Dear Coworkers: Step Away From My Cube

Human beings need measurable amounts of personal space, but we're packed into offices like sardines.


Is it just me, or do offices never seem to have an adequate amount of space for all workers?

I'm not even talking about comfort. I mean literally having enough desks and chairs to go around. People always seem to be shoehorned into a corner near a fridge, or offices are shared when they should be solo. And let's not forget about the shrinking distance between cubicles.

At $100 a square foot in major metropolitan areas, I can almost forgive companies for dehumanizing us into sardines. However, what excuses do their suburban counterparts have? From urban centers to quiet suburbs, I've repeatedly seen this phenomenon, regardless of ZIP code.

If that weren't bad enough, it appears many people never learned the limits of personal space. Thanks to some studies conducted with zoo animals in the 1950s, then adopted by anthropologist Edward T. Hall, the term "proxemics" was born. Studying spatial relationships between people, here are the general guidelines for human beings as they interact:

  • Intimate space: 1.5 feet
  • Personal space: 4 feet
  • Social space: 12 feet
  • Public space: 25 feet
  • If any of these zones are "violated" by someone who doesn't fit into that spatial category, you will likely feel uncomfortable.

    The office is filled with physical barriers to create an illusion of habitat space (cubicle walls, desks, and so on). However, these "blockades" do little to protect us from odors, noise, and other items that can impinge upon our personal spaces.

    While there are worse types of victimization, I, for one, feel as if I've suffered enough.

    It's time that employers increased the amount of space issued per employee. Until then, can you please forward this blog entry to all of my coworkers so they get the hint? Mind your proxemics, people!

    After holding down various media jobs, including stops at MTV Networks and Fox News, Andrew G.R. was completely discouraged—not only about his own career but about the lack of job resources that truly spoke to him. Enter, the employment blog and podcast designed to Make Work Better.

    corporate culture

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