What makes a great office for doing your best work? Our open workspaces are made for collaboration. The flexible desks, lack of walls, and meeting areas encourage extrovert behavior. What about the introvert population at the office? If the number of introverts and extroverts are roughly 50% on either side, how can an office design be flexible for both?
The ’as is’ office experience
The current state of affairs for the open office is not conducive for deep work. Recent research shows that in an open layout productivity goes down and interruptions go up. While the original intent was to help with collaboration, companies have latched on to this trend to save on overhead and cram more desks into less space. This leads to increased stress at work.
Finding flexible office design for introverts
Jeff Pochepan writes in his article that activity-based offices get us partially there. They consider varying layouts for different activities. The next step would be to acknowledge the different work processes.
He sites how extroverts and introverts may consider collaboration differently. Extroverts may see a large table as an effective collaboration space. Introverts would look for space just enough for two.
Managing distractions and noise
Noise is a factor for both introverts and extroverts. Introverts tend to be more sensitive to these large, collaborative environments and get worn out more quickly. Semi-private places within an open office plan can help alleviate the stress from the constant noise and distractions. Airbnb breaks up space with a variety of open and closed-off quiet spaces in its San Francisco office.
There is a growing sentiment that our current open office format lack any flexibility for both introverts and extroverts to do their best work. Simply putting desks and monitors in a large open space leads to increased distractions and noise levels. A truly inviting work environment requires intentional space design.