Introverts can often accomplish much more than extroverts when they control their work environments. If there's one thing that can sap their productivity, however, it just might be the open office.
Open offices are the trend. Full disclosure, it's one we've embraced at my company. But after spending a few months surrounded by introverted writers and editors wearing headphones and earbuds, I wondered whether maybe they weren't particularly enjoying the setup.
I empathize. Personally, I think I'm an ambivert, and while I love a noisy, energetic environment most of the time, I definitely have my more introverted moments. In any event, the folks at PayScale, writing on Money.com, came up with some key ways introverts can at least make an open office situation a little more bearable. Here's the strategy:
Can I interest you in some noise-canceling headphones?
My co-workers have clearly figured this one out. Nothing blocks out the world -- and sends a signal that you want to be left alone -- like a $200 oversize pair of Bose headphones covering your ears.
"One sneaky tip," PayScale recommends, "if you have trouble concentrating even with the latest This American Life podcast on, just put on your headphones without any tunes. They'll still help to block out the world."
Take your cues to the next level.
I'm reminded here of the classic Far Side cartoon, "How nature says, 'Don't touch.'"
PayScale's advice: "To keep someone from tapping you on the shoulder, a creative sign on the back of your chair could tell them "Come back later, please" or "Don't bother me, I'm making money." Have more room to spare? Try a stop sign for your area to stop them in their tracks when they try to bother you."
Go for a change of venue.
I find myself doing this all the time -- working for a while at one of our big tables, then moving into an empty conference room, then sitting on the big sofa near the front door that looks like it's really meant for people waiting for appointments. Sometimes you simply need to move around.
"Go for a walk, even if it's just around the office park or out to your car and back," PayScale recommends, or "try the stairwells or make laps around your cavernous office space."
Always eat out.
This one's a no-brainer, if you can pull it off. We all know that lunch is a prime time to build rapport with colleagues or network with people outside your office. Still, sometimes you just need a little "me time."
"Don't let the noise of your busy office space be the only environment you sit in all day," the folks at PayScale advise.
Work from home as much as possible.
This seems a little more like an avoidance tactic than a success strategy, and granted, not every office allows it. (If you work at Yahoo, for example, I guess you're out of luck.) However, most office jobs now can accommodate a little geographic flexibility every now and then.
Alternatively, advises PayScale, "try to arrange a flex schedule where you can work early or late, and find some time for those complicated tasks when fewer people are around."