A few years ago, upper management came strolling through our area and had the brilliant idea to follow the current trend of an open office space, by lowering the cubicle walls and making the individual areas smaller. The open office, made popular by companies like Google and Facebook, sounded like a great idea to them because it takes down barriers and improves collaboration. It’s far less expensive, and is just so trendy right now. So, of course, that’s what this group decided should be done with our department. As an introvert, I went to bat for my staff, in maintaining some level of privacy… after all, the work we do is more one-on-one, and really requires only minimal collaboration. Fortunately for us all, we were able to keep our tall-walled cubicles. I breathed a sigh of relief that our staff wouldn’t lose their walls, but recognized the issues of the open cubicles we still had.
I have previously written about the challenges introverts experience in Open Office Space… Collaborative or Disruptive? and Introverted Leaders and the Open Office Space. While I agree that collaboration and being part of the team is important, it really depends on the type of work being done and the individual. For the most part, in any job, there is a time for individual focus and a time to collaborate. I would prefer everyone having a private space to work and a nearby space to collaborate. If all the work spaces are designed for collaboration, in my opinion at least, some places for quiet focus should be nearby and available for use as needed.
Recently, I had an introverted employee that was stressed; she was overwhelmed with too many tasks to accomplish. I was able to secure an office with a door for her for the day and not only was she able to accomplish a lot, but she also left feeling refreshed. I did the same for an extrovert with much too do, but after a couple hours it was torture for her not being able to bounce ideas off of others.
My introverted wife works at home. Our house came with a built-in desk area with two work spaces. I’m normally at my office, but when I was working at home, my wife and I worked side by side. We are best friends and we like to talk. We talk about her business or I run blog ideas by her or many other topics. Although we enjoy talking and often need to discuss and collaborate, we also both need some quiet from time to time. I would sometimes talk to her when she needed quiet or maybe I would listen to a podcast when she needed quiet. I was able to move my desk to another part of the house and even at home, my point about the open office was proven. Sometimes we need collaboration and sometimes we need quiet. My wife and I can still get together and collaborate as needed, even though it’s not quite as convenient as before. I do find that the quiet is nice. I should say that my new space is in a corner of the house where I get a little more quiet from the rest of the family too.
So, in regards to how you work and your office space, what are your strengths and needs? What are the strengths and needs of those around you? What can you do to get what you need and help others get what they need? Don’t just follow the trends. Figure out HOW you work best and make your office situation work for you.