On Monday, February 25, several students and I went to a presentation at the Career Fair called “Design for the workplace well-being – beyond fitness centers and ergonomics.” In this presentation, Kay Sargent (Teknion: VP Architecture, Design, and Workplace Strategies) discussed how the open office plan that so many companies were taking advantage of was actually detrimental to the worker’s well-being. Surprisingly, this is very different than what the first year interior students were told on their trip to D.C. in October. All of the firms that we visited were on board with the open office plan, where cubicles were nonexistent and every worked side by side at their desks. Unfortunately, in the months since then they have realized how this has led to an increase in the number of sicknesses being passed around. Many of the companies we visited had abandoned the idea of cubicles, unless requested, and were designing for these new set ups. Steelcase, an office furniture giant, showed us furniture almost exclusively tailored to open floor plans.
These open office plans cater to the extrovert, people who thrive in situations where they have access to people constantly and work with teams. Unfortunately, as Susan Cain explains in her book “Quiet” (and the Ted talk I’ll post a link to), a third to a half of the population lean towards introverted tendencies. In our world, extroverts are seen as the leaders, but introverts have power that is not being used to its potential. I encourage you to watch this Ted talk whether you identify as an introvert and extrovert and acknowledge the 3 ideas that Susan Cain offers for us.