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Are you an Introvert or Extrovert at Work? Does it Matter?

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Introversion and extroversion are terms that have been linked to workplace productivity.  I never really paid attention about "categorizing" my peers when I used to work at  a firm. Learning how to work together despite differences was part of being a team player. Now that I read about these differences, I realize that the workplace can interfere with someone's productivity, which is counterproductive when the workplace is the environment where productivity and creativity should thrive.
 


Being an Introvert or extrovert does not have any bearing on someone's productivity and creativity. Everyone works differently. A  workplace that offers a variety of spaces gives each individual an opportunity to work and be productive. For example, imagine battling against your neighbor's chit chats at open spaces, endless meetings, and the constant socialization with peers seems counterproductive for an introvert. Knowing your peers gives you a better understanding of their work routine and given the right amount of space and interaction, they will deliver what is expected or even exceed. 

Introversion or extroversion does not have any bearing on someone's productivity, everyone works differently. Understanding these differences can amp up your team's performance.

So, Why does this matter to the workplace?

1. To support productivity in many different forms.

A workplace that offers a variety of spaces gives each individual an opportunity to work and be productive. In the article, Customer Spotlight: Interaction Associates, their workplace have "pockets of collaborative team areas that allow flexibility and creativity". Productivity and creativity grows from collaboration, but creativity comes from the individual's creative thinking too, which brings me to the second point.

2. To gain exceptional performance by working in solitude.

In the book, "Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" written by Susan Cain, noted that studying alone and answering to challenging tasks require deep concentration and self motivation. It also requires an appropriate workplace for concentrated work. Open plan space exposes you to all kinds of distractions and can make it difficult to get work done. For example, imagine you are an introvert trying to work while hearing your neighbor's chit chats, being pulled into endless meetings, and the constant socialization with peers. Knowing your peers gives you a better understanding of their work routine and given the right amount of privacy and interaction, they will deliver what is expected or even exceed.

What kind of workplace can support this?

Introversion, extroversion and everything in between, are part of human nature. It is appropriate to provide a space that is centered around how we work and what our needs instead of forcing everyone to a standardized space. 
  1. A workplace that offers a broad range of quiet spaces to choose from. Niche, informal meeting rooms and small areas with high back booths offers alternative spaces from team work to individual work.  In an article released by FastCompany. on Remaking Offices for Happier Employees an interview with Donna Flynn, Steelcase Workspace Futures mentions that "Employees seeking solitude may decamp to a library, co working space, or cafe, and their silence could be golden for your bottom line."

  2.  A workplace that make these quiet spaces accessible for everyone. Distributing these work spaces throughout the office and are within walking distance from their individual work stations make these spaces usable and valued. 

  3. A workplace that offers multi-functional alternative spaces, like a cafe. A good example is the Steelcase Work Cafe.  It caters to everyone and supports work, meeting with peers, and dining. It has both open and private spaces for meetings, sitting and standing options and a bar for "quick passing by connections". I personally think that cafes are an attractive place to work because there is freedom from the obligation to socialize with peers and it is easy to come and go into the space.

What do we do now?

1. Assess your space if a redesign might be the answer to support the diversity of your team. Turnstone offers design services or you can try their 3D design tool. This might be a smart option for you before investing on a big move.

2. Another avenue to look at is technology. Explore the idea of flexibility to work outside the office, this option might be a good fit for you. According to an article The Interconnected World, Global, Mobile, 24/7, Is Your Workplace Ready by Steelcase 360, a recent poll of tech users and decision makers in the U.S., measured how companies are using work space and technology to engage with highly sought-after tech pros:

  • 62% of firms say about a third of their employees spend 40% of their time working remotely

  • decision makers say flexible and remote work options help them attract the best talent and keep them on staff

  • the top three factors determining job satisfaction are salary (identified by 55% of respondents), the quality of the work environment (37%), and flexibility to work outside the office or at home (33%)

3. If telecommuting is not for you, make technology accessible to all spaces. Since most of us work on laptops, tablets and smart phones, accessing information and working anywhere is more prevalent.

4. Use tools like Steelcase Room Wizard, a "web-based room scheduling system that solves the dilemma of connecting workers to meeting spaces."

The workplace is the environment where creativity and productivity are stimulated. But there are intangibles that motivates us to push forward and succeed. In the end, recognizing and appreciating your team always goes along way, even beyond what you might expect.

 

Comments

David Grant February 20, 2013

Yes of course it matters. Introvert keeps to self, doesn’t interact. How can that not matter in a work environment?

Carla Turk February 20, 2013

David, Thanks for reading. You are correct that it matters when designing an office. The goal is to ensure both introverts and extroverts can thrive and be productive in an office.  What doesn’t matter is whether introverts or extroverts have an advantage over another in being productive.  If the office is set up to provide opportunity for both to thrive then they can be equally productive.

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