National Hug Day 2019 by Alison Lowe

As many of my colleagues at Touchstone will be aware, I am a hugger!

Hugging is a way of being human with people; showing empathy, or just sharing a moment of joy.  I feel hugging keeps me connected with the people around me but it also allows me to show my emotions and vulnerability – which I think is essential in a mental health and wellbeing charity.

I hug when I, or the person I am with, is sad or not feeling okay.  I hug when we succeed in achieving our objectives at work or in our personal lives.  I hug someone I feel a connection with when we meet – be it for the first time with a new person – or someone I have met many times before.

Hugging makes me feel joy and it reminds me how important human contact is, especially when feelings of loneliness are often close by and our wellbeing is hard to maintain.

Hugging is always optional though.  We have all read the recent lurid headlines surrounding Ted Baker CEO, Ray Kelvin, who has been accused of allegedly forcing staff to hug and kiss him – even having a dedicated “hug rug” in the office to facilitate the practice.

Like all things at work, my preference for human contact must never ride rough shod over the rights of my colleagues or Touchstone policies and procedures such as the Code of Conduct policy.

There are also other checks and balances within the organisation to ensure staff needs are protected.  For instance, all managers are subject to an anonymous 360 degree appraisal process which means anyone can raise concerns about a manager’s conduct at Board level. There is also regular training on our Whistleblowing policy and on Code of Conduct for all staff, repeated at least annually which gives colleagues access to independent places to raise complaints, including the Charity Commission, Concern at Work and the Health and Safety Executive.

In a mental health and wellbeing charity like Touchstone, a hug can be a lovely way for us all to acknowledge our humanity and need for support but a hug must always be the choice of all participants or it can be seen as an abuse of power, or worse!

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