William Liao

April 16, 2021

Personal Space Ethic

Workplace culture in America has historically had some serious issues with the notion of personal space, rest, recovery, and wellbeing. 

Take vacations as a good example: 

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that taking vacations has positive implications on your happiness, success rate, likelihood of promotion (yep!), and stress levels. 


A study performed in 2018 by the US Travel Organization found that 55% of workers did not use all of their paid time off totaling 768 million (million!) unused vacation days. Of those vacations days, 236 million days were forfeited, which equates to $65.5 billion in lost benefits. 

A lot of people worked for free that year. 

The most concerning part of this is that 54% of U.S. workers felt guilty about taking vacation according to another survey conducted by TurnKey Vacation Rentals

The bottom line: it’s important to recognize that your need for space, for rest, and for recovery is emphatically not a weakness

The obsession that we sometimes encounter in the workplace with immediacy, getting stuff done 24/7, and never skipping a beat might make for an inspiring and energizing novel or movie script but it doesn’t work well in practice with negative implications on productivity, the economy, happiness, motivation, success rates, likelihood of promotion, and stress levels. 

In other words, it’s unlikely that we’re doing anyone a favor —whether its ourselves, our colleagues, or our institutions — when we push this mindset. 

There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your work ethic, but perhaps now more than ever it’s clear that an equal amount pride should be taken in Personal Space ethic — the kind that is intentional about pausing, taking extended breaks, and reaping the wide array of personal and professional benefits that come along with it.