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FCW : November 30, 2013
or social, whether they want to be noisy or quiet. The advantage of an open-plan space is that it should be able to provide all of those differ- ent options. What are some of the other rami- cations of forcing introverts to work in this type of environment? I think it s really a waste...of the energy of introverts, it s a waste of their best brainpower, it s a waste of their morale. I think many employers are probably under the impression that most of their workforce is quite extroverted and so therefore they don t need to worry about this, but that s a misunderstanding. Most introverts get into the habit at work of acting much more extroverted than they really are. So it can appear that you have a workforce full of extroverts, but in fact a third to a half of the popula- tion is introverted, so that s one out of every two or three people. So no employer can afford to ignore the needs of introverts because it s going to result in a loss of produc- tivity, a loss of brainpower, a loss of creativity, a loss of morale. In federal agencies, a lot of the work consists of group projects and collaborating extensively with other people. Do you think it s possible that extroverts are drawn to this type of work, and should that be a factor in how govern- ment workspaces are designed? Well, this is the real myth. People say that about the government, they say that about all kinds of business really, and this is what people don t understand about collaboration. Yes, we all need to be collaborating all the time. We re all dependent on each other for ideas and insights. We re all working as groups. But that doesn t mean that in our day- to-day operations we don t also need time and space alone. Like with many group projects, you come together as a group, but then each person goes off and works on their own separate piece of the project and then you come together as a group again to talk about what you ve done. So to say that collaboration is important is not the same as saying, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we should all be sitting with a group of people. Having spoken at a number of government of ces, my impres- sion is that many people who work in the government are quite introverted. My guess is that if anyone ever did a real survey, they would nd that more than 50 percent of gov- ernment workers are introverts. That s just my anecdotal impression. How does teleworking and work- ing outside the of ce t into accommodating introverts? Teleworking can really work well for introverts because it s a way of working more on their own terms. I think for many people, when they telework, they end up working not even from home but working from a local coffee shop, and that is a setting that is often really condu- cive for introverts because it s a way of feeling like you re around people, which many people crave, but you still have a lot of freedom and autonomy and privacy within the coffee shop. So I think teleworking is a very positive trend. In general, if we can get to a place where there are open of ce plans but embedded within those plans is a whole series of choices in terms of, you re in the open of ce plan but you can work from home. You re in the open of ce plan, but you can also sit in the library part of the open of ce plan where it s quiet. If we give people those kinds of choices, then we ll be a lot better off. ■ November 30, 2013 FCW.COM 29 My guess is that if anyone ever did a real survey, they would nd that more than 50 percent of government workers are introverts.
November 15, 2013