Extroverts — people who are invigorated by social interaction — make up an estimated 50 to 70 percent of the U.S. population, according to Forbes. It’s no wonder, then, that so much of the modern work world is designed for them. In fact, more companies have been moving away from cubicles and toward “open” workspaces designed to encourage collaboration and faster communication between colleagues.
That said, employers would be wise to think about the other one-third to half of the population who are introverts — those who derive their energy from within and often prefer to work alone. These individuals can possess skills and insights that are different from extroverts, yet they won’t flourish at work unless they’re given the right environment in which to do so. (Not to mention, studies have found that an open office environment can be detrimental for all personality types — decreasing productivity and increasing illness.)
So, how do you design an office workspace that will help introverts perform their best? Here are some pointers:
Provide quiet, private areas
Even if your workstations are cozily situated, giving your employees a place to retreat from the office clatter can be a blessing for introverts. This could translate to some comfortable chairs facing a window overlooking peaceful scenery or it could mean a private room with doors. “Providing sensory control is critical to employee well-being, especially for introverts who are more sensitive to stimuli,” writes Chris Congdon of Fast Company. “It’s important to integrate spaces that encourage people to retreat from the structure of the day, to renew and rest or gain fresh perspective.”
Give employees a personal workspace
“Hot desking” — the practice of letting employees sit at any desk of their choosing and the sharing of all office supplies — has gained a foothold in some trendy workplaces. But introverts probably prefer their own workspace with their own supplies. Moreover, letting your employees personalize their workstation with lamps or photos can make even the most “open” workplace feel cozier.
Rethink “community” spaces
The break room may be a gathering spot for extroverts, but where do your introverts gather? They may be more comfortable chatting with colleagues virtually, such as over email or instant messaging. Consider incorporating digital social tools into your workplace practices, such as those available through Slack.
Have introvert-friendly office policies
Your workplace policies can be just as important as your office design when it comes to helping introverts. Allowing employees to listen to music during work (with headphones) can be a bonus for introverts, who may need to tune out the office buzz and concentrate on their jobs.
Understanding your employees various personalities and working styles can help you design a more productive and pleasant workplace environment. Make sure you understand what your company's introverts needs are, just as much as your extroverts— even though they may not be the loudest voices in the room.
About the Author
Kelly Spors is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis. She previously worked as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering small business and entrepreneurship.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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