Redesigning Your Office for Extroverts and Introverts
Cubicles were the norm before. Now, it’s open-plan offices.
Neither is a perfect solution. Designing an office that’s conducive to everyone’s productivity is a daunting task in itself because people have different preferences.
A key personality trait that has been given a lot of attention recently is introversion-extroversion, which impacts job fit, preferred environment, and even working style.
Despite common usage, it’s not black-and-white. Introversion-extroversion is more like a spectrum—which side of the scale you lie on determines which one you are, regardless of whether you’re near the middle or at the far end.
Introversion and Extroversion
We’re not quite using the terms correctly, though. Being an extrovert doesn’t necessarily mean you’re loud, noisy, or talkative, and being introverted isn’t about being shy and quiet.
The actual distinguishing factor is what gives you energy: if you get energy from being alone, then you’re an introvert, but if you’re energized by being around people, you’re an extrovert. This means that extroverts actually get drained when they have to spend too much time alone, while introverts can only handle being around other people for so long.
Delving deeper into that, introverts are much more sensitive to stimuli—what excites an extrovert might overwhelm an introvert. Cue the lemon test: if you squeeze a lemon on people’s tongues, introverts will salivate more than extroverts.
Accurate statistics can be hard to obtain, but it’s safe to say that a significant chunk of the population belongs to each group. This means that if you want a more productive workforce, then you have to cater to the needs of both—and a crucial part of this can be reconfiguring your office to be more accommodating and pleasant to work in.
What This Means For the Office
For introverts, it’d be great if you could have places in your office where they can work in solitude if they want to. Even though most companies are converting to open-space offices now, there are studies that say that these might be more distracting than collaborative.
Introverts naturally prefer having a lot of quiet time to think, and might get stressed if they get a seat right next to the door or have to deal with frequent interruptions. Another way that they establish boundaries is putting on earphones to block out noise.
On the other hand, extroverts probably feel uncomfortable when forced to stay inside a cubicle the whole day. Because interacting with other people gets their energy levels up, it’s second nature for them to engage in conversation and banter with coworkers, and they’d be happy to have a space where they can easily reach out to other people.
Unlike introverts who get their best ideas when thinking through something on their own, extroverts tend to come up with insights when talking to others.
But regardless of whether they’re introverted or extroverted, people still need both privacy and socializing. The best office design, then, would have different rooms that cater to both of these needs.
This makes sense when you consider that the ideal workspace may also vary per department—teams such as sales need space to interact, while product-oriented teams like design and development require solitude for deep work.
The solution to this would be an office with open-plan rooms, but also with plenty of comfortable nooks and quiet spaces, as well as meeting rooms where people can gather. People generally feel happier when they can choose where to work: give people their own desks, yes, but let them have the freedom to move around and work wherever they want in the office.
It may seem like a lot effort to customize your office with introversion-extroversion in mind, but consider that employees will be spending most of their day inside your office. Physical environment will definitely have a huge impact on their productivity, and you’d rather get it right at once rather than having to remodel or redesign when feedback streams in.