Quick test: When you look at this photo, what kinds of emotions are you feeling? Excitement? Happiness? A sense of togetherness? Or, if you’re like me (and probably a lot of other introverts too) are your feelings more along the lines of panic, dread, and an immediate need to be alone? Welcome to being an introvert in the modern workplace. Fun, isn’t it?
The open-concept office plan often gets a lot of (well-deserved, in my humble opinion) harsh criticism, especially from introverts who often need quiet and solitude to focus and recharge. Yet it’s not just Corporate America’s love of cramming their employees into a single, loud room that’s troublesome–it’s their “one size fits all” method of organization.
Listen, Corporate America, it’s 2015. We should all know by know that not everyone is the same. Some people may work best in a collaborative environment where there’s constant buzz and excitement, because it energizes them. Those same people may thrive in large groups, where they take part in lively brainstorming sessions as everyone shouts ideas across the room at the same time. Yet there are other people who do their best work alone or in small groups, where email is the preferred method of contact and we have privacy and quiet space to think.
Yet, despite the fact that people can have widely different work preferences, companies like to pick a type and force everyone to go with it. At my workplace, we’re not allowed to work from home. Although 95% of the time my job can be done just as well (if not better) from the comfort of my living room, my company’s management believes that we need the ability to collaborate face-to-face each day to be the most productive. Why? Because that’s what’s most comfortable to them. And of course that’s easy for them to say, while they sit in their private offices with no interruptions.
Side-note: Why does it seem like only managers ever get offices anymore? Because they’re the only ones who need and deserve the peace and quiet that comes with four walls and a door? I think it’s rather depressing that most of us need to work to get promoted just to have some privacy in a place we spend the majority of our waking hours.
Now, I realize that it’s impossible to cater to every employee’s wants and needs, especially at a large organization. But it seems like corporate culture has become more important than the work itself. Many introverts are drawn to solitary careers such as writing, graphic design, and software development. Yet if we’re forced to write, design, or program in a workplace that drains us and makes us unproductive, is it worth it? From an organizational standpoint, is it worth it to have a workplace full of unproductive employees just to say you embrace group collaboration and have a relaxed, open atmosphere?
It’s a fact that what works for extroverts just doesn’t always work for introverts, yet very few companies are willing to admit or do something about it. There needs to be the right balance, which comes from employees knowing what works for them and managers trusting them enough to let them work their way–whether that’s in a bustling room full of energetic people or at home in their PJs.