Journal

De Vorm for Office | Different Personalities and Workplace Design

Today's office designs are ultra-modern and often fully equipped with the coolest flexible workspaces and football tables. Consider the diversity of your colleagues, their personalities and their working style preferences. Do contemporary workspaces suit the majority of the people who work there? What are some of the important elements of workplace design?


People walking inside FULL NODE office

Elements that affect the contemporary workplace

Traditionally, office design is based on the company’s personality and their corporate identity is often reflected everywhere. However, times are changing and the contemporary office environment is undergoing a revolutionary change.

Today’s field of work is about connecting employees who are increasingly working remotely or flexibly. Along with the adoption of new technologies, this has caused significant changes to the meaning of teamwork. Also today the majority of employers consider diversity and inclusion to be an indispensable part of the workforce. Diversity and inclusion encourage creative and innovative thinking in businesses. Also, studies show that the right balance between focus and collaboration can lead to greater innovation and higher performance overall. The role of the architect in designing the workspace to accommodate all of this has never been so challenging. How can you maximise a positive and productive interaction but also minimise the distraction?

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Distraction or interaction?

Everyone experiences distraction in their own way. Whether someone experiences these kinds of distractions as annoying depends on their personality. For example, an introverted type usually likes to work in a quiet, harmonious environment, the extroverted type may like to work in a place where a lot is happening. More about that later.

When designing workplaces, it's worth taking the biggest personality differences into account.

The working environment should resonate with the people who actually work there. It’s important to take the work itself into account and also the working styles and personalities of the individuals. This doesn’t mean that you need tailor-made solutions for each employee, but it also doesn’t mean that you can assume a ‘’one size fits all’’ in the office design process. Analyzing and identifying the major personality types within a company can go a long way in designing their ultimate workspaces.

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Understanding different personalities

The Big Five is an often-used theory for office psychology. Hereby a little insight into the traits and types:

Trait 1 | Openness to Experience
This type is likely to be intellectually curious and has a creative mind. They prefer performing a variety of tasks. Nurse the variety they desire and bear in mind that they tend to be less focused and can be easily distracted.

Trait 2 | Conscientiousness
The conscientious type is very disciplined. They're organized and they value a structured planning approach to their work. Whilst they are efficient they can also be inflexible and stubborn.

Trait 3 | Extraversion
The outgoing type that loves sociable activities - very suitable for project teams. An energetic person that drives communication during collaboration. Downside: they might tend to have attention-seeking behaviour.

Trait 4 | Agreeableness
A very social and considerate person that gets along with most colleagues. This person is a subservient type and is always willing to help others. At a point of objective decision-making, however, this person tends to swim with every tide.

Trait 5 | Neuroticism
The sensitive type tends to experience the extremes within the spectrum of emotions. They are good inspirators for other colleagues, as they love to show the work that they enjoy.

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Inclusion: extroverts & introverts

Now that we discussed several personality traits in the workforce, let’s start with the most obvious difference: the extrovert and introvert types in workspaces.

Extroverts

Extroverts like to surround themselves with other people. As mentioned, these people are mostly full of energy and their approach is active. They value a social life and they intend to perform very well in a vibrant office space.

Introverts

Introverts are motivated by spending time alone. These people generally lose energy when being socially very active — which by the way doesn't mean they can’t work with colleagues. They just need to recharge every now and then.

As today's open-plan offices are well suited for extrovert workers, it's important to think of the variety of workspaces. Unlike extroverts, introverts do not come into their own here. An open office environment would detrimentally affect their performance.

Intelligent workplaces: strike the balance for every personality

So, after researching the workplace, the extent to which workers meet the criteria for both extrovert versus introvert personalities will be used by an interior architect to create an intelligent workplace. The following tips can help strike the right balance for the personalities of the employee’s and the focus and collaboration they need to be able to innovate and perform.

Introverts are more sensitive to external stimuli and working in large, collaborative groups can be tiring for them. So why not provide a few smaller acoustic meeting rooms or areas in the open workspace? Look for ways to optimize and control sound with acoustic panels, ceilings and/or partitions. By facilitating a variety of spaces, introverted workers can look for private workplaces.

Extraverted workers are known to be more sensitive to visual distractions (see this study). As they often perform best in an open workspace, it's recommended to design this space in an inspiring but somewhat neutral way.

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“Design definitely matters, but a holistic community and activation strategy is also required to make people feel good about being at work.”

Phil Kirschner

Since the agreeable type likes to engage the interests of their colleagues, an open workspace also works well for them, encouraging collaborations. In the office design you may think of idea banks, spaces for casual meetings and — especially for brainstorm sessions - inspiration boards.

Conscientious types appear to be more aware of their personal space than others. For these workers, a silent workspace is required. Especially when work demands uninterrupted focus, there should be an option to withdraw. This also applies to the introverted type, as they are motivated by spending time alone. Think of privacy screens, nooks and sheltered cubes in the office design!

For people who are open to experience, there should be room for visual and creative work. While extraverts tend to get distracted by lots of visuals, creative types likely perform in a space with white/mood boards, colours, and long galley desks.

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A variety of workspaces to suit a variety of employees

In today’s world, we are surrounded with furniture design and acoustic options which means that for every budget it is possible to design a variety of workspaces to suit the variety of employee personality traits and types into account.

Like Ole Scheeren says in our Pod Session:

“it can be very dangerous to run projects in the places that you have no relationship to — and, ultimately, have no understanding of.”