Space is a crucial component in the work environment that affects engagement, innovation, and productivity. As we return to the workplace in the new normal post-Pandemic times, shifts in the perception and use of space can be observed.
In the 1960s anthropologist Edward Hall pioneered the field of proxemics -the study of Interpersonal space, or the physical and social space we maintain between ourselves and others to feel safe and comfortable. Hall defined four distance zones of proximity:
Public Space – Distance of 12 to 25 feet; you must speak louder to be heard, and it’s more difficult to maintain direct eye contact, so the connection between two people is minimal.
Social Space – Distance of 4 to 12 feet; Unable to touch or perceive body heat at this distance, interactions rely on visual and auditory cues to form a connection. Casual acquaintances, professional interactions and formal exchanges are conducted.
Personal Space – Distance of 1.5 to 4 feet; Close enough to reach over and make physical contact, clear eye contact can be made, and friendly interactions take place.
Intimate Space – Distance of 0 to 1.5 feet; Close enough to detect body heat and pheromones. Exclusively used between lovers and people who are of the inner circle of closeness, such as family members.
Over the past 3 years, proxemics has changed drastically with the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic. A new benchmark in interpersonal space: a new social distance necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus was established and enforced into public spaces and norms. We have also experienced a global quarantine that forced us to adopt new proximities.
In the nature of fear and anxiety triggered by Covid-19, 63% of people have reported a 40-50% increase in the size of interpersonal space compared to pre-pandemic times.
Remote working has been a rising trend and a great success combating these fears and anxiety. However, reports of many remote workers facing distractions, burnouts, and professional isolation has proven the importance of spatial relationships in the work environment.
Proxemics impacts communication, knowledge networks, and relationship-building in the work environment. In-person interactions within the work setting can increase productivity. Communication can flow easier when teammates meet face-to-face, and relationships can be forged, which create positive culture within organizations.
As Covid-19 continues to persist, the new proxemics of the work environment will have to focus on accommodating differences in proximity. As we return to the office in the new normal of living with Covid, we must strive to become more aware of our differences and work to build a more inclusive culture. The practice of including proxemics into corporate norms and teamwork would not only help resolve the fear and anxiety of contracting Covid but serve as a step forward in accommodating the work environment to become more diverse, vibrant, and productive.
ZED is devoted to providing an optimized workspace to cater to meet any business needs – By configuring private meeting rooms, phone booths and window bar desks unavailable for external booking and use but exclusively reserved for Zed members, more reduced occupancy work nooks are available for the use of members.