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Monday, 21 October

Collaborate or Hibernate? Creating A Workspace For Extroverts & Introverts

Introverts can't deal with the hustle and bustle of the open plan.

Jackie Furey explains how to create a workplace that caters for all personality types including the introverts and extroverts that might otherwise clash.

The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is much more complicated than you would think. In recent years, the modern workplace has taken huge strides away from the traditional ‘one desk per person’ concept and as a result the modern workspace tends to generally favour the extrovert.

The original concept was meant to push people out of their cubicles and into environments adapted for a specific type of work – whether that be meeting spaces, breakout areas or 'heads down' working areas. But over the years, this concept has morphed into open offices and big collaborative spaces.

This means that many office workers find themselves constantly within ear shot of others, over-looked and with no sense of privacy – a nightmare for the introverts amongst us. For the introvert this design prevents them getting the quiet, isolation they crave for creative breakthroughs or contemplative work.


So, why is it that we continue to design offices in a way that doesn’t actually work for 50% of employees?

Well, the theory behind the open plan office is that the environment is a catalyst for creativity, collaboration and transparency but as time goes on, it's becoming more and more evident that this approach is too simplistic. In practice, different personality types thrive in different environments.

It is also true that different types of work call for different types of space configuration - even the most social people sometimes need a quiet moment to get their heads around drafting a presentation or crunching numbers for a report.


Increasing productivity

Luckily, there are some key changes that can be made within an office to make people happier and more productive. Introverts are more sensitive to external stimuli than extroverts are, which means open planned spaces can add to their stress levels. Working in large, collaborative spaces can be exhausting for introverted people, due to the noise and lack of privacy. Introducing smaller, acoustic spaces within a floor-plan can counteract this effect and give introverts a place to bolt if they need peace and quiet. These can take the form of one person pods, quiet zones specifically for heads down/laptop working or deep seating with high backs to block out sound and reduce distraction.

These semi-private spaces within an open office will give people the option to escape from the hustle and bustle of the main floor plan if they wish. A multi-layered office design is an effective way to reach multiple personality types within the workforce. In particular, the 'deep work' pods/areas should be seen as a must-have.

Depending on how large your company is, you can con-sider pods, huddle spaces or even an entire quiet floor/zone. Some workplaces have even intro-duced silent areas as part of their activity-based working layout.


Extrovert needs

In contrast to this, extroverts get their buzz from being around a multitude of people. This means that common areas, such as breakout zones, are ideal for extroverts. This group also generally appreciate smart collaboration with technology. Video conferencing, adjustable height desks or whiteboards and tables with built-in touch screens are all great ways to encourage collaboration and get the most out of the extrovert workers.


Task appropriateness

In summary, consider the personalities of all staff members and provide spaces that are task appropriate, rather than following trends or letting office aesthetics guide your design decisions. it’s a good long-term investment to have conversations with your staff about how their office space can help them be happier - whether they be introverted or extroverted, older or younger, in IT or sales. Because as we know - happy workers are generally productive workers – and that's definitely a good thing for the bottom line.

Jackie Furey is Director of the workplace consultancy Where We Work

Picture: Please stop the noise - introverts can't deal with the hustle and bustle of the open plan.

Article written by Jackie Furey


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