February, 2021

The Physical Touch Love Language at Work

The Five Love Languages: Explained

In our blog series based on Dr. Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, we’ve covered four out of the five love languages at work. It’s time to look at the final — and certainly the most sensitive — one: the physical touch love language at work.

But first, a quick overview of all five love languages:

  1. Quality Time: In this article, we discussed the importance of how open communication in the workplace empowers employees.
  2. Receiving Gifts: The act of recognizing employees through compensation, whether through incentivized bonuses or PTO packages, can show employees appreciation in the workplace.
  3. Acts of Service: Providing benefits to employees can motivate your workforce and show employees the value they provide to your organization.
  4. Words of Affirmation: In the first article of our Love Language series, we discuss how performance reviews can boost employees’ confidence and improve their work performance.

In our final article of this five-part series, we’re going to discuss the more controversial workplace love language: Physical Touch. We’ll talk about appropriate methods to incorporate physical touch in ways that promote a positive workplace culture without employees feeling uncomfortable. We’ll also discuss how an employee’s physical setting can impact their overall well-being and how workplace rewards such as paid time off (PTO) can help.

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How Do You Incorporate the Physical Touch Love Language in the Workplace, Appropriately?

Let’s address this simple fact: physical contact at work is generally NOT OKAY. Employees should always consent, and non-verbal cues such as withdrawing, stiffening, and uncomfortable facial expressions should be recognized. There is no gray area and no room for error regarding consent for physical touch in the workplace. Always ask for permission before initiating physical touch and never make assumptions that it’s okay to initiate contact with someone.

Your company’s industry can also impact the appropriateness of physical touch. Physical touch in an office setting is typically not appropriate, whereas an athlete may be in a high-proximity position where physical contact with someone can be unavoidable at times. It’s up to HR to make clear guidelines for what is appropriate and when it’s right to ensure employees have a 100 percent understanding of these guidelines throughout their time with your company.

The most common physical touch expressions in the workplace are subtle and spontaneous. They may even include gestures of which most people wouldn’t think twice. Examples would be a handshake when meeting someone for the first time or a high-five for a job well done.

There are people whose love language is physical touch, so a fist-bump when being told, “Great job!” means a lot more to them than receiving an award. However, we must reiterate that an employee must accept even subtle physical gestures consensually.

How Physical Touch and Paid-Time Off Relate

We’ve discussed many different ways of applying the love languages to work environments, such as conducting quality performance reviews, providing comprehensive employee benefits, paying employees accurately and on time, and empowering employees to have a voice in the workplace. While all of these are essential parts of creating a happy workforce, there is still one piece of the puzzle missing: offering paid time off.

Physical touch can seem taboo when relating it to workplace culture. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. People need words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gifts to feel appreciated. Likewise, the physical touch love language at work is just as important to some employees.

As a manager, co-worker, or employer, you might be wondering how you can offer someone whose love language is physical touch a form of appreciation applicable in a workplace setting. The solution we have found is to relate physical contact to something you can offer in the workplace that will produce the same result of appreciation: a sufficient paid time off policy.

Time Out of the Office is as Important as Time in It

In our personal lives, having uninterrupted time to reconnect with family and friends is vital to our mental health. We all need time away to focus on essential things other than work-related tasks. This invaluable reward is critical to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Paid-time off provides an essential opportunity for employees to connect and recharge their mental batteries, no matter how much they love their job. Giving employees adequate PTO shows them their company values their emotional health and recognizes the importance of time away from work.

What’s Your Love Language?

Find out by taking the love language quiz.

Communication is Key

Employees can become stressed and overwhelmed, yet many of them do not use their PTO to decompress. A recent study conducted by the American Travel Association shows that 52 percent of Americans left vacation time on the table last year. If employees need time to unwind as part of their love language, why aren’t more workers taking it?

There is a negative stigma associated with taking time off from work. Some employees feel it’s simply too hard to take PTO. Either it’s challenging to coordinate schedules with colleagues or too tricky to delegate their workload.

While many managers support employees taking time off, it simply isn’t being communicated. The key to getting employees to take time is better communication about the importance of using PTO.

When employees aren’t motivated to take vacation time, it harms productivity and can cost a company more money in the long-run. According to Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, employees working too many hours in a day have a 13% higher rate of clinical depression than those who don’t overwork.

In addition to higher depression, employees that work too long and too much are more error-prone and likely to take more sick days than those who aren’t overworked. The benefits of paid time off are two-fold: thriving employees lead to a thriving company and ultimately a better customer experience for clients.

How to Implement a Paid Time-Off Policy

It’s not enough to simply provide paid time off. Managers need to communicate about the company’s PTO policy and encourage employees to take personal time. This communication is crucial to support a healthy work-life balance and ensure employees don’t burn out. Here are some tips to improve communication between managers and employees to implement your company’s paid-time-off policy successfully:

Employee Management


When talking to managers about how to approach an open dialogue with employees about using paid time off, here are some useful messages to use:


“Taking time off gives you a much-needed opportunity to de-stress and avoid burning out at work.”


“We appreciate the work you do for us every day. We always support your need to take time off and encourage you to do so.”


“Your work performance can improve by taking time off, which could even lead to a raise or promotion.”


“We know that you work hard each day. We also encourage you to take time for yourself and your family outside of work. Your workload will be managed while taking time off.”

Time Off Request


By the same token, when talking to managers about reasons to approve time-off requests, here are some useful messages to use:

“When your employees return to work, they are recharged, more motivated, and more productive.”

“By using time off, your employees avoid burning out and improve their well-being and health, cutting down on sick days used.”

“When your employees use their time off, they are more likely to work overtime or put in longer hours when needed.”

Other Ways to Acknowledge Physical Touch

For employees whose primary love language is physical touch, here are a few other small gestures that you can do to appreciate these employees based on their preferred method of appreciation:

Time Off Request

Give high fives for a job well done

Time Off Request

Offer Hand Shakes each morning as a greeting


Fist-Bump as a way to check-in with people throughout the day

APS Social Distancing Icon

Elbow-bumps in light of COVID social distancing guidelines

Bringing the Five Love Languages Full Circle

We’ve talked a lot in this series about how important it is to have happy employees, but we cannot overstate it. HR managers carry most of the responsibility in ensuring employees are taken care of and satisfied in their work environment, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. By incorporating the love languages, learning which language resonates with employees, and teaching the love languages to other managers, the result is a workplace culture filled with open communication and motivated employees.

To read more about the love languages and how to incorporate them into the workplace, check out our other articles:

  • Quality Time: We discuss the importance of how open communication in the workplace empowers employees.
  • Receiving Gifts: The act of recognizing employees through compensation, whether through incentivized bonuses or PTO packages, can show employees appreciation in the workplace.
  • Acts of Service: Providing benefits to employees can motivate your workforce and show employees the value they provide to your organization.
  • Words of Affirmation: Learn how performance reviews can boost employees’ confidence and improve their work performance.

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The Quality Time Love Language at Work

The Quality Time Love Language at Work

When it comes to incorporating the quality time love language at work, the best way to do it is by facilitating communication between managers and employees.

Acts of Service in the Workplace

Acts of Service in the Workplace

There are many ways to perform acts of service in the workplace. Offering great benefits to employees is one of them. And it will motivate them. Find out how!

Words of Affirmation in the Workplace

Words of Affirmation in the Workplace

Using words of affirmation in the workplace shows employees you appreciate them. This love language is especially useful for performance reviews. Learn why!

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