Leadership Coach and Business Psychologist Jasbindar Singh discusses how open plan offices affect different personality types and the stress from “setting up shop” every day in hot desking environments. Generally, more introverted workers who need a quieter space, struggle with the constant activity and banter around them in an open plan office, she writes.
I was recently asked by a journalist about open plan offices and its impact on workers, especially women.
My experience working with clients in open plan offices over the decades is that even ahead of gender, personality intersects first.
Generally speaking, those with more introverted personalities who need a quieter space for thinking and reflection struggle with the constant activity and banter around them. They find the noise a distraction and it makes it harder for them to concentrate and focus.
While the extroverted personalities may enjoy the social interaction and people contact ( although they too need to recede to the the quiet available office on occasions) and get energised by this, the more introverted team members could find this draining.
They will resort to strategies like headphones and “keeping their heads down” and having days when they work from home to focus.
Extroverted personalities who are required to do work outside of their primary personality preference may also find it challenging. For example, an extroverted person who is not naturally detailed oriented may require a quieter space to work on challenging detail.
I have had finance and accounting people who say (regardless of personality) that there is need for confidentiality with their work and this can be very challenging.
Hot desking creates stress for some as the routine of having to “set up shop” everyday from new and the unpredictability of who gets to sit beside them and how talkative and noisy they might be.
The positive aspect of the open plan office is that you are forced to get to know others in your team and organisation and this can foster easier collaboration and colleagueship.
From a gender perspective, talking to women in open plan offices, they do have some issues.
Where it can prove challenging is where women are working in a very male-dominated industry and there is “male banter” that is disrespectful to women to contend with.
Some female workers cope by sharing and focusing on their work but this is still draining for them as they feel on guard and can’t fully relax to do their best work.
Looking forward it might be that open space environments give “sunlight” to inappropriate language and may help to reduce and eliminate this in the workplace.
As a young professional woman said to be recently “The open space office highlighted how few women role models she had!”
There can also be the social pressure to look and dress in a certain way because women could feel that they are “on display” all the time.
Do you work in an open plan office? What is your experience?
Jasbindar Singh is a Business Psychologist, Leadership Coach, Blogger and Speaker. She specialises in leading with emotional intelligence. Contact Jasbindar via [email protected] or visit http://jasbindarsingh.com/. You can also find Jasbindar on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Jasbindar is available to speak at conferences on emotional intelligence.