An introvert's guide on how to survive an open-plan office

Open plan offices get a bit of a bad rap these days, just google 'open plan office' and you'll get article upon article on its detrimental effects on employee productivity, creative thinking and job satisfaction. Add 'introvert' to the search and you'll get phrases like 'worst nightmare' and 'soul destroying' — I wish I was kidding. Because I'm an introvert*, sitting at a desk surrounded by eleven other people.

Despite all the pessimism on the subject, there are benefits that may be reaped with a few workarounds. And (management, listen up) a lot of this has to do with office-culture: getting colleagues to take longer phone calls outside, silencing phone alerts, speaking to a someone at their desk instead of yelling across the room and so on...

But there's bound to be conversation at the office, so then what? Let me show you the ways, young grasshopper:

- Pretend you're a DJ
Increase your acoustic privacy and get some noise-cancelling headphones. The plus side is you'll look like a badass, the down side is... headphone-hair and it can be uncomfortable if you wear glasses.

-Add a bit of pitter-patter
Aside from a wide selection of phone apps, Spotify has some pretty good white-noise tracks that add another layer of noise-cancellation when the office is particularly busy. Try the artist 'Loopable'. Another great option is calm.com - let the rolling waves and tweeting birds caaalm your mind.

- Be sociable
Make sure you are still approachable even with the headphones on. At Husk we use Google Hangouts, don't tell Film Con though, they think we are telepathic.

- Move it, move it
Be aware of what times in the day you are least productive, or what we call 'brain fried'. Take a walk, go to the gym/pool, a place of solitude... whatever works to help regain some introvert balance.

- Experiment with different working styles or environments
If your workplace allows, try booking a conference room for the space and silence to get things done. Oh, and working remotely at a cafe sounds good, unless it's Crave where everybody knows your name...

- Stop the guilt trips
It's easy to waive catering to your psychological needs as meglomania or goofing off' but Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project puts it rather aptly: "We’re trying to keep up with our technology — the digital flow operates at this very high speed continuously, whereas we’re designed to operate rhythmically, to move between activity and rest; that’s when we’re at our best." 

If good habits help you enjoy work a bit more and increase your productivity, everybody wins.


*There's some things you'll need to know about how introversion works before I go on, Susan Cain explains it rather aptly in her TED talk — the basic idea is that while extroverts crave large amounts of external stimulation, introverts thrive best in more low-key environments.


Written by Katie Che on 05.11.2015