flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
catfish1 - bottom
Currently Reading

In response to ultra-open and uber-collaborative office environments

In response to ultra-open and uber-collaborative office environments

SRG Partnership | December 18, 2014
Photo: Steelcase

Susan Cain’s bestselling 2012 book, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking" has made an impact on how we understand our current workforce, recognizing that at least one-third of the people we work with are introverts. 

As a professed introvert living in what Cain describes as the “Extrovert Ideal,” where teamwork is the answer to every problem and people skills are most highly valued, I was inspired and empowered by Cain’s book. It helped me establish my role within the work environment and identify both my strengths and weaknesses. 

I am intrigued by the effect the book is having on workplace design. We are now prompted to question the days when designers took all of the walls down to create open plans as the birth of the World Wide Web catalyzed a world of uber collaboration. At this time, some designers began to overlook the importance of providing a variety of space types for all user personalities to have an appropriate place to meet, work, and unwind.

In response to the recent discussion about introverts in the office, Steelcase has created a series of Quiet Spaces that are meant to make introverts feel more comfortable in today’s workplace, acknowledging that most often introverts work best independently, away from the distractions of the open office. 

Attributes of Quiet Spaces include the incorporation of natural materials, small-scale collaborative spaces, individual lighting control, visual and acoustic privacy, and several other aspects that respond to more recent user statistics showing that introverts are often hyper sensitive to their environment and that solitude is an important ingredient for innovation in their world. 

My personal observation is that even extremely extroverted people sometimes have a hard time concentrating in a bustling open office, so I suspect that Steelcase’s Quiet Spaces will be desired spaces for all personality types.

Through all of the fads, interior designers are consistently faced with the same challenge when it comes to workplace design. How do we efficiently design offices with the right mix of public, private, open, and enclosed spaces? We are now armed with more information that will help us better understand our users, and the goal is to keep up with a constantly evolving multi-generational workforce. Today we have studies to support that collective thinking is not always the right answer. We know that brainstorming is more effective when done independently because it ultimately brings a wider range of ideas to the table.

I continue to suggest Susan Cain’s book to anyone, even extremely extroverted personalities because it is a valuable reference for how we all naturally play particular roles in both our personal and professional lives. If you tip toward the introverted end of the spectrum, you might be inspired to join the "quiet revolution."

About the Author
Susan Gust, AIA, is an architect with more than 10 years of experience designing workspace for a wide range of client types. Throughout her education and career she has promoted sustainable design as analogous to good practice, constantly seeking ways to go above and beyond the baseline for green design. She spends her personal time hiking mountains and conducting culinary experiments in her home kitchen.


Read more posts on BLG by SRG Partnership

More from Author

SRG Partnership | Mar 6, 2023

Benefitting kids through human-centric high school design

Ingrid Krueger, AIA, LEED AP, shares why empathetic, well-designed spaces are critical in high schools.

SRG Partnership | Aug 10, 2022

Increasing the skilled workforce through career technical education

There is a shortage of skilled workers in the United States, a gap that has only gotten wider with the advent of COVID.

SRG Partnership | Aug 8, 2022

Mass timber and net zero design for higher education and lab buildings

When sourced from sustainably managed forests, the use of wood as a replacement for concrete and steel on larger scale construction projects has myriad economic and environmental benefits that have been thoroughly outlined in everything from academic journals to the pages of Newsweek.

SRG Partnership | Jun 9, 2016

Designing for interdisciplinary communication in university buildings

Bringing people together remains the main objective when designing academic projects. SRG Design Principal Kent Duffy encourages interaction and discovery with a variety of approaches. 

SRG Partnership | May 21, 2015

How CLT wood construction affects project cost

SRG Partnership's Emily Dawson shares insights on the installation, availablilty, and cost of cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction, based on the firm's recent project at the Oregon Zoo.

SRG Partnership | Apr 9, 2015

How one team solved a tricky daylighting problem with BIM/VDC tools, iterative design

SRG Partnership's Scott Mooney describes how Grasshopper, Diva, Rhino, and 3D printing were utilized to optimize a daylighting scheme at Oregon State University's new academic building.

SRG Partnership | Mar 23, 2015

Drones for AEC: How every stage of a building project can benefit from drone technology

From photo-mapping to aerial progress videos, SRG Partnership's Dmitriy Molla studies real-world applications for unmanned aerial vehicles.

SRG Partnership | Feb 9, 2015

The generalist architect vs. the specialist architect

The corporate world today quite often insists on hiring specialists, but the generalists have an intrinsic quality to adapt to new horizons or even cultural shifts in the market, writes SRG Partnership's Gary Harris.

SRG Partnership | Jan 5, 2015

Beyond training: How locker rooms are becoming more like living rooms

Despite having common elements—lockers for personal gear and high-quality sound systems—the real challenge when designing locker rooms is creating a space that reflects the attitude of the team, writes SRG Partnership's Aaron Pleskac.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021