As someone who has had a job before, particularly one in the office, it is my understand that physical touch is high risk. However per the votes on this answer it seems to be enthusiastically received from the workplace.SE community, so I was wondering what the more nuanced guidelines are for when you can hug a coworker.
This probably varies by culture, but in my experience (in the US in the software industry), hugging in the workplace would generally be considered weird. For example, I have seen all of the following kinds of interactions, and in none of these cases were hugs offered or solicited:
Someone well-liked is being laid off.
Someone has had a melt-down.
Someone has just lost a loved one.
Someone has achieved something special (promotion, new parent, etc).
A team has had a major success (or failure).
I have seen hugs -- generally mild, not big bear hugs -- in cases where the people involved were close friends, whether those friendships developed in the workplace or outside of it. In those cases, the people involved already know if, and if so what kind, of hug the other considers appropriate.
Also, be aware that in some cultures and religions, there are restrictions on this kind of thing between men and women. If you don't know it's ok to hug this person, it's best not to try.
As for the question you linked to, note that the suggestion is fairly sarcastic. It's precisely because hugs like that aren't normal that the answer is humorous. If you actually did that, it would be quite awkward.
"No" means no.
No exchange of bodily fluids at any time, especially if you have the flu :)
No unwanted contact or touch.
Observe how the person hugs - That should give you a pretty good idea how that person wants to be hugged in return. Some women have perfected the art of hugging with just the arms touching :) Know your boundaries.
If in doubt, explicitly ask for permission first and wait until permission is given. Otherwise, what's the point of asking for permission? :)
Don't rush into the hugging. Give the other person plenty of time to say "No" at the last second.
Watch out for context - where you are, what you are doing, who is with you, what they are doing at that moment. If you happen to be at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the company, initiating the hugging of the CEO is probably not the greatest idea. And people probably don't want to get hugged on their way in and out of the restroom either :) The biggest context of all is, of course, the workplace culture.
If you want to play it safe: never initiate a hug, look around you and see how well hugs are received, and observe how an individual person goes about hugging others before you hug that person.
We classify people into different groups all the time, but we can consider them a hierarchy as to how close we feel to them.
- Co-workers are people we work with, occasionally see socially and if we leave the company may never see them again.
- Friends are people we see frequently socially, may work with, and would see them regardless of where we work.
It may be that you meet someone at work, become co-workers and through interacting become friends.
So if you consider someone just a coworker don't hug them, stick to hugging friends.
This is highly dependant on culture, both the culture of the coutry where the business is and the individual culture of the company. In the place where I currently work, hugs are common and we would never consider not hugging someone when a death in the family occurs for instance. Nor would I want to work in a place so cold that a death in the family did not produce a hug frankly.
It is best to observe how things are being handled when you are in a new place.
And never hug someone who clearly doesn't want it.
Be especially careful of hugging across gender boundaries and cultural boundaries.