Edited excerpt from Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain:
Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. They’re associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated and insecure. Open-plan workers are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and elevated stress levels and to get the flu; they argue more with their colleagues; they worry about coworkers eavesdropping on their phone calls and spying on their computer screens. They have fewer personal and confidential conversations with colleagues. They’re often subject to loud and uncontrollable noise, which raises heart rates; releases cortisol the body’s fight-or-flight “stress hormone; and makes people socially distant, quicker to anger, aggressive, and slow to help others.
Indeed, excessive stimulation seems to impede learning: a recent study found that people learn better after a quiet stroll through the woods than after a noisy walk down a city street. Another study, of 38,000 knowledge workers across different sectors, found that the simple act of being interrupted is one of the biggest barriers to productivity.
Backbone Entertainment, a video game design company, initially used an open office plan but found that their game developers, many of whom were introverts, were unhappy. “It was one big warehouse space, with just tables, no walls, and everyone could see each other. We switched over to cubicles and were worried about it — you’d think in a creative environment that people would hate that. But it turns out they prefer having nooks and crannies they can hide away in and just be away from everybody.”
(1) Cf. The problem with open offices.
(2) The problem with cubicles is lack of natural light and a view of the outdoors. See Office design: two tips to get seating right.
(3) How can you get privacy (“nooks and crannies they can hide away in”) without sacrificing natural light and views of nature? Ideas, anyone?