From red carpet to real life… SUSANNA REID: Why I vetoed hugs at work

This week, Bill Turnbull sat next to me to present our first breakfast television show together in six years.

A veteran television presenter, experienced foreign correspondent, writer, football commentator and even beekeeper, in recent years he has also become an inspirational figure in the way he is dealing with his incurable cancer.

It was so wonderful to see him. We have a decade of shared experience and I know how tough things have been. 

So, in the opening moments of the programme, I turned to him and did something I rarely do at work — I gave him a hug.

Susanna Reid says she has a long-held reputation in the studio for being someone who doesn’t do professional PDA

It felt right, and I knew the audience would have wanted to do the same if they had been in my position.

But for me to hug someone I work with is extremely out of character — as Piers will attest.

I have a long-held reputation in the studio for being someone who definitely doesn’t do professional PDAs. 

There’s an invisible force field around me that keeps the touchy-feelies at arm’s length.

I have never subscribed to the idea that it’s necessary to greet someone in the office by wrapping arms and touching backs. 

This week, Bill Turnbull sat next to her to present their first breakfast television show together in six years

This week, Bill Turnbull sat next to her to present their first breakfast television show together in six years

If someone approaches, lips pursed for a cheek kiss, I smoothly lean away. Is it just me?

In my job, I meet a lot of people, and some guests are more open than others. My force field is so strong it applies to celebrities, too, and few try to embrace me.

But there are exceptions. It was hard to resist Chelsea Pensioner Colin Thackery — who won Britain’s Got Talent — kissing my hand before our emotional interview about VE Day this week.

And Tom Cruise welcomed me with open arms on the red carpet a few years ago.

Meryl Streep is warm, but a look-but-don’t-touch celebrity, whereas others, such as Will Smith, find alternative ways to break the ice — he sang ‘Oh! Susanna’ when I met him.

Hugging has been a social hot potato for a while. On the one hand, we are increasingly aware of touch being good for our wellbeing, and on the other, some workplace tribunals have deemed touching inappropriate.

And now there’s coronavirus to complicate matters more.

Virology professor John Oxford says: ‘What we need to do is less hand shaking, hugging, kissing and all that sort of thing.

‘This is a social virus; it rather hates it in England compared with in China, I’d think, because we’re so stand-offish.’

The duo used to present BBC Breakfast together (pictured in 2006) and Susanna says it was 'wonderful' to see him after their decade of shared experience

The duo used to present BBC Breakfast together (pictured in 2006) and Susanna says it was ‘wonderful’ to see him after their decade of shared experience

Italians are being advised to avoid their customary peck on both cheeks greeting for the time being, while Americans should think twice about high fives.

So you see, I’m vindicated.

While some may say I am being uptight, I would argue that my attitude to colleagues cuddling is healthier and more professional in the modern workplace.

In the #MeToo era, where people worry that a hug might be misunderstood, it is easier to avoid touching altogether.

Personally, I think most of us instinctively know when hugging is appropriate. A touch on the leg during a driving lesson is clearly off-limits, but a hug from your instructor might feel OK after you’ve passed your test.

I’m not suggesting we ban hugging at work — that would mean you couldn’t wrap your arms around a colleague who is low, or if you wanted to congratulate them on good news. 

Bill (pictured on the show on Monday) is a veteran television presenter, experienced foreign correspondent, writer, football commentator and even beekeeper

Bill (pictured on the show on Monday) is a veteran television presenter, experienced foreign correspondent, writer, football commentator and even beekeeper



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