Introverts often get a bad rap, especially in entrepreneurship. Investors, employees and vendors who provide goods and services at a discount to startups are attracted to people who have the gift of gab. Even our work environment has been optimized for extroverts. Open space design, for example, has been heralded for optimizing collaboration and nurturing a strong culture while saving on rent.
While that sounds smart on the surface, it’s a shame when you consider that one-third to half the population are introverts, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Introverts do their their best work in quiet. Introverts are just as likely to contribute to a company’s success, but they need an environment with fewer distractions. In quiet spaces, we can listen to our own thoughts and that can be very productive, even for extroverts.
Fortunately, many companies are realizing that balancing private and public space makes everyone more productive. Steelcase, turnstone’s parent company, has been leading the charge with research on the topic and by developing a collection of furniture that is introvert friendly.
“Every organization has introverts and a lot of them,” says Jim Keane, Steelcase CEO. “There’s a large segment of the workforce going through their day, just trying to get by. But organizations that value diverse thinking need to fully leverage all of their employees’ creativity.”
The design principles developed by Cain and Steelcase are:
- Permission to be alone: The freedom to focus and innovate without interruption from an otherwise highly stimulating workplace.
- User control over environment: The ability to control elements of the workspace.
- Sensory balance: The ability to control sensory stimulation, often in the form of calming, more intimate influences.
- Psychological safety: Having the choice of places to be unseen and unable to see others.
For additional tips on how to design an open space that ensures collaboration without decreasing productivity read:
- Collaboration: it’s About Space as Much as Culture
- 6 Tips for Making Open Offices Work
- 7 Ways your Office Space can Improve Productivity