Even the most extroverted among us need to have solitary moments to truly be creative, Cain says, since research shows groupthink seeps in whenever we start talking with each other.
So how can you find solitude in your open office?
The first step is to start paying attention to how tolerant or intolerant you feel of the ambient noise in your office. It varies throughout the day, Cain explains. Sometimes you’ll want to be around people, and at other times you’ll need to be on your own.
When you notice that your colleagues are starting to annoy you more than usual, duck out.
A few ways to do so:
- Book a conference room to work alone.
- Take a walk, which is also good for your creativity.
- If your company would allow you to work from a coffee shop for a few hours, try it. While it’s a public space, you won’t feel the same sense of availability as you do in the open office.
The problem is that workers often don’t feel allowed to step away when they need to.
“People know they need to take a walk, but they feel guilty,” Cain says. “There’s no reason to feel guilty, because you’ll return to work and feel refreshed and do better work for your employer. Once you take that holistic perspective, the guilt falls away.”
To make that kosher within a company, leadership needs to model the behavior. Influential folks need to make a point that they’re taking these breaks, she says, and let other people know it’s happening — because it’s unproductive to have a culture where taking care of your psychological needs is seen as goofing off.
She gives the example of the Huffington Post: When the media company installed two nap rooms in its Manhattan headquarters, employees were initially uncomfortable with using them. But once HuffPo founder Arianna Huffington and other members of the leadership team started using them, they had to install a third one since they were so popular.
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