Susan Cain, a self-professed introvert, is not exactly the person you’d expect to see giving a TED talk. But her book “QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” brought Cain into the public eye in unexpected ways. She gave a voice to everyone who has ever wished for more peace and quiet at work. While collaboration and socialization at the office can be wonderful, at least 30% of the population wishes for a workplace where these activities weren’t given so much importance.
Introverts Are Stymied in Their Efforts to Be Effective
Many of the greatest ideas arise and most workplace productivity occurs when people are given space and time to really concentrate. For introverts, being required to perform “on demand” in a group setting can lead to anxiety over excessive scrutiny or criticism. But given a few hours alone, they can come up with amazing solutions or work at lightning speed to get critical tasks done on time. It’s not that they hate their coworkers. Introverts simply want to be able to choose their interactions with care to avoid depleting themselves. When they are part of a culture that overemphasizes what Susan calls “The New Groupthink”, their work suffers.
What Type of Workspace Do Introverts Crave?
A private office at work would probably be a dream come true—and working remotely from a quiet location like a home office is another favorite option. The worst possible workspace is an open office plan with no walls and no privacy. That’s not surprising since even extroverts can feel overwhelmed and stressed when there is constant noise. Introverts would usually prefer to have a cubicle rather than the type of open desk with low or no dividers that is prevalent in today’s office environments.
Introverts Need Oases
Cain recognizes that the economics of the open office design make it too tempting for most companies to forego. But she believes there is a way to find some middle ground. Jim Hackett, recent Steelcase CEO and fellow introvert, agrees that it’s time to make a change. Cain is now collaborating with this leading office furniture company on solutions. “We’ve formed a partnership with Steelcase to create quiet oases of focus and respite for open plan offices, so that workers can move freely between social and private spaces.” Design ideas are due to be released sometime in 2014.