We have been so busy designing spaces to accommodate the types of work people do, we have forgotten the fundamental purpose of design; to solve a problem for the user. We have been overlooking designing spaces which appeal to different personality types. Here, we discuss two main personality types; introverts and extroverts.
The Open Office
When you think of a “modern office”, you picture open plan desking, creative open corners, bright open touch down spaces. Open, open, open. Yes, we remember that some people may want to take a phone call and so we insert an acoustically-sound, private booth. But how about the introverts? Those who cannot concentrate with the noise and distractions around their ergonomically-set-up desk?
Once you get interrupted, it takes us 23 minutes with no further interruptions to get back to the level of focus that you were at – Bertie van Wyk, Herman Miller, Industry Knowledge Q+A
These people who crave privacy shouldn’t be confined to a space designed to provide support for only an hour (for tasks such as quick heads-down work or a short phone call).
The common misconception of an introvert
The biggest obstacle managers come up against when implementing changes to office environments are panicking individuals who cannot shake this notion of a loud, bright, open-plan office. The thoughts of many (I have been personally guilty of this in the past) would be that that person is just being awkward, followed by an inward eye roll. They will just have to put up with it and adapt to the change by being more sociable and collaborative. Mistake.
Introversion is different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgement. Introversion is more about how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. Extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation. Whereas introverts feel at their most alive, at their most switched on, and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments – Susan Cain, TED2012, The Power of Introverts
With this quote in mind, it should be the manager ensuring and assuring that there are enough spaces for these people who may be classed as an introvert. Many studies have proven introverts work better, lead better and create better than extroverts. And so why would a company want to force these people into being an extrovert by only providing spaces designed for social and collaborative experiences.
Introverts vs Extroverts
It goes without saying that these social and collaborative spaces are still hugely relevant to an office space. But it is once again about balance as we strive to design the “perfect” office space. Two-thirds to one-half of the population is introverted. It is beneficial to conduct studies and evaluations of your employees to understand the personality types in your company. What stimulates them? Then when you come to design, you can ensure you provide them all with enough choice of spaces to accommodate their best ways of working.
We need much more privacy, much more freedom, much more autonomy at work – Susan Cain, TED2012, The Power of Introverts
Let’s not overlook the introverts!