I have seen in other similar settings).  I was even more impressed by a pop up  “Hug a Muslim” event.  The good thing about these transgressive hugs is that they are both strong and pacifying.  How do you resist a hug?  Not much you can do except back away, and that’s not too bad for anyone.

The Science of Hugs vs the Politics of Hugs

Unfortunately, this isn’t anywhere near as simple as Sensei Cat says, especially for men.

Since the 1970s, I have been rigorously trained to not touch people at work, especially females or anyone younger than me. Period. Recent headlines about workplace harassment should explain the point of this rule.

So I’d say that hugging at work is not easy or comfortable for everyone, and can even be seriously problematic if it becomes unwanted or is misperceived.

What Should A Coworking Community Do?

I guess the trick for a coworking community is to make hugs available, but not forced.  Obviously you should start with kind words, thoughtful deeds, and attentive listening.  That will probably make clear when a hug is wanted and needed, and also make sure the hug achieves the intended goal.

  1. Cat Johnson, Hugs, Coworking and Health, in CAT JOHNSON CONTENT. 2018.
  2. Zachary R. Klaas, Coworking & Connectivity in Berlin. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2014.


Cat Johnson, Hugs Coworking and Health


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