An introvert, an extrovert, and a CEO walk into a bar ...
Heard that one before? Probably not. Thankfully.
But just grouping those three types of people together in a space shows how uncomfortable they all might be. Not everybody works well in the same types of spaces and with different types of people.
With big companies like Apple and Google redesigning their headquarters, there's a lot of talk about office design. They're trying to find ways to have the introvert and the extrovert (and the CEO) all walk into an office and be totally at ease and in their comfort zones.
While there isn't one particular "office of the future," Kay Sargent, vice-president of Teknion, a manufacturer of high-end office systems and furniture, says there is a science behind designing a space that increases productivity.
"In an open workspace, introverts will shut down," Sargent says. "On the other hand, you put an extrovert in a room by themselves for hours at a time and they'll go crazy."
For companies to get the most productivity out of their workers, they need to be able to provide a workplace design the promotes both focused and collaborative work, but most companies today are more focused on the more popular open-plan offices and forget that private spaces are also needed.
In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Susan Cain writes that people work more creatively when "they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption." She also points out that the most creative people in many fields are introverts who are "extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature."
The best solution? Some combination of both.
Google's office is a great example. Its unique shared, open spaces are meant to promote "accidental encounters," but the company also has plenty of enclosed rooms structured for concentration and deep-thinking work.
In Jeff Bertolucci's piece in CIO about the future workplace, several of the featured furniture pieces were designed to promote privacy, yet are still translucent enough to be inviting or encourage communication when needed. This is another trend that Sargent tells us is popular right now — in today's office, walls are either coming down, or they are built with glass to promote transparency.
If there isn't enough room in an office, an easy way to make the design more comfortable for everyone is to have furniture and workspaces that are capable of multiple different functions that can benefit everyone on the team. The idea is that no one's body is built the same, so why should we expect everyone to be comfortable (and productive) sitting the same way?
Sargent says that "just like there's no outfit of the future, there's no office of the future either ... there might be a style, but not an outfit."
To find the best office design, companies need to understand their end goal and what works best for their teams by thinking about the demographics of the majority of their staff, the culture implemented, whether collaboration or focus work is needed, and the power structure at their organizations.
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