It is estimated that between a third and a half of the population are introverts, but workplaces seem to increasingly favour noisy extroverts, often to the detriment of those who prefer to work in quieter environments.
Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, says that with the rise of the open plan office and the culture of speaking often and loudly as a way to gain career advancement, many offices risk sidelining up to half their workforces.
“Our goal as designers is to create places in the workplace that allows everyone to work more effectively, not just those with the most to say.”
It is important for offices to embrace flexibility for introverts.
“It is imperative to remember not all introverts are the same. Some prefer visual privacy to focus and recharge, therefore a booth or screen can provide the needed barrier for added comfort.
“On the other hand, our experience shows that introverts and extroverts alike require audible privacy to focus, yet some prefer not to be isolated. This has led to the popular concept of library-like settings, where employees can easily plug-in and work silently in a shared environment.”
She adds that some introverts thrive in an isolated environment. “A small focus room that is set up with multiple screens, a comfortable work surface, whiteboard and natural light will allow those people to quickly focus.”
She adds that offices always faced the challenge of workstation distractions. “People still often prefer to work at their desk, especially those who have items they frequently use stored there. This can be especially challenging for introverts, because of distractions like colleagues on their phones or a group collaborating nearby,“ Trim notes.
The solution is to work with targeted individuals to create flexible workstations that offer the appropriate amount of storage, visual privacy and posture customisation.
“These factors are easily modifiable allow people to curate an environment that meets their needs and maximise individual productivity. We are also mindful of the importance of giving employees enough space between workstations,” says Trim.
But even when offices are well designed to cater for introverts working solo, there are still many instances they have to collaborate with colleagues and this creates a further challenge for the office.
“A solution is to hold meetings in a quiet room with seats organised in a myriad of forms within the room. This design creates a more inviting atmosphere and allows for more options, unlike the typical individual focus room. Therefore, the introverted users feel included as part of a group rather than excluded, isolated or on display.”
Because introverted leaders tend to carefully listen to their colleagues, they are often more successful in one-on-one meetings in areas without distractions.
“We recommend having two configurations of space. The first should include seating at a height that makes note taking or reviewing work easy, the second should include lounge height furniture for more conversational meetings.”
Trim added that research also indicates introverts are more successful when they host industry or client events in their own space, as attendees will seek them out as the key person to engage with.
“Designing a space that can easily accommodate events could be an area that has a variety of uses as well,” she concludes.