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Designing working spaces for every personality type

Have you ever found that you either study or work better in some spaces than in others? And in group work, have you ever found that you would have preferred to work somewhere else to the space selected by your colleagues? Well that’s because we all have very different spatial needs. We choose spaces that make us comfortable and we choose spaces that reflect our mood and personality. The most successful teams are the ones with a rich mix of personality types. So how can we provide them an efficient office? By building a whole range of working settings.

Yerkes and Dodson (1908) proposed an inverted U-shape relationship between someone’s level of arousal and their performance (Oseland, 2009). These authors state that people can perform better when they are stimulated or motivated (which increases level of arousal), but being too stimulated can bring stress and thus reduce performance (Oseland, 2009). So working spaces must be stimulating but not over-stimulating. The complexity is that people don’t have the same level of arousal and thus need different levels of stimulation. Introverts have a base of high excitation and thus need less stimulation from their environment and in contrast extroverts are seeking stimulation in their environment to raise their level of arousal. In addition, complex tasks increase the level of arousal, so people need subdued environments to be efficient (Oseland, 2009).  Stimulating environments (with vibrant colors, noises, etc) can boost the performance of extroverts and people conducting simple tasks, but calming environments will be more suitable for introverts and people conducting a more complex task (Oseland, 2009). Having said that, open plan environments are very common and allow more interactions but also cause more distractions. DeMarco and Lister (1987) showed that it takes about 15 minutes to achieve a state of concentration (in Oseland, 2009). So imagine how much time people can lose when working in an open space because they get distracted by a colleague talking to the phone or another one dropping a pen on the floor. 

Also, it is important to consider that the desired level of interaction varies according to individual differences and circumstances over time (Oseland, 2009). It is not only about extroverts seeking for interactions and introverts avoiding them. People need interactions in function of their mood and of the circumstances. That is why it is encouraged to provide a wide range of working settings so people can occupy them in function of their personality, mood, the level of privacy they want but also in function of the complexity of the task.

Bibliography :
  • Oseland, N. (2009). The Impact of psychological needs on office design. Journal of Corporate Real Estate, 11(4), 244-254. DOI 10.1108/14630010911006738
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Author : Johanna Henry