According to office experts, officebroker.com, the average worker needs personal space somewhere between one and half feet and four feet to work at their most productive.
And despite most office workers being able to adapt whatever their surroundings, there are some who crave complete isolation and others who like to be in the thick of everything.
Chris Meredith, CEO of officebroker.com, said: “Most of us will be working with or have worked with all three of these types at some point.
“The majority of office workers fall into the personal space professional category. These people know the professional boundaries required at work and are never overly familiar with colleagues or contacts. They’re flexible when it comes to the working environment. Open plan works well for them, likewise they’d be just as productive in their own office or cubicle.
“The other two types are less common although we’ll all have worked with one or both at some point. The cubicle craver needs their own space and cannot bear people getting too close. For them a cubicle, office or homeworking is ideal.
“In contrast, the office space invader is the one you’ll find perched on the edge of your desk, in need of constant attention. Their perfect office would be buzzing with background noise and conversation – with lots of cosy sofas for informal meetings with colleagues.
“Key is that when it comes to your office space, you need to find an environment that will work for everyone. Most office workers are very adaptable, but it’s always worth having a place where people can break away too and work comfortably by themselves without interruption.”
To help you determine which type you are, the team at officebroker.com has put together this quiz:
1. In a business situation, how close is too close?
a. You can’t think of a time when someone sat or stood too close to you at work.
b. Someone sitting or standing at arm’s length is fine; if you can smell their coffee breath you know they’re getting too close.
c. Across the desk is fine – any closer and you start to feel uncomfortable.
2. You need to discuss an ongoing project with a colleague who works in the same building. Do you:
a. Scoot over and perch on their desk.
b. Grab a spare chair near their desk.
c. Phone them.
3. Meeting greetings:
3a. A business contact you know well visits your office …How do you greet them?
a. Hugs, kisses and gushes of “Darling, how are you?”
b. Pat on the back or a brief air-kiss – you take the lead from them.
c. Friendly wave from a safe distance.
3b. A business contact you’re meeting for the first time arrives in the office… How do you greet them?
a. Hugs, kisses and gushes of “Darling, how are you?”
b. Firm, friendly handshake.
c. A brief “Hello” before reluctantly accepting their business card.
4. You accidentally brush knees with a colleague. What do you do?
a. Nothing. Where’s the issue?
b. Discreetly move back a few inches, murmuring an apology.
c. Move as far back as the wall will allow.
5. You cope with background noise in the office by…
a. You love the background buzz and couldn’t get through the workday without it.
b. Focusing on your work – you can usually tune most of it out when you’re concentrating.
c. Wearing noise-cancelling earphones most of the time.
6. Hugging a colleague in the office is…
a. Something you do regularly.
b. Something you do occasionally – to congratulate them or if someone is upset.
c. Never ok.
7. If you could redesign your office you would…
a. Not change all that much – maybe add a few snuggle seats or cosy seating areas for informal meetings.
b. Add a few private booths so you can get away from the desk occasionally.
c. Have a private office, just for you.
Mostly As – You’re… The Office Space Invader
We’re going to hazard a guess that your colleagues describe you as “bubbly”. You’ve perfected the art of the “desk perch” and you probably don’t notice your co-workers edging away to reclaim their personal space.
Your sunny, sociable qualities make you one of the most approachable people in the office – and that’s a good thing. But you do need to be sensitive to the personal space needs of co-workers and other business contacts. The Cubicle Craver (see Type C below) is particularly likely to feel uncomfortable with your touchy-feely body language – try to tone it down when you come into contact with this office type.
Best suited to: Co-working or open-plan offices – the cosier the better.
Mostly Bs – You’re… The Personal Space Pro
Looks like you’re in good company, as most office workers fall within this category. Your personal space zone is somewhere between 1.5ft and 4ft and since most interactions in the office fall within this zone, you’re comfortable in most workplace scenarios. Yes, there are times when you’d like a little more personal space, particularly when you come into contact with the Space Invader, but generally you’re comfortable with sharing your workspace.
Both the Space Invader and the Cubicle Craver may look to you as a guide to the most appropriate way to interact with others in the workplace, so keep up the good work and continue being the shining example you are.
Best suited to: An open-plan office – with the occasional homeworking day.
Mostly Cs – You’re… The Cubicle Craver
“Bring back the cubicle!” you cry. If you could design yourself a huge plastic bubble and roll to work in it, you probably would. Known to flinch when colleagues move towards you, you’ve developed a hands-in-pockets posture to deter unwanted personal contact. But that’s not to say you’re antisocial – you just have a more highly attuned sense of personal space than most.
Just remember that other people won’t always understand your need for personal space and may interpret it as rudeness. Getting over your discomfort for the occasional handshake may help you to make a better impression on colleagues and other business contacts.
Best suited to: Remote working. You like your colleagues best when viewed from the safety of a computer screen.