Ex­tro­verts will find it a stim­u­lat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Gulf News - - Special Report - BY ROSIEANNA SHAM

Gulf News asked Dr. Fabian Saar­loos, Clin­i­cal Psy­chol­o­gist at the Ger­man Neu­ro­science Cen­tre, Dubai to de­scribe the ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of work­ing in an open plan of­fice.

Does an open plan of­fice in­crease ef­fi­ciency?

From a neu­rocog­ni­tive per­spec­tive, open plan of­fices are not con­sid­ered ben­e­fi­cial to work pro­duc­tiv­ity. Rather, they can de­crease ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness. Lack of de­fined and/or phys­i­cal bound­aries. As in­for­ma­tion en­ters our brain through our senses, this leads to the brain be­ing ex­posed to more stim­uli, in­clud­ing vis­ual (such as colours, move­ments), au­di­tory (such as typ­ing, talk­ing, ra­dio, noise), or even ol­fac­tory (e.g. smells).

In the ab­sence of bound­aries or “pro­tec­tions”, the brain will ab­sorb all in­for­ma­tion and try to se­lect which stim­uli are im­por­tant/rel­e­vant. Over-stim­u­la­tion leads to hy­per­ac­tiv­ity in the brain: This is not only desta­bil­is­ing and dis­tract­ing, it also ac­ti­vates un­nec­es­sary/ir­rel­e­vant cog­ni­tive as­so­ci­a­tions.

It also af­fects the ef­fi­ciency of pro­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion be­cause there is too much in­for­ma­tion com­ing in. The pres­sures of con­stantly se­lect­ing which stim­u­la­tion to attend to leads to cog­ni­tive ex­haus­tion, and con­cen­tra­tion dif­fi­cul­ties and prob­lems with re­trieval of rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion.

So­cial as­pect : This can be pos­i­tive and could com­pen­sate for dis­trac­tions, how­ever it can also be a dis­trac­tion. And if these in­ter­ac­tions are governed by pol­i­tics and/or in­se­cu­ri­ties, they can lead to a fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in per­for­mance, as well as in em­ployee sat­is­fac­tion.

All in all, pro­longed func­tion­ing in such an en­vi­ron­ment can not only af­fect pro­duc­tiv­ity, but may also lead to men­tal and phys­i­cal health prob­lems, e.g. panic at­tacks, burnout, or high blood pres­sure and car­dio­vas­cu­lar symp­toms.

What are the con­se­quences of be­ing ‘stuck’ with col­leagues?

When peo­ple of dif­fer­ent back­grounds and per­son­al­i­ties are put to­gether with­out de­fined bound­aries, this, on the one hand, leads to a high vari­a­tion, which may be pro­duc­tive, but it also stim­u­lates group be­hav­iour - too much con­tact with­out ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion and dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties/norms/val­ues, which may then lead to dys­func­tional in­ter­ac­tions.

Do sim­i­lar per­son­al­ity types work bet­ter in an open plan of­fice?

The open plan de­sign may ex­ert a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on in­di­vid­u­als when put to­gether with oth­ers who are sim­i­lar in per­son­al­ity (e.g. ex­tro­verts) and share the same task. The sense of space may then be­come se­condary and pro­duc­tiv­ity may be in­creased (as can be seen in fac­to­ries).

In knowl­edge-based work how­ever, the pri­vate of­fice is pre­ferred as it gives the in­di­vid­ual bound­aries within which his brain is bet­ter fo­cused on his tasks, and not be­ing dis­tracted by other stim­uli.

Also, the at­ti­tude to­wards work is still ma­jorly de­ter­mined by the in­di­vid­ual’s es­sen­tial per­son­al­ity.

In­tro­verts, i.e. peo­ple who are more fo­cused on their in­ter­nal ex­pe­ri­ence pre­fer a pri­vate of­fice.

Ex­tro­verts, i.e. peo­ple who are more re­spon­sive to ex­ter­nal stim­u­la­tion thrive in an open space.

Pro­longed func­tion­ing in an [open] en­vi­ron­ment can not only af­fect pro­duc­tiv­ity, it may also lead to men­tal and phys­i­cal health prob­lems, e.g. panic at­tacks, burnout, BP and car­dio­vas­cu­lar symp­toms.”

Dr Fabian Saar­loos | Psy­chol­o­gist

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