Our personal workspace is shrinking. Since 1970, the amount of space for each worker has decreased by 60%. This is a problem for all employees, but especially for introverts in the office. Having a place to focus deeply on their work is crucial for their productivity.

The Quiet Revolution

Susan Cain became the champion of introverts, totaling more than 1/3 of the general population, when she wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Drawing from her own experiences and several years of research, she ignited an underground fire with her popular TEDTalk, showing just how effectively quiet people can lead. Since, she has begun the Quiet Revolution, attempting to reverse the cultural shift toward an unbalanced emphasis on dynamism and in-your-face expression.

Cain has turned her attention to the workplace with observations on the open office layout trend in office design. Her comments were less than enthusiastic: “I think they’re disastrous, actually. I think they can be wonderful if they have enough pockets of privacy in them. In many of the open offices I see, it’s just a gigantic room crammed with people and desks. Too many people are mentally suffering.”

Steelcase Collaboration

Following her TEDTalk, Steelcase realized the importance of Cain’s work and teamed with her to design workplace pieces specifically for introverts in the office environment. These pieces are designed to support their best work habits.

Together, they’ve found that it isn’t so difficult to make open office floor plans more introvert-friendly. There are some things that employers should be mindful of, and others that introverts can do themselves to create their own best work environment, no matter their surroundings.

Tips for Employers of Introverts:

  • Introverts in the office DO make great leaders. They are great at getting to know people, finding their great ideas, and implementing them. Give them the flexibility to do so.
  • Solitary individuals are sensitive to distraction. Designate certain rooms to be quiet spaces.
  • Any employee should be able to move between rooms or workspaces as their tasks change. Allow employees discretion to choose which area to sit in, or when to move from one space to another.
  • Reduce the steps it takes to get some private time when they need it. No “signing up” for a private space.
  • Recognize that importance of the four workplace activities: focus, collaborate, learn, and socialize. Designers can help you plan for an appropriate balance of all four.

Tips for Introverts in the Office:

  • Gain energy from solitude. Find quiet spaces in the office.
  • Minimize the meetings you have. Schedule yourself breaks between meetings to allow yourself a chance to reflect and to regroup.
  • Look for ways to contribute socially without being at the center of the room.
  • Establish work-from-home time.
  • Position yourself in a private area to concentrate.
  • Adjust hours for more alone time. Come in earlier or later than your coworkers.

Implementing these tips for solitary thinkers in the workplace will reduce some of the natural barriers faced in a traditional office layout. With practice and flexibility from management, workers will see improvements in their ability to focus and overall engagement.

Our designers can help you adapt your office for both extroverts and introverts, maximizing comfort and productivity for all of your employees. Find flexible Steelcase workspace solutions in our furniture gallery.

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Topics: Office Space

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