The Perfect Workplace Environment For Introverts And Extroverts Revealed

Our workspace has been reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, following a global shift toward working from home, and the quality of our work environment has become more important than ever.

But whether you're teleworking or back in the office, some work spaces may be better suited for certain personalities, such as introverts and extroverts.

According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)—the personality assessment tool created by American writers Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers in the mid-20th century that's now applied in many corporate settings and beyond—extraversion and introversion are "related to the way that a person prefers to direct and receive energy—from the outer world (extraversion) or from the inner world (introversion)," Michael Segovia, principal consultant and certification faculty at The Myers-Briggs Company (the publisher and distributor of the MBTI tool), told Newsweek.

"It's not necessarily about sociability, being shy or social confidence," he noted.

It's also worth noting that some psychologists and academics have questioned the usefulness of the MBTI tool and its personality profiles (see the section "Limitations of the MBTI Tool" at the bottom of this article or at this link for more on this debate).

People working at S-shaped desk in office.
An aerial view of two people working at a curved S-shaped desk next to some green plants. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Bearing that in mind, what type of workspace may be ideal for introverts and extroverts?

Below we outline some of the key elements of a work environment, be it at home or in the office, that can be tailored to fit your introverted or extroverted personality, according to Segovia and Shauna Skinner, a program director and lead trainer at TypeCoach (a personality type tool provider) with an MBTI Master Practitioner designation, who devised the following workspace design tips for Ebuyer, one of the largest independent electrical retailers in the U.K.

The Ideal Workspace for Introverts

Segovia said "people with introversion preferences need solo recharge time."

The Myers-Briggs Company consultant said this recharge period is "not just a luxury"or something that's "nice to have." But rather, "it's what helps them function properly, be in balance, and be their authentic selves."

An ideal workspace for those who prefer introversion is one that provides private offices or quiet spaces (be it a room or even a corner) "where they can recharge, gather their thoughts and perform at their best," he said.

Skinner agreed, noting that from a design perspective, introverts require more minimalistic designs and with that in mind, working from home can be a better option for some to avoid the busy environment of an office.

Desk space

Skinner said the desk space for introverts should be a calm space with minimal distractions. Some may prefer a creative, cosy area or place for personal items, such as books or prints hung up on the walls.

Ambience

According to Skinner, introverts generally prefer a minimal, clean ambience and some may need smaller gadgets for entertainment. Introverts may want to have a separate personal space to relax and unwind with plants for a balanced feel. This space can be created using room dividing elements or by providing bean bags and egg-shaped chairs for reading where they can also recharge during their breaks.

Sound and lighting

Introverts enjoy quieter spaces, with either total silence or light background noises. The relaxing sounds of a water fountain or natural white noise can help them concentrate. In terms of music, introverts are more likely to enjoy classical pieces or light jazz in the background, according to the TypeCoach program director.

Visuals and decorations

To keep the workspace clutter-free, introverts will make good use of pin boards for documents and plenty of plants to help create a zen ambience. The room can be decorated with minimalistic pictures, with calming shapes and colors, such as blue and green tones, Skinner advised.

Companionship

Introverts do enjoy the company of a small pet that's calm and quiet and doesn't require much attention (i.e. a cat or an exotic iguana). But ideally, they'll have a space to themselves and the option to keep away from colleagues, she said.

Woman at desk, typing on a laptop.
A woman seen typing on a laptop computer while working from home. Be it at home or in the office, work spaces can be tailored to suit your personality. iStock/Getty Images Plus

The Ideal Workspace for Extroverts

Segovia explained those with an "extraversion preference" may like open-plan offices more. However, "it's really about having people around, exchanging ideas, and even some level of background noise as they get their energy from interacting with others," he said.

Recent research by The Myers-Briggs Company found that in the office, those who prefer extraversion were much more likely than those who prefer introversion to say that they enjoyed working in a place where there are "lots of people, and that being able to talk, socialize, and be around co-workers was the best thing about being in the office," The Myers-Briggs Company consultant said.

According to Skinner, compared to introverts, generally extroverts are more outgoing and need to be able to connect with people to be stimulated. An office shared with colleagues or a home workspace providing plenty of stimuli to stay motivated is perfect for extroverts.

Desk space

A large desk that provides ways to stay active is ideal. Extroverts may prefer sitting on a balancing ball or use a walking treadmill with a standing desk to keep moving while working. The desk should be big with an abstract, colorful design, Skinner advised.

Ambience

Mixing vibrant colors with inspirational quotes will make extroverts feel comfortable and maintaining a fun environment with other people around is ideal. Extroverts will require regular gatherings with other colleagues, such as team lunches and lounging areas where people come together to enjoy a chat, the TypeCoach program director said.

Sound and lighting

Extroverts enjoy listening to upbeat music (such as pop, rock or bossa nova) through loudspeakers. Having the television on is another option. Modern lights or even light effects can also help set the right mood for extroverts, according to Skinner.

Visuals and decorations

The TypeCoach program director advised that playful decorations with games and toys can form part of the workspace, while interactive features, such as whiteboards or maps, can help extroverts visualize their work.

Companionship

Extroverts enjoy having lots of people around to talk to as well as attention-seeking pets, such as a big dog, that can keep them engaged and entertained, Skinner noted.

Can Introverts and Extroverts Both Thrive in a Shared Workspace?

Segovia said: "None of us is extraverted or introverted all the time—we are much more complex and interesting than that."

But we all have preferences (either extraversion or introversion, in this case) and "learning to flex between them can help gauge what works best for each situation."

Therefore, extroverts and introverts can indeed "both thrive in quiet offices or shared workspaces," so long as they "learn to flex to the needs of each other" as needed.

The Myers-Briggs Company consultant said "communication is key" in these types of situations to help your colleagues understand what your needs are.

Can an introvert become more extroverted from being in a space geared towards extroverts and vice versa? Segovia said your preference for extraversion or introversion will not be altered by external factors, such as an office space. However, it can "impact the expectation to behave in a way different from what a person prefers."

Segovia explained: "Having self-awareness about how you feel more comfortable and how to navigate certain situations is helpful to learn to deal with arrangements that may not be under your control."

For example, if you're an introvert and know you need quiet time but work in an open-plan office, you'll want to think about how you can clock in some "alone hours." This could mean booking a slot in a meeting room, going for a short walk or putting on your headphones for a bit.

Workers during meeting at the office.
A group of workers seen in a meeting at the office. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Limitations of the MBTI Tool

John D. Mayer, a psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire, told Newsweek that "the MBTI has a fascinating history," but there was "a gap between the relatively high public interest in the MBTI and its high level of use, on the one hand, and research on the scale, on the other."

Mayer explained: "A number of cautionary reviews about the MBTI came out in scientific journals during the period 1990-2010. Since that time, with a few exceptions, there have been relatively few peer-reviewed publications that use the test and have appeared in customary psychology journals."

Other researchers such as Aqualus Gordon, associate professor of psychological sciences at the University of Central Missouri, defend the tool, saying MBTI and "associated type theories" receive a lot of critical scrutiny, "most of which I would call baseless."

Gordon said: "I haven't found any arguments against these types of tests that are based on actual research"—except for a 2005 study published in the Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research.

That research found that "conclusions regarding the superiority of either the MBTI or other instruments are, at present, premature," he wrote in a 2020 article for Psychology Today. In his article, Gordon also suggested that the academic community did not take the work of Myers and Briggs seriously at first, because they were women and did not have graduate degrees.

The available research, Gordon told Newsweek, "actually demonstrate[s] that the MBTI is equal to or more valid than academically respected personality tests" such as the "big five," also known as the five-factor model.

However, Mayer suggested that the MBTI was "out of step relative to contemporary work in the field of personality psychology." Its four dimensions "fail to map onto dimensions of personality studied today," with the partial exception of extraversion-introversion, he said. "For that reason, scientific evaluation of the instrument has fallen off."

John A. Johnson, professor emeritus of psychology at Penn State University, told Newsweek that while he is "more sympathetic toward it than most academic psychologists," he does have reservations about the MBTI's categories.

He said the "fundamental problem" with placing people into categories is that a vast number are in the middle ground between opposing types. But the MBTI "insists on forcing people into a type or its opposite, such as 'extrovert' or 'introvert.'

"This throws away a lot of information about people in the middle. Someone who is barely above the line will be more similar to someone barely below the line than [to] people in the same type category with more extreme scores."

The MBTI tool "compounds this problem with four forced categorizations and then claims, incorrectly, that there is qualitatively distinctive information in each of the 16 four-letter type categories beyond what can be known from a person's separate scores."

Richard W. Robins, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, agreed, telling Newsweek that the MBTI approach is "analogous to measuring people's height and then classifying them as either tall or short and ignoring more precise differences in height."

He suggests there are other "fundamental problems" with the tool:

  • A person's personality type (or score on each of the four dimensions) is "often quite different" when the person retakes the test, even a few weeks later when "no real personality change is likely to have occurred."
  • The MBTI scores "do not consistently predict success in school, job performance, health or other life outcomes that we know are related to personality."
  • It omits an important aspect of personality. The neuroticism-emotional stability domain, which is one of the "big five" traits, is not considered.
  • Some type descriptions are so vague they could apply to almost anyone—for example, "concerned with how others feel about you" or "bored by routine".

The academic debate continues, but Gordon pointed to the MBTI's "widespread use in business and among organizations and casual users." He added: "People understand and identify with their results in ways that they cannot or do not with other tests or theories."