The current trend away from closed offices and cubicle walls and toward open office layouts has been gaining considerable momentum in recent years. The idea is that by knocking down the physical barriers, like walls put up between co-workers, employees will have more opportunity to start casual conversation with one another, thus fostering greater collaboration and innovation. But what about the introverts? People who identify themselves as introverts are at their most productive when they are in quiet spaces with as few distractions as possible. Introverts and extroverts can be just as productive as one another, but because they respond differently to different levels of stimulation, they need to work in different types of environments.
So how do you accommodate the introverts as well as the extroverts? The most successful work environments provide many different types of spaces that allow employees to choose how and where they want to get their work done. Not everyone can thrive in an open office floor plan, and not everyone can work effectively in cubicles. Many employees need to be alone in order to come up with new ideas. Once these new ideas are formed, they can then get together with team members to collaborate and build on those ideas. Finally, the team can break apart again to take action steps on those ideas. Take a look at some easy ways that you can help encourage the introverts in your office without hindering the extroverts:
Provide quiet spaces. Too much openness can be counterproductive for many, but too much solitude can lead to a serious lack of collaboration between co-workers. Privacy is just as important as openness, and office design should shift from being hierarchy-based to being needs-based. Fortunately, you don’t need to do a major overhaul of your office layout in order to provide for your employees. Try offering some conference rooms or an executive office to your employees which can be booked just so that introverted workers, or even extroverts who may have a headache on a given day, will have a designated spot to retreat to when they need to stay focused or meet a hard deadline quickly. The solitude will boost focus and creativity, and it will decrease the employee’s stress levels too.
Offer telecommuting. Don’t have any quiet space available in the office in which your introverts can work? If possible, consider allowing your employees to telecommute. Working from home even one day per week can allow the individual to refocus and reorganize his or her thoughts more effectively. Some people work better from home where they are free from the distractions of the office, but others may find working from home to be even more distracting than at the office, so take the employee’s work habits into careful consideration before making this decision.
Limit meetings. Avoid excessive meetings. Meetings can be good and they can be necessary, but you don’t need to be in conferences all day, every day. Introverts don’t do their best thinking while in groups. Rather, they do their best work and get their most innovative ideas when they’re alone at their desks or at home. While you can’t cut out team meetings altogether, conferences and alone time should be well-balanced throughout the week to facilitate the right amount of thinking time and collaboration time. Provide your employees, whether introverted or not, with breaks to recharge and renew their thoughts.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every workspace, taking these steps toward helping the introverts in your office work more effectively is crucial toward overall productivity. Working habits are different for everyone.