Next to “we’ll be announcing layoffs this morning”, the phrase that can trigger the most anxiety in your workforce – particularly among your introverts – is “we’re moving to an open office environment”.
First things first: introversion and extroversion are two widely misunderstood concepts. Superficially, introverts are mislabelled as withdrawn, while extroverts are mislabelled as outgoing. Neither of these are anywhere close to the truth.
Introversion and extroversion refer entirely to how different people are energized and re-energized. Introverts occasionally need time alone (or at least, away from high-stimulation environments) so they can recharge their psychological batteries. Extroverts are the opposite: they need regular doses of external stimulation (with people, things or both), or else they feel drained and depleted.
In light of the above, if you’re planning on creating an open office environment, then it certainly makes sense to support the needs of your introverts – or else your investment will backfire. Below, we highlight some key planning factors to keep in mind.
Open Office Layout & Design Tips to Support Introverts:
- Create a suitable number of quiet spaces that are off limits to cell phone calls, meetings, or even conversations. These “decompression zones” (think of a library without the books and computers) are an oasis for introverts who can periodically pop in, recharge, and head back out into the action.
- Create and enforce noise level standards. An open office layout should not resemble a mall food court. You’re running a business after all, and if people have to scream to be heard, then that’s what they’ll do: SCREAM. Instead of collaboration and interaction, the opposite will occur. So while you don’t want managers going around “shushing” people, everyone should understand that it doesn’t have to be “all noise, all the time” – because that’s not good for either introverts OR extroverts (as will be noted in our next blog post).
- Generally, introverts don’t work well in environments where they are regularly interrupted (for that matter, nobody does, but introverts are more likely to find this unbearable). This doesn’t mean that introverts should be bubble wrapped or put in sensory deprivation tanks so they can be effective. Many introverts work quite well in high-stimulus environments. It’s just that they personally do not enjoy being routinely tapped on the shoulder or brought into a conversation. To this end, make sure that your open office design prevents the environment from turning into a free-for-all. It’s fine to have informal conversations – in fact, it’s a good idea – but at the same time, it’s still fundamentally a work environment, and the placement of furniture, fixtures and other elements should align with this.
The Bottom Line
Contrary to what some people think, introverts can and do work quite well in open office environments. In fact, many introverts actually prefer this configuration to a traditional layout, since it means they can more easily connect with colleagues (many introverts are loathe to knock on a colleague’s door, because they don’t want to interrupt them!).
The way to make this work, is simply to keep introverts in mind during the design process, and respect that they don’t just want some elements to be a certain way, but they NEED them to be. Introversion, just as extroversion, is not a choice or a habit. It’s a style.
To learn more about designing an open office what fits the needs of both your introverts and extroverts, contact the experts at Key Interiors today.