A Place for Introverts

By: Marie Donlon

In this age of open-office plans, experts in office design urge employers to consider a quiet room for introverts who struggle in such an environment.

“There’s a recognition that the general adoption of open-office plans results in as many challenges as it provides solutions,” said Kristen Scott, managing partner of Seattle-based architecture and design firm Weber Thompson. “While great for transparency and communication, it can result in spaces that are challenging to focus in.”

One company acknowledging that difficulty is Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce company that had surveyed its employees before designing its Ottawa headquarters back in 2014. Respondents were asked questions including whether they identified as an introvert or an extrovert

“We have created spaces that are open and free-flowing for information sharing, casual spaces for connecting with one another, and private spaces for quiet introspection and deep thinking,” said Courtney Burdette, Shopify’s facilities operations and design lead.

Understanding that different workers may have different needs, Jenna Perrow, workspace designer at OpenSquare, typically includes quiet rooms in her design proposals.

 “All client needs are different, but we all need a moment of privacy from our busy schedules, and it’s vital to provide those spaces when designing an open-office plan,” said Perrow.

In smaller office settings with limited space, that could mean offering employees multi-use rooms away from their primary workspace where employees can go for 15 minutes or so to escape the distractions of an open-office plan.

As an example, Perrow’s co-worker, project planner and designer Tod Reps said: “One of my clients incorporates focus rooms that have a desk for one person, and you can reserve that room for a set amount of time to be away from everyone else.”

According to a report from furniture company Steelcase: “A distinguishing characteristic of engaged employees is that they have a greater degree of control over where and how they work, including access to privacy when they need it.”