How to be an introvert in an open-plan office

By 18th September 2017 July 20th, 2020 Employee Wellbeing
How to be an introvert in an open-plan office

Being an introvert in an open-plan office can be difficult, but there are sneaky ways to use the space and furniture around you to survive.

The open-plan office has become more and more popular over the years, with companies opting for a collaborative space. But while some people may thrive in this space, there are those who feel overwhelmed… the introverts.

The extroverts in the office thrive on the social interaction but the introverts need some alone time to recharge. This can give the introverts in the office a bad rep as some people may mistake their desire to be alone as them not liking their co-workers.

So, how do you survive as an introvert in an open-plan office? It’s not that difficult: use what you have in your workspace.

Not sure how that works? Here are 7 steps you can take to use your workspace to your advantage:       

1. Speak up

The first thing you have to do as an introvert in an open plan office is speak up. If you go into work every day and avoid conversation or interactions with your co-workers, people will think you’re being rude. So make sure you tell everyone that you don’t mean to be rude, you just prefer the solitude. You can even tell your manager that you’re an introvert and don’t mean to push people away, and ask them to let the team know.

2. Request a workspace in a corner

A corner space is the perfect spot to put yourself. This will ensure you only have people to one side of you, essentially eliminating the number of people you have to interact with. It also puts a wall to one side of you, which you can use as a barrier when you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you need a break from people, you can turn towards the wall (maybe with your headphones on) and give your mind a break from the chaos.

3. Use what’s around you to insulate yourself

Your office more than likely has some plants and other accessories to bring some life to the place. Try building yourself a bit of privacy using these accessories. Move plants around and any other movable item to semi-block your space. This will help you feel like you have more privacy.

4. Invest in a good pair of headphones

Over the years, an unspoken message has emerged: “If I have my headphones on, leave me alone”. And guess what? You don’t even have to play music. When you’re working in a busy, loud environment, a good pair of headphones can reduce the noise and deter people from talking to you.

5. Ask permission to use meeting rooms

If you want to take some time and work in peace, try using the office meeting rooms. If they’re not in use, there’s no reason why you can’t take your laptop, close the door, and work alone. We recommend asking your manager if you could use the meeting rooms when they are not booked.  

6. Take a smoke break… even if you don’t smoke

Taking a break is so important, especially if you feel trapped in your environment. Most offices have a space where people can go to smoke, drink a coffee, or even a creative space. Make sure you’re taking regular breaks and using these spaces. You can even try using them at times you know people won’t be there. If your office doesn’t have any break-away spaces, try going outside or even sitting in your car.

7. Take advantage of flexible hours

More and more companies these days are offering staff flexible work hours. If you’re lucky enough to be in one of these companies, take advantage by going into work early or late, when you know your co-workers won’t be in. That way you’re guaranteed a couple of hours a day where you can work in an empty office.

As an introvert, most office environments will have some aspect that makes you feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, no office design will ever please everyone, but if you use the space you have to your advantage, you can create a positive working space for yourself.

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Derek Stedman

Author Derek Stedman

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