Believe me – I wasn’t aware that even in this subject there are quite a few cultural differences! ‘This subject’ means the physical ‘office layout’. Being German, if I have to share an office with one or more colleagues (which is the standard case in nearly all companies), I definitely prefer to face my office companion. And I definitely hate sitting with the back to the door or to an open space, not seeing what is happening behind me. Face to colleague, back to wall – this is my preferred office set-up. If possible, I’d love to have ‘my stuff’ near me: a shelf or similar with my books and toys within reach – but this is just an ‘add-on benefit’, not a ‘must’.
Well, I just recently learned that there are very different preferences–depending from your cultural background or geographical origin–on how to set-up your office space. For example, it seems that US Americans prefer not facing the colleague(s), but they don’t mind sitting back-to-back with others, and they also don’t mind not seeing what is happening behind them. Although I heard that, regarding seating arrangement, forward-facing is preferred over wall-facing!
What I also do not like are offices with glass walls to the floor. They make me feel like a giant fish in an aquarium or a monkey in his cage. (*Never feed me after midnight*)
I had the pleasure to live in such kind of an office several times – and I always “sealed” the glass wall with posters and calendars and whatever kind of large paper I could grab. But in other countries, it is completely normal to have offices where you can watch inside and outside – and nobody feels strange.
Are you aware of other special physical ‘office layout’ preferences in other countries or cultures? If yes, please share your insight with us. And if you host multicultural teams in your physical office space, you should not hesitate to address this topic with your roomies or team members early in time, and probably take these observations into consideration, to ensure you avoid any unnecessary discord. (mc)