How to Create a Healthy Workplace for Introverts and Extroverts


Stressed WomanSometimes there is so much noise around me that I feel like pulling out  my hair! There is on going trend towards an open office concept that is supposed to promote creativity and collaboration. Companies are tearing down their dingy old cubicles in favour of wide open spaces.  Is this really the right way to go? Have we gone too far from cubicles to the other extreme? Is this even healthy? A 2008 review suggests perhaps not.

A 2008 review article published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management found that 90% of studies looking at open-plan offices linked them to health problems such as stress and high blood pressure. – Oommen, V et. al,

I am an introvert who lives in an extrovert world. Quiet space to actually get work done and think clearly without being infected by interuptitis or loud obnoxious people with headphones blaring or who are nearly yelling at each other when they are actually sitting next to each other is precious. The introvert’s need for quiet space is not considered in the push towards open offices.

The first office Lifemoves was in was about five feet wide and twelve feet long without windows- not exactly inspiring.  We have now grown into a space with eight large windows and plenty of sunshine during the day.  Workplace wellness is very important to me. My current dilemma is how to create a successful multidisciplinary clinic in less than 900 square feet that caters to introverts and extroverts while maximizing its financial capacity.

Right now, I am alone and I love it. However, growing my business means sharing the space with more professionals and clients in the space when I might be trying to do administrative duties or just need a space to be quiet.  It is also imperative to develop a space where extroverted people feel comfortable as well.

Office layout shouldn’t be a compromise between private and public space, but one which offers both things to its employees whenever they need them.  – Alexi Marmot via BBC News

A recent BBC News article describing the development of office architecture over the last 100 years eludes the need for flexible spaces which gives people the ability to be an organic spaces where they can be alone or in groups as needed.  One solution to some of the distractions is broadcasting pink noise, which makes human voices less discernible.

First it is important to study the needs of the organization and how work gets done (ergonomics). One solution for small spaces is to set-up hubs for various activities as well a culture of deliberate times for collaboration or conversation and times for quiet.

Remember introverts are often their most creative and productive when they are alone.

It is very easy to be sitting next to someone, have an idea or agenda item pop-up in our head and then have the need to ask the person next to us. This adds to their stress by interrupting their workflow (do interrupt them if there is a fire or danger to their life).

 Try

 the Getting Things Done methodology of adding them to the agenda for that person then addressing it in your next scheduled meeting.

 Another idea is to use a red light green light system. Turn off all technology interruptions and place a red card in a visible place during times when you don’t want to be disturbed. Turn everything back on and use a green card when you are open to a conversation.  To block unwanted noise use noise cancelling headphones or add pink noise to make the voices others less discernible.

This idea came from a Canadian company with a new technology [wish I could remember the name, if you find it let me know] which places all calls and email alerts on hold with a bright red light; turn the system off and the light turns green.

Resources

  1. Buelow, Beth The Introvert Entrepreneur (thank you)
  2. Kramer, William. The Pleasures and Perils of an Open-plan Office. BBC World News Services, March 27, 2013.
  3. Oommen, Vinesh Should Health Service Managers Embrace Open Plan Work Environments? A ReviewAsia Pacific Journal of Health Management3(2), pp. 37-43, 2008

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