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Dr. Helen

Office Space for Introverts

June 4th, 2014 - 1:50 pm

I read an interesting article at the WSJ about the problems that introverts at the office are having with new office designs:

In offices across America, introverts are under siege.

Companies are embracing open layouts – knocking down walls, dismantling cubicles and, in some cases, even asking workers to say farewell to their personal work stations. The goal is to improve communication, foster collaboration and save money by packing more workers into less space.

But one group of employees has suffered (quietly, as is their nature) amid the clacking keyboard keys and the cacophony of voices.

Introverts’ nervous systems are more sensitive to stimulation than extroverts’ are, according to Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

“When introverts get too much stimulation, they feel overwhelmed and jangled,” she said.

With no privacy or way to shield themselves from the commotion, introverts, estimated to make up one-third to one-half of the population, can feel exposed in the modern workplace. Being on display is imposing and distracting to them, Cain said.

You can see some of the various room designs for introverts at the article here.

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All Comments   (8)
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Nice information, There is obviously a lot. Your points are very valuable and knowledgeable. Thanks for sharing this great blog with us.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wow, the authors missed the real story here. There is a free-speech issue at play. In the past corporations, after receiving complaints by atheists, told Christians they were not allowed to display religious symbols, Bibles, and Bible verses, at their work stations, although other symbols, books, and motivational or vulgar messages, were allowed in private cubicles. The Christians successfully sued for discrimination. In response personal space is being eliminated all-together so that the Christian message will not be seen by atheists who are terrified that they may read "God bless you." One rule to bind them all. It's the same for school uniforms. We can't have kids wearing NRA t-shirts, patches of the American flag, or displaying Bible verses, but we can't stop them or we'll be sued, so uniforms for everybody. They can't be sued if a rule is uniform, but can be if it's "view-point discrimination." The same thing is now the law in France. In that country no religious symbols are allowed to be worn at all in public including crosses because the public was persuaded by their socialist government to ban the public wearing of the hajib because it was a "grave threat to national security" making it impossible for police officers to "identify possible threats to public safety" and (here's the tie-in to Dr. Helen's work) a violation of WOMEN'S RIGHTS. The tyrannical state convinced the public that legally the hajib could not be banned unless the rule applied uniformly to all religions. This was a set-up to remove not Islam, but Christianity from pubic view, for out of their own mouths the law makers said the goal was to establish a "purely secular society." So for the sake of "women's rights" free speech and religious liberty was forever abolished in a western country.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
The article raises some good points, but the way they describe and the introvert-ready rooms, they seem like spaces to retreat to for a short while, rather than any one worker's permanent workspace. Going into the room puts the person on display, the very thing introverts don't want.

Our office has a quad-cube arrangement, four work spaces that open up to each other. Two people recently left, and most of my team is in another state, so I now have an entire quad to myself. I am able to get a lot more work done without the distraction every time someone entered or exited the area.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Scott Adams had a very good strip on open offices:

However, Joel Spolsky has a much better idea, and has built a software company using it:

Of the two office approaches, I'd much rather work in the second.


38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting take on introverts. I don't happen to be one, and there is no way I could ever work in a cubicle. I'm slightly claustrophobic, and I really don't like being in enclosed spaces. It disturbs me.

Our office is an old ranch home on 7 acres on the outskirts of town. It's actually quite nice. We have a large conference room for meeting with clients, and a nice swing set in the back yard for children to play on while we meet with their parents.

I have a corner desk in one of the back rooms, but I hardly ever go to the office. Unless I have an appointment with a client, why should I? Most of the work I do, research and price opinions, can be easily done in my home office. I have access to freshly ground coffee, and I can listen to music. Then, it's off inspecting vacant repossessed homes. I spend most of time alone. Other than the lock smith and an occasional contractor, plumber or electrician, I really don't meet with very many people.

I'm a listing agent. What I do is research, find the house, perform an inspection, more research, find comparables, and write a price opinion. Then it's marketing and advertising. Usually, it's some other realtor that sells the house, and that's fine by me. I get my commission.

I hardly ever meet with buyers, except when they ask for me specifically. Yeah, I can show you the house, but I'm not a salesperson. The house sells itself. There's nothing I can say or do to change that, so why even try? People tend to know when they're being played. All I can do is walk you through the house and assist you with the contract if you want to make an offer. No one is going to buy a house because of my charming personality, and I know it.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm an accountant. That's a fairly frequently self-selected field for introverts. A former boss, a salesman with an enormous personality, used to argue "come on, everyone's a salesman", and was genuinely stumped by my lack of interest in salesmanship activities. I think that deep down, he didn't believe that I didn't love constant interaction.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was educated as an accountant, although I now make my living as a software developer. I'm also an extreme introvert, scoring just short of the maximum for introversion on the Myers-Briggs test. One of the things that I've noticed is that, while introverts understand that extroverts exist and have no desire to change them (other than to get the extroverts to stop bothering them), extroverts either don't believe that anybody can actually be an introvert or else believe that introversion is a disease.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Find some way to get out on your own. Freelance, independent work, entrepreneurship, getting a professional degree and working for yourself.

Any man who works for a company in these days of political correctness and affirmative action for women and all the rest is just going to be tortured and not make much money.

If you work for yourself, you determine your office accommodations. And it is easier than ever to have a home office today, with facilities rented as needed to meet clients (mostly never in my experience - more and more is done at greater distances and via e-mail).

Let companies become all-women, working in cube farms or less.

Edited to add: If you are supporting children, you can still plan for independent work for when they leave home. Time goes by fast. If you are just supporting some pig sitting at home ("housewife") and no children, figure out exactly why you want to support a leech who doesn't care about you, your life, stress on you, or what you want. A woman who will not lift a finger to help you realize what you want - she just takes and takes. Make the appropriate decision. Otherwise, men can live on very little. Being free is the best thing you can buy.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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