Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

An Office for Introverts

ARCHIVES
BPTU/Shutterstock.com

Open offices were supposed to liberate us from cubicle-land. In the 1960s, the German design group Quickborner decided that grouping desks together would increase efficiency and de-emphasize status. They dubbed it Bürolandschaftor “office landscape." Open plans are also meant to enhance collaboration: Perhaps overhearing your colleague's every mutter will lead to some serendipitous insights. ("Eureka! Steve, too, can't get Twitter to load.")

But we've long since entered the backlash phase. "A cost-effective panopticon,"sneered one commenter on the tech site Y Combinator. When the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed various types of office plans in 2011, as Maria Konnikova wrote for the New Yorker, "He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission ... they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction." A 2008 meta-analysis in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management found that open plans are associated with conflict, high blood pressure, and increased turnover. 

These free-flowing "landscapes" can be particularly traumatic for the lone wolves among us. As my colleague Julie Beck described for our magazine recently, introverts are far more sensitive to everything from background noise to the caffeine from the communal coffeemaker.

Introverts tend to draw their energy from long stretches of alone time. To determine whether you might be an introvert, see if you can understand these 27 problems

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, understands how introverts must suffer amid the loud munching on Trader Joe's paneer tikka and the cacophony of the "ideation sesh" unfolding a few desks over. She has partnered with Steelcase, the office furniture maker, to create new types of office spaces that will allow introverts to both work and respite in peace. Some of the new modules will house desks, others will contain couches, and others still will have yoga mats. All will have walls.

"These are spaces where people can innovate," Cain told Fast Company's Ariel Schwartz. "Solitude is a crucial ingredient in innovation."

Each room is built with glass that, according to Steelcase, is 100 percent soundproof and whose opacity can be adjusted for added privacy.

The first prototypes will roll out this month at the NeoCon design conference, and they will start being commercially available this summer. The rooms start at $15,000 a piece. Of course, if your boss had that kind of money to spend on your work habitat, you probably wouldn't be in an open office to begin with.

(Image via BPTU/Shutterstock.com)

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.