the tig blog.

How are we "supposed" to work?

Katy Johnson

There’s a lot of conversation about office culture these days.

What actually encourages the highest levels of creativity? What keeps us most productive? Is an open office style the solution? Or just a fad?

TIG practices an open office model, and we like to change up the feel of things from time to time (come say hi during Holland’s Tulip Time festival next week). So when the team started batting around an article idea on our space and how that impacts our work culture, they thought an introvert should add her two cents.

Introvert present.

The research says I probably suffer from over-stimulation and tension in an open-office-model. And strictly speaking, the research isn’t wrong. I remember when I first started working at TIG, I maintained a low-grade anxiety about all of the out-there-ness of no office.

“People can see me!” I thought. “ALL THE TIME!!”

Not having a door and some walls to call mine felt a little intimidating.
I’m a bit of a nester—high school locker, apartment, window seat in a Delta 797. Wherever I am, I like to own my space.

But it turns out:

Marking your territory doesn’t necessarily make an introvert more happy or productive in the office. Working happy isn’t about owning your own space; it’s about utilizing the space available to you in ways you enjoy.

My first job out of college, I had a massive office, all to myself. I even had a little cubicle shield enclosing my desk.

The office was bright, comfy and versatile. And, it was very isolating. I felt like the work I did each day got a little predictable, and bland.

When I worked alone, I could only ever be as creative as myself; I never had the benefit of leaping off another person’s thought process or empowering someone to leap off mine. The adaptive and collaborative nature of an open office means we are all continually inspiring one another—throwing our work up on the wall to get feedback or just generate excitement. There is energy, laughter and a lot of perspective poured into every piece we produce. We make one another better.

An open-office culture encourages employees to relate, to connect and to create organically. If done well, it lets introverts and extroverts be their best selves in close proximity.

Sometimes that means I work at a giant bowling lane table with 5 other people and a good pair of headphones. And sometimes I go into one of our breakout conference rooms, shut the door all day and blare Imagine Dragons while I map out ideas on a white board in all their introverted glory.

I need the rhythms of our space to keep my thinking sharp.

The walk away here is that an office is what you make of it. How do you live into your company’s space?