Here at Workwell, we love the consultative process with many of our clients looking to improve their office space for their teams. It’s an opportunity for our designers and account executives to provide advice on what would work best for each individual client’s needs. Something that we’ve heard more and more from clients, as well as many industry experts, is the need to design these spaces with both introverts and extroverts in mind.
For myself, I like to say that I’m in introvert trapped in an extrovert’s body. I love social interaction, networking, and meeting new people, but while I am working during the day, it’s a little bit of a different story. If you frequent Workwell’s office, you may find me seated at my desk with my headphones in, listening to music while I plug away at my desk. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I sit on a bench configuration within our space and love having the team so close for collaboration. I’m not alone in how I sit – according to a recent Fast Company article, some 70% of Americans sit in an open floor plan at work. However, for the introvert inside of me, there are down sides to this type of working.
Phone calls are the worst for “introvert Kristine” – answering them and making them while everybody around me is talking and listening sometimes is drudgery. The thought that other people around are listening to my conversation makes me want to crawl under the desk when I’m using the phone. Often times, I will skip using my office landline, opting for my iPhone and headphones so I can only hear the person on the other line or even get up and take a call in the conference room or somewhere more private. That last piece is so important when people are designing spaces to accommodate different personality types: ensuring there are sufficient places that suit the needs of everybody. This can be through the implementation of phone booths, collaboration areas with acoustical properties to dampen excess sound, and even breakout rooms with full glass enclosures that can eliminate the anxiety of getting work – or phone calls – done in an open environment.
Both introverts and extroverts alike can agree that sometimes alone time is necessary for a person’s sanity. Whether it’s a huge workload or a personally bad day, it’s important to recognize that people need a space to head to in order to separate themselves from team members or associates in general. A great way to ensure that people have the opportunity to break away for some time is creating cozy and accessible spaces for people to migrate to. Having lounge areas with plenty of comfortable seating options and areas for users to plug in their laptops and devices are a great way to allow for a much needed break during times of need. Another great option for companies is to provide access to the outdoors for fresh air and sunlight. In locations where that may be difficult, bringing the outdoors in is always a great alternative with living walls, water features, or areas with natural light.
But What About the Extroverts?
As I mentioned earlier, even though I have introvert tendencies I tend to consider myself an extrovert. When working in teams or even interacting throughout our office, I find great strength in making personal connections with the people around me. It’s hard to do that when you’re sitting at your desk for the majority of the day. A lot of workers feel the same way, which is why designers and companies are creating specialized environments that enhance this through centralized town hall areas, open pantries, and large collaborative spaces found throughout the office. The great thing about these areas is that they can also help to spur productive conversation between cross-functional teams and build report between associates by enhancing “water cooler” interaction. In addition, a positive piece about the modern open office is that benching intuitively helps strengthen the skills of extroverts by allowing them to be physically close to other individuals they are working with. These spaces, coupled with those mentioned for introverts can assure differing personalities that they all have a place in their office.