Is the Future Office an Introvert’s Nightmare?

Collaborative workspace - an introvert's nightmare?
Collaborative workspace - an introvert's nightmare?

The ‘future office‘ is a hot talking point in business circles. There are no shortage of ideas as to what it might look and feel like, and workspace operators are keen to tap into these characteristics in order to meet tomorrow’s officing demands.

One concept most commentators agree on is that, within the next 10-20 years at least, the workplace will be significantly more collaborative. It will be more open-plan, with configurations to prompt chance encounters and office furniture designed to encourage impromptu get-togethers. Expect features like huddle areas, large open spaces and glass walls.

While it’s hoped that such designs will increase motivation and productivity, an attractive byproduct of this ‘flatter’ and more sociable officing plan is, of course, the ability to provide less square footage for more people.

But does it take a certain type of person to fit into such an environment? And will introverts be frozen out?

In Susan Cain’s bestseller ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, her research suggests that introverts are more productive in quieter environments. While a busy open-plan environment might not be their ideal place, the use of a quiet corner, a place to think, a small meeting room or even a cubicle could prove invaluable. As a business centre operative, you may already see the opportunity here. It’s all about creating workspaces to suit individuals.

According to Cain, introverts have to “find ways to draw physical boundaries”. Workplaces and business centres that can provide little ‘escapes’ are more likely to cater to the unique needs of their clients’ workforce, and may well find themselves in a stronger position as we move towards the ‘future office’.

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Cain explained her thoughts on BusinessWeek:

“If your office provides private spaces that you can escape to – a cafe or library or nook or cranny – take full advantage of them. If your office doesn’t have private spaces, you need to make your own version. This is critical. Go to the park or a nearby coffee shop… Some people send their phone calls to voice mail or turn off the ping on their e-mail. Others wear noise-canceling headphones, if this is socially acceptable in their office. Even if they’re not noise-canceling, it’s a signal that you’re focused.”

The key factor in workplace change, and in creating the ‘future office’, lies in creating a space that works for everyone. It should provide a motivational environment and coax more productivity out of its workers. Otherwise, what’s the point in workplace transformation? The crucial and underlying element about the future workplace is not what it looks like, but how it treats its workers – and to do that efficiently, it must cater to individual needs. That includes introverts, extroverts, and everyone in-between.

What quiet places does your workplace offer? A business centre offering break-out spaces and lounges would likely appeal to introverts than those that lack available space. Small, simple changes can make a big difference to business owners, particularly the quiet population. Is your workplace catering to all needs – or only those that make their voices heard?

Image source: Coworking space, ABCN.com