Modern office design principles favour extroverts, study claims 0

Open plan officesThis week’s British Psychological Society Occupational Psychology Division annual conference in Nottingham has proved to be a fruitful hunting ground for insights into the nature of modern work and workplaces. The week culminates today with the presentation of a new study from business psychologists OPP which claims that personality has a big impact on the type of office environment people prefer to work in. Modern features such as shared space and open-plan floors appeal mainly to extroverted workers and made introverts uncomfortable. Over 300 people (71 per cent female and average age 47 years) completed an online survey about their current workplace. The participants had previously completed a personality test to ascertain their personality type. The results showed that many features of the modern office were more likely to be preferred by extroverts than by introverts.

Extroverts were significantly happier at work and had higher levels of job satisfaction. Personality differences were also shown to be behind areas of conflict in the office, such as people’s reactions to the idea of a clear desk policy. Some features were desired by almost everyone, such as having your own desk and working area, having well-designed workplaces and having ‘quiet areas’ available. Others, such as desk-sharing or hot-desking, were disliked by most people.

John Hackston said: “Despite changes in technology many people still work in an office. Understanding how personality interacts with the office environment is key to improving job satisfaction and productivity. These results support previous research into the unpopularity of open-plan offices and hot desking and the positive effects of personalisation. However, there are some simple changes that can be made to improve staff satisfaction and increase productivity.

“These include allowing staff more storage for personal items when hot desking; creating smaller neighbourhoods within open-plan offices; not overdoing clear desk policies as clearing away all personal items can be demotivating to some people and providing quiet zones for people to work in when needed.”