As workers’ elbow space shrinks and companies adopt open concept layouts, we are forced to ask the question—“how much persona space does the average employee really require?”

The truth is that there is no set answer.  The amount of space required by a worker is dependent on a number of variables. 

What is considered a tight squeeze in the workplace?

The Task

The type of work to be performed is a significant factor when it comes to determining an appropriate amount of personal space.  Jobs that require a great deal of off-site work obviously require less.  Employees that are expected to work in collaboration with others also need a smaller amount of private space. 

Individuals, however, who engage in a great deal of deskwork or work that requires high levels of concentration—such as research, accounting, or writing—will need greater privacy. 

Some forms of work require greater amounts of personal space.

Equipment Required for the Job

If an employee requires filing cabinets, a printer, a copier, or other space-hogging equipment, they require more personal office space than someone who operates from a laptop and a cell phone.   

Employee Physique

Not everyone is built the same and office space must take this in to consideration.  A workstation that is comfortable for a person who is five feet tall will not necessarily provide enough space for a six footer to stretch out.  People of a huskier build will also require more space to move around in and perform their jobs easily.    

When creating your office layout and deciding on office furniture, it is important that you keep generously proportioned employees in mind. 

Modern workspaces must use space wisely without sacrificing employee comfort.

Role in the Corporate Hierarchy

It still holds true that one of the perks of having a top-level position within the company is also having a larger office.  Power does equal square footage and, in some cases, the key to a private washroom.  When designing a company workspace, it is important to consider the rung that various employees hold on the corporate ladder.

Personal space is often indicative of one’s success.

Population Density

For the most part, people from North America and many parts of Europe are used to having a relatively large amount of personal space.  Many drive to work in their cars alone, and some even live in homes that have a “spare room.”  Westerners are used to having room to breathe.   

Many parts of the world, however, have very high population densities and the people who live there lead crowded lives.  Individuals from these cultures, therefore, would be less uncomfortable sacrificing personal space. 

Ensuring adequate workspace will create a happy and productive staff.

When designing your office space and selecting furnishings for your workstations, it is important to ensure that you equip your employees for their jobs.  Providing them with adequate space to get their work done comfortably will better enable you to sustain a happy and dedicated workforce.  And this is a key ingredient to success.       

How much personal space do you need in the workplace?