Open plan office hell

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Open plan offices make me angry – they are a disaster for introverts. Yet, in a time of budget cuts and belt-tightening, many organisations continue to believe they are a cost-effective option.

Perhaps they do work for some extroverts, but for introverts, open plan offices are over-stimulating, exhausting and ultimately counterproductive. For us, open plan offices mean:

  • constant noise and interruptions
  • a continual feeling of being ‘on show’
  • no control over our immediate environment
  • no opportunity to recharge our batteries

Introverts need time to be quiet and be alone. It’s not just a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a physiological need. Without these opportunities to reflect and recharge, introverts have trouble thinking straight and are quickly drained of energy. In other words, a third to a half of workers in an open plan office environment are not being as productive and creative as they could be. So, it’s not such a cost-effective option after all.

In an ideal world, employers big and small would realise the folly of open plan offices once and for all and design their workplaces more creatively to accommodate both extroverts and introverts. However, in the meantime, your organisation doesn’t have to be a trendy multi-million-pound business to be able to do something to improve things. If finances or building layout dictate that an open plan office really is the only option, some of the following suggestions at least should be possible:

  • separate off some sections of the room with partitions (high enough to block out sight as well as sound) for those that need quiet
  • provide desk lamps/uplighters as alternatives to overhead lighting and allow the use of headphones
  • make available nearby a bookable one-person office/room for individual quiet work
  • divide off-duty spaces into social areas and quiet zones
  • provide access to some sort of calm, natural space, such as a garden.

So if you’re in an open plan office, stand up for your right to work in a less stimulating environment!

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