Everyone gets excited when the time for a new office rolls around. Standing desks! Natural light! New kitchen!
But tough luck if you're an introvert. Chances are any semblance of privacy will be kicked to the curb. Despite evidence that open offices decrease productivity, create time-consuming distractions, and are more costly than private offices, 70 percent of offices now have an open floor plan.
Are you doomed if you're an introvert? Not if you work for Shopify. The cloud-based e-commerce platform has 1,000 employees who work across four offices. Here's how the company tries to create workplaces that invite collaboration, but are still introvert-friendly.
1. Figure out your team's working style
Most open offices incorporate a sliver of privacy into their design. They may have phone booth-style rooms for personal calls or a few closed-off meeting rooms. Even with these accommodations, open offices favor extroverts because there's so private space to go around. Competition for those spaces gets fierce.
Before hiring M-S-D-S Studio to design its Toronto office, Shopify dug into results from their annual company-wide survey to understand how employees preferred to work. Satish Kanwar, director of product, told the Financial Post they discovered their team had an even balance of introverts and extroverts. A few private spaces wouldn't cut it. To design an office that could support every employee to do their best work, the space had to cater equally to both groups.
2. Incorporate multi-purpose furniture
Though Shopify wanted introverts to feel at home in their Toronto office, the goal wasn't to close everyone off and discourage spontaneous collaboration. The entire space still had to reflect the Shopify's core values: transparency and the open exchange of information.
The solution was to incorporate modular furniture that could serve multiple purposes.
Custom-designed couches with high walls and wheels are placed prominently throughout the office. When someone needs to be with their own thoughts, they can roll one around to face a wall or window. This creates a visual and auditory barrier from the rest of the office. The couches are great for small groups, too. A couple couches can also be rolled to face each other for impromptu meetings between a few people.
3. Keep the options open
Shopify's headquarters in Ottawa invites employees to switch up their environment whenever they choose. The office spans six floors, and no two are designed the same. The office offers a variety of workspaces where anyone can work. Many employees have semi-permanent workspaces, but they can take their laptop to work in a quiet corner anytime they want.
Several quiet areas are spaced throughout the office that are suited for solo work. "There are some areas that are really good for thinking," Daniel Weinand, one of Shopify's co-founders told Canadian Business. Those areas have dimmer lighting and are tucked away from hustle-and-bustle areas. Weinand even claims there are even top-secret rooms hidden throughout the building, Canadian Business reported.