The extrovert ideal in the workplace

I read an extraordinary book recently about introvert and extrovert traits and how they affect us all.    Aside from some fascinating science about what makes us as we are, there was a chapter about our inbuilt traits in relation to our workplaces and productivity.

Like many if not most people in a modern workplace, I work in a bustling open plan office.   Many desks are now ‘hot desks’ and have no personalisation or decoration at all.   It all looks rather bland and very closely packed.  It’s busy and noisy.

I understand the appeal of these set ups for management – on the face of it, you fit more staff into a smaller area and save ££££s.   However, do employers, business owners or public sector managers know that:

  • A high percentage of staff are less productive in open plan offices?
  • A fair number become very unhappy and the churn of staff is high in these places?
  • Large meetings are the norm in modern businesses, but there is evidence to suggest that inferior decisions and ideas are generated in these circumstances?

Creativity and physical environment

Studies have shown that staff who are required to be creative (designers, programmers, planners perhaps) could be up to ten times more productive when given privacy, personal space and control over interruptions.    That is a lot of wasted effort just to have the open plan ideal.

In my own experience I find a noisy office extraordinarily disruptive – I would personally much prefer to work in a quiet space where I can concentrate and fully immerse myself in whatever I am meant to be doing.     I probably sit within earshot of 20-30 people and it is never quiet.

Interestingly – and something that managers should be more aware of – introverted people can perform poorly at job interviews which may reinforce the extrovert slant in our work places.

As employers we need to learn to work with introverts and provide a work place that embraces all traits and gets the most out of everyone – doing so will increase productivity, creativity and innovation whilst also increasing employee satisfaction and retention.

No-talk Thursdays

I heard of a company that does “No-talk Thursdays” – sounds like bliss!



The book I would highly recommend reading – even if you are not introverted yourself, up to 50% of people are, so get to know your friends, family and colleagues – is:

Quiet – The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain  (Amazon link).

Plus other useful links:


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