The trend away from closed offices and cubicle walls and toward open office layouts has gained considerable momentum in recent years. The idea is that by knocking down the physical barriers, like walls between coworkers, employees will have more opportunities for casual conversations, thus fostering greater collaboration and innovation.
But what about introverts? People who identify as introverts are most productive when they are in quiet spaces with as few distractions as possible. Introverts and extroverts can be equally productive, but because they respond differently to stimulation, they need to work in different environments.
So how do you accommodate both working styles? The most successful work environments provide many types of spaces that allow employees to choose how and where they want to get their work done. Not everyone thrives in an open floor plan, and not everyone works effectively in cubicles.
Many employees need to be alone to come up with new ideas. Once these new ideas are formed, they can gather with team members to collaborate and build on those ideas. Finally, the team can break apart again to take action. Take a look at some easy ways that you can help encourage introverts in your office without hindering 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 coworkers. Privacy is just as important as openness, and office design should shift from hierarchy-based to needs-based. Fortunately, you don’t need to do a major overhaul of your office layout to provide for your employees.
Try offering some conference rooms or an executive office to your employees so introverts or even extroverts who may have a headache on a given day can book 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 decrease the employee’s stress levels.
Don’t have any quiet space available in the office where your introverts can work? If possible, consider allowing your employees to telecommute. Working from home even once 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 even more distracting than the office, so take the employee’s work habits into careful consideration before making this decision.
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 in groups. Rather, they do their best work and get their most innovative ideas when 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 balance of thinking time and collaboration time. Provide your employees with breaks to recharge and renew their thoughts, whether introverted or not.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every workspace, taking these steps toward helping introverts in your office work more effectively is crucial for overall productivity.