Nov 19, 2019
You might think of extroverts and introverts in terms of who would make the best party guests, but you may not have thought about how those same preferences would carry over to the workplace. Or maybe you're simply trying to figure out why you work better in some environments than others and never considered that it could be related to the introvert/extrovert divide.
Studies show that introverts are more easily distracted at work than extroverts, and the reason is not very different from the one that makes them want to leave the party a whole lot earlier than the extroverts. Introverts tend to be more sensitive to stimulation than extroverts.
This appears to extend even to choices such as the volume at which music or movies will be played. Therefore, just as crowds and loud music quickly wear on them at a party, they will also struggle more with noisy, chaotic workplaces. When interrupted, introverts may take longer than extroverts to return to the task at hand.
This can spell disaster as far as productivity goes for the introverts who find themselves working in open offices. Unfortunately, these are very popular office plans. Employers may see them as fostering teamwork and productivity, but for an introvert, the opposite may be true.
Introverts who are already in an open office may be able to take some steps to help ensure that they are able to work effectively. It is to employers' advantage to assist introvert employees in this since they can be excellent workers in the right environment particularly when it comes to more complex tasks such as analysis and writing. For example, the office could designate a quiet area that only allows whispers. Activity elsewhere in the office should not be at a volume that disturbs the quiet area, and phone calls may need to be taken elsewhere.
Another solution is to have one or more rooms set aside for concentrated work tasks or for meetings that are likely to become noisy. Some people might even have surge in productivity when they work at home although this may present its own issues with distraction as well.
If a workplace is considering converting to an open plan, introvert employees may want to talk to the employer about why this may not be the best arrangement for them and whether it is right for the office. If the employer is determined to use an open plan, introverts might be able to participate in the planning process to ensure that quiet areas are set aside.
Depending on the nature of an employee's work, personal preference and the type of distraction, other solution may be possible as well. For example, noise-canceling headphones may help some employees work more effectively, but this is not appropriate for every workplace or position. With some communication about the needs of introverts and the science backing those needs, employers and employees may be able to find a solution that suits both their aims.