Introverts and extroverts: how to harness the skills of all your employees


Introverts and extroverts: how to harness the skills of all your employees

There’s a personality clash in your office right now. And it’s affecting your staff retention, productivity and employee morale.

It’s not that inevitable blow up between Jeff from Sales and Katie from Production that you witness every couple of weeks. It’s something much more deep-rooted yet harder to pinpoint.

But we’re going to show you how you can address it, and why it’s vital you do so now.

Why catering for both introverts and extroverts matters

No one is a pure introvert or a pure extrovert. Yet every workplace has representatives of these personality types.

There are fundamental differences between the two that affect how they interact with their colleagues. And also how they feel about the workspaces they are asked to function in.

We recently surveyed 850 people in the UK. We asked: “Do you think your employers are making the effort to cater for your work performance and are encouraging the growth of skills on your terms?”

Most employees (59.6%) did not feel that enough effort was being made.


Commenting on these findings Nick Pollitt, Managing Director of DBI Furniture highlighted:

“Studies suggest introverts make up one-third to one-half of the population. Yet most open-plan workplaces are designed and set up exclusively with extroverts in mind. Providing workspaces that meet everyone’s needs will help you retain staff and develop their performance.”

How to make your office space work for introverts

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Let’s think of an open-plan office. In theory it fosters creativity, spontaneous collaboration, and transparency among employees.

Now let’s think of an introvert:

  • Introverts dislike noise, interruptions and big group settings.
  • They prefer time to think before speaking.
  • They build relationships and trust one-on-one.
  • They need space to reflect and focus.
  • They prefer individual projects.

You don’t have to be a psychologist to see that an open-plan office is actually designed to close out this sort out of person.

In practice, different personality types thrive in different work environments. So, what would be better suited?

  • A breakout room or a huddle room, where just two or three people can get together and concentrate on getting a project wrapped up or kickstarted?
  • A dedicated area full of hot office desks that is a silent zone for those who need quiet to concentrate?
  • Or an ‘intimate corner’ with comfy bean bags or a sofa – and a welcoming coffee machine – where one-to-ones can be held?

And, of course, you need to think about how you act, as well as how you design your office.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon begins every meeting in total silence. Attendees must quietly read a six-page memo about the meeting for 20 minutes. The logic here is that writing a detailed ‘narrative’ helps structure the meeting, reading it ensures the introverts have time to think, and the quiet time calms things down to encourage participation.

How to make your office space work for extroverts

Let’s just remind ourselves of what extroverts like:

  • Extroverts gravitate toward groups.
  • They tend to think out loud.
  • They are energized by personal interactions, social gatherings and shared ideas.

Extroverts thrive on social situations, so you should aim to include common areas in your workspace and opportunities to collaborate in your office design.

  • There are plenty of ways to encourage sharing through smart tech. For example, set up video conferencing areas. This allows those who need to see and hear others to formulate ideas and work effectively with staff or partners in another location.
  • Use adjustable height desks with monitor arms that allow for screen sharing and allow the extrovert freedom to roam and ‘spark’ with others.
  • Instead of an employee break room with tiny cafe tables, why not try one large community table? It’s an ideal setup for extroverts to meet new people across departments each week, and offers introverts the chance to engage in social chitchat but disconnect without guilt after the break.

Just as Jeff Bezos has instituted a quiet time at meetings, it can also be useful to consider that to develop extroverts’ ideas more effectively you may need to interrogate them.

The ideas tend to be top of the head and may hide hidden gems beneath what seems unfeasible, or may hold unseen flaws that need teasing out. Tactics such as a brainstorm followed by a period of reflection from what has emerged can help this.

The perfect workplace

The perfect workplace is where everyone can feel at home.

The open-plan office may be the norm but it certainly doesn’t feel ‘normal’ to many employees. If you’re looking for inspiration to create breakout rooms, offer different desk designs or create quiet booths within your office, you’ll find hundreds of ideas in our online showroom.

And if you’re feeling extroverted, click on Chat now and we’ll be happy to talk through your needs.

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Lyndsay Carling
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