Well-designed workplaces should equally suit different personalities

A study undertaken by the British Psychological Society (BPS) has confirmed that personality differences can cause conflict in a modern, open plan office.

300 people were surveyed about their current work environment, completing a personality test to find out if there is a correlation between office preferences and personality. While desk-sharing and hot-desking were disliked by the majority of the participants, it became evident that extroverts enjoy features of the modern office more than introverts. In general, the extroverted employees reported higher job satisfaction, which likely stems from the opportunity to freely interact with colleagues in an open plan space.

But where does it leave the introverts? When it comes to an open office design to suit multiple personalities, segregation is not really an option as it prevents collaboration amongst employees. For introverts personalisation is an option to increase job satisfaction and productivity. Creating smaller neighbourhoods within an open floor, allowing personal items on the desk even when hot-desking, as well as providing quiet zones, caters to the needs of the more reserved individual.

However, in the end it is all about the nature of the work, not who does it. A roundtable discussion hosted by business psychologists OPP and workplace design firm KI revealed that the majority of workplace design still makes little allowance for individual preference. The reason for this is costs. Every CEO wants to make sure he or she is not spending more than they have to, says Bob Seddon, Chair of BIFM, Workplace Special Interest Group. However, this is very short-sighted, as investing in suitable design will pay dividends in the long-run. A study conducted by RPI found that well-ventilated and well-lit, safe workplaces increase productivity as much as 16%. While this is in no direct correlation to employees' personalities, it supports the notion that office design influences productivity.

If Pulsnet’s recently published blog post 'Office of the Future: Slides, Robots and Hammocks: Room by Room Breakdown' is anything to go by, the open-plan office is here to stay. Therefore, intelligent office design is key; utilising partitioning and high-wall units creates the illusion of smaller, private spaces. This suits introvert workers without taking the people-centric team environment away from extroverts: a win-win for everyone.