With open-plan workspaces, it seems many take the ironic approach of cramming more employees in per square metre, saving costs and resulting in the space being not so ‘open’. While some modern offices are moving away from the open-plan approach and partially-enclosed spaces are being reintroduced, open-plan is still very much a popular design layout in the workplace, and we’ve previously outlined the pros and cons on 1850 Thoughts.

Personal space is something that comes into play at work, especially with open-plan spaces where employees may be working close together. Breathing space or your personal bubble, as it were, is very important and can affect productivity and overall happiness.

A study led by Polish scientists, published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural psychology, looked at how different nationalities felt about personal space.

The British were found to be moderately stand off-ish, as Workplace Insight reports, with the distance between us and strangers needing to be a metre for us to feel most comfortable.  80cm is liked between us and acquaintances (most likely most of our colleagues), and 50cm for close friends or intimates.

Different nationalities proved more comfortable with letting people into their personal bubble, with Argentinians happy with 76cm distance from strangers, 59cm for acquaintances and 40cm for a friend.

At the office, there can be problems with colleagues working in close proximity to one another. Many introverts may feel uncomfortable and therefore distracted with people too close to them. On the other hand, extroverts may feel isolated in a workspace away from others and not work efficiently. Being too close to each other may also increase noise - of people talking, keyboards tapping etc. – which again may be distracting for some employees.

Having personal space to organise yourself when arriving at the office is key in ensuring nothing gets lost or damaged, whether its personal belongings or work files; a good amount of space is important in ensuring colleagues are successful, comfortable and productive at work. 


Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our Content Writer.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with a love of writing about anything and everything in tow.
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