I Want To Be Alone: Introverts in the Office
They make up around a third of the workforce ΓÇô but is your office introvert-friendly?
Introverts, extroverts ΓÇô whatΓÇÖs the difference?
Introverts: They hate small talk, regard team-building exercises with horror, and often sit silent in meetings. Most importantly, they do their best work alone.
Until now, much of Western business culture has been built around the needs and expectatiohns of extroverts ΓÇô but a recent book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That CanΓÇÖt Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, has been making waves with its exploration of the challenges of being an introvert in an extrovertΓÇÖs world.
The implications for the workplace are huge. So is your office introvert-friendly?
Passive communication methods are encouraged
Every office has them ΓÇô those employees who prefer to send an email to the colleague sat opposite them, rather than speaking to them face-to-face. They could be lazy, they could be antisocial ΓÇô but thereΓÇÖs every possibility that theyΓÇÖre simply an introvert who finds written communications far easier than spoken ones.
Rather than discouraging this practice ΓÇô as many bosses do ΓÇô an introvert-friendly office integrates email and/or online instant messaging, giving introverts access to communication methods with which they feel comfortable.
Employees have control over their workspace
According to CainΓÇÖs research, introverts work best when they have the freedom and autonomy to work in their own way.
That means having control over their own workspace so that they can create the conditions which best suit the tasks they are trying to complete.
In addition to more control over the in-office environment, giving introverts the freedom to work outside of the office could be beneficial too. Flexible working, with its emphasis on employees choosing the best spaces in which to work is an ideal solution. And, of course, this works for extroverts too.
Flexible workspaces for all
Giving employees the freedom to control their own workspace is pretty limited when all youΓÇÖve got is a single open-plan office.
Cain points to Pixar and Microsoft as companies who are getting it right by creating a choice of different spaces in which to work. This includes plenty of quiet areas where introverts can go to get privacy and find focus away from the noise of the office.
In other words, to get most out of all their employees, bosses need to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to office space, and instead create something that can address the needs of both introvert and extrovert employees.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How has this affected your experiences in the workplace?