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The Physical Touch Love Language at Work

The office is not a place of physical contact. However, the physical touch love language at work can be fulfilled another way: paid time off. Learn how!

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. So it’s time to look at the final — and certainly the most sensitive — one: the physical touch love language at work.

This article will discuss appropriate methods to incorporate physical touch in the workplace. We’ll also dive into how you can use the physical touch love language to promote a positive workplace culture without employees feeling uncomfortable. Finally, we’ll let you know how an employee’s physical setting can impact their overall well-being and how workplace rewards such as paid time off (PTO) can help.

The Five Love Languages: Explained

Before we dive into how physical touch works in a company setting, let’s do a quick recap on the four other love languages we’ve discussed in this series:

  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.
Now that you have a better understanding of love languages in the workplace, it’s time to take a deeper look at the appropriate ways you can support someone at work whose love language is physical touch.

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 to any physical interaction, and team members should receive training on non-verbal cues such as withdrawing, stiffening, and uncomfortable facial expressions. There is no gray area or 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. For example, physical touch in an office setting is typically not appropriate. Meanwhile, an athlete may be in a high-proximity position where physical contact with someone can be unavoidable. It’s up to Human Resource Management to make clear guidelines for what is appropriate. Again, HR needs to decide when employees must have training on love language scenarios 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 or a high-five for a job well done.

For people whose love language is physical touch, a fist bump while being told, “Great job!” might mean 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 to produce appreciation. In this case, that’s a sufficient paid time off policy.

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

Having uninterrupted time reconnecting with family and friends is vital to our mental health. We all need time 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 paid vacations shows them their company values their emotional health and recognizes the importance of time away from work.

Want to Streamline PTO Requests?

Learn How A Unified Payroll and HR Solution Can Help!

The Current State of PTO Requests

Did you know only 4 in 10 Americans took vacation time in 2019? Meanwhile, 50% of Americans left vacation time on the table last year. As a result, employees can become stressed and overwhelmed, yet many do not use their PTO to decompress.

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. Meanwhile, others worry their bosses will judge them for taking time off.

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. On the other hand, 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:

Core HR

A Blurred Line

Encourage managers to use open dialogue with employees about paid time off. Here are various ways to encourage employees to use PTO:

What Managers Need To Hear

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

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:

Give high fives for a job well done

Offer Hand Shakes each morning as a greeting


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

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, with HR managers carrying most of the responsibility in ensuring employees are taken care of and satisfied in their work environment. The excellent news is workplace satisfaction 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, you create 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:
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