Do you know any “close talkers”?  I’ve met a few in my day.  Although this persona was popularized by Seinfeld, there certainly are people who are unfamiliar with the concept of personal space.  This can be especially annoying in a business setting.  There’s nothing worse than someone breathing down your neck for every last detail.

In a virtual business environment, the concept of personal space takes on a new dimension.  We are no longer confined physically by cubicle walls.  However, this does not mean that clients or contractors will respect your “space”.  In fact, if you don’t set clear boundaries for yourself and your client, you can find yourself wishing you were back in a cubicle once again.  As I mention in the book:

When you work from home, your office is your home. Your clients know that they can reach you any hour of the day since you are always “at the office”. So how do you set boundaries to maintain a normal work / personal balance?

~From the book, Executive in Sweatpants

Normal World

You probably remember learning the different “levels” of personal space every year in school.  I still remember the snickering that would happen with the teacher spoke about “intimate” space.  As boring as it may have been at the time, our culture definitely adheres to certain space-related norms.  Below is a diagram that summarizes what experts classify as “normal”.

How Society Views Personal Space

Virtual World

Many of us, however, are not working in a “normal” world.  As discussed frequently on this blog, the growing trend is for people to instead work from home.  Throughout the course of my workweek, I rarely come into contact (physically) with many human beings.  From 6 am until 6 pm, the only people that I see in person are my family and the mailman.  Given this new reality, I think it’s relevant we consider the different levels of “virtual” personal space.  Below is an infographic which explains the ways I come in contact with my virtual business connections (and the varying impacts on personal space).

Work Relationships for Online Workers

As the diagram implies, project management systems and emails are the least intrusive forms of delegation, while video conferencing is the most.  Keep in mind – I’m not implying that video calls or phone calls are the equivalent of a “close talker”.  On the contrary, one could make the case that video calls are the equivalent of “social space” in the first diagram.  In other words, unless your client or contractor is constantly video conferencing you, the concept of a “close talker” may be irrelevant in the virtual workforce.

Executive in Sweatpants is the book (published November 2012) from marketer and author Matt Keener.  The book is a how-to guide for launching and growing a successful work-from-home consulting business.  Sign up to receive future blog postings and news sent directly to your email inbox.  Learn more about buying the book.


Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and

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