Yesterday, in a burst of nostalgia and with the help of Google Plus’ impeccably collected photos taken by me over time revealed my old desk at my previous job. And in that burst of emotion I posted the below post to my Facebook feed. And it brought likes and comments from old timers and colleagues. And it made me think very very hard about what it was about that moment that defined how I worked.

 

In contrast, the workspaces I see now are a lot more functional and while it has its benefits for collaboration and group work, it can’t fulfil the tendencies of the introverted worker. I miss having my ‘fortress of solitude’, my personal ‘nook’ or corner. Mind you, just a corner, not the corner office 😉

After visiting many agencies, I see why we have wide open spaces with open layouts. It has two benefits:

  1. Clients and managers alike see more people working. It looks good to see a full house with activity and work happening. Clients get to visualize their project hours being put to good use.
  2. Metaphorically, there is a sense of both uniformity and transparency. Everybody is on a level field. Everybody from the directors to the junior executives are all in the same space and can talk to each other.

“Though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission … they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.”

MATHEW DAVIS

Organizational Psychologist

But it fails for the ones that need their space to work and focus their energies. And trust me, headphones don’t solve this problem. All you’ve got is a case of talking to yourself in your head all day long. That can’t possibly be good 😉

In August 2013, Fast Company in combination with the office furniture maker Steelcase covered this in an extensive piece — How to Design a Better Office for both Introverts and Extroverts and found the following:

95.3% of workers say having “access to quiet, private places for concentrated work” is important…
But over 41% said that they don’t have them.

The case for workspaces for introverts has been gaining more traction ever since. And while I know not all offices can strive to be like Pixar, there are ways you can accommodate your people — who are your biggest assets — in a more conducive environment for them.

 


Fixing the problem is easier than you think.

Lighting

Those in the dimly lit workspaces solved significantly more problems correctly than those in the brightly lit room. They also felt freer and less inhibited than their intensely illuminated counterparts. Participants in the bright and the conventionally lit rooms did not differ significantly from one another on either scale.

Some people love bright and white spaces with lots of light. This works perfectly to lend an air of transparency and clarity in a working environment. However, for the focus seekers, it can be quite the reverse. They perhaps require a focused amount of light streaming onto their desks so it not only blocks out the world but also the background from them.

Sounds

There are the types that seek loud boisterous environments to charge themselves and think on their feet. However, there are the others who want very little of it or want their music to be in that space. While the latter is tougher to figure out for managements, creating closed quiet spaces can help your people resources to know whether they want it all silent or play their playlists to fill the space.

Positioning

It really helps introverted people to be away from the commotion and a flurry of people walking around. This distracts them and forces them to lose concentration. Positioning them closer to walls and boundaries may seem like an exclusionist principle to you but to them, it does them a world of good.

Customization

Given that in the standard ad world in the region, most people spend anywhere from 30% to 60% of their week at work, the least an agency or a company can do is give people the ability to customize their spaces. And this can only be done if you give them the ‘space’ to do so. An open table approach is very functional with little to no area for personalization and this uniformity is not helping people in carving their presence in those workspaces.

Ultimately, as supposed custodians of ‘creativity’ and high intensity lifestyles, agencies must consider that the space is a significant contributor in breeding the right form of outputs. The more charged your people are, the better work you will get back.

 


 

Sources

How to Design a Better Office for Both Introverts and Extroverts
Chris Congdon, Steelcase Inc. & Fast Company

An Office for Introverts
Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

The Open-Office Trap
Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker

Dim Lighting Sparks Creativity
Tim Jacobs, Pacific Standard