Can introverts be happy in an open work plan? (Spoiler alert: yes!)

Open plan at our office in Philadelphia's Navy Yard

Open plan at our office in Philadelphia's Navy Yard

I can speak from personal experience here – introverts can be happy in an open work plan. 

The question arises because Susan Cain recently wrote a book called: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, noting the trend of companies, including GSK, that are moving to open plan designs.

Cain, who is not a big fan of open offices, is working with a furniture designer to create open work spaces that can accommodate introverts. She elaborates for a Fast Co article: "I think they can be wonderful if they have enough pockets of privacy in them. In many of the open offices I see, it's just a gigantic room crammed with people and desks. Too many people are mentally suffering."

GSK’s facility at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia was designed as a collaborative, healthy, and green environment. But what's so great about the space is the many choices of where to work throughout the day.

One of my colleagues, Heidi, read Quiet for her book club. “When my book club agreed to read this book, none of us knew that GSK would be mentioned. During the book discussion my friends and fellow readers were curious about what I thought of working in an open plan office, since clearly I’m an introvert. Once I explained to them what our different working options are at The Navy Yard, they were able to get a better sense of how accommodating it can be – even to introverts like me."

As an introvert working at our Navy Yard building, the environment succeeds. If I want some privacy, I can put my headphones on and listen to music while I work. I can change my Office Communicator status to "Do Not Disturb." Colleagues are very respectful and understand that just because I am visible doesn’t mean I am available.

White noise piped throughout the building mutes the conversations around you. Well, not all conversations. As I wrote this, a colleague was enthusiastically participating in a teleconference across from me. But when she hung up the phone she asked if she was too loud, and another colleague and I answered honestly. [Yes. ;)]

I can chose to work in a quiet room or in one of the soft comfy chairs located throughout the building. We can work in a nook in the atrium or cafeteria. In nice weather, we can even work on the roof deck. (We just need to remember to put on sun screen).

To recharge, I can visit the gym or a tranquility room. I can walk or bike around the Navy Yard (bikes are available). I can even sign up for a chair massage. Ahh…

And when I want to connect with my colleagues, it’s so easy. It’s also fun, and I’ve laughed a lot more than I did when I was sequestered in my old office.

Take a look for yourself: