Are You Miserable At Work? Here’s The Secret To Finding Your Ideal Work Environment

Understanding your personality better can help you choose the right workspaces for you.

  • Getting to know your personality better using the “Big 5” personality traits can be beneficial to find the most suited workspace environment.
  • If you’re conscientious, you can easily work from home or in a third space – workspaces that aren’t the office or home. 
  • Certain personality types flourish more easily in shared spaces than others.

Originally published in .

Workers have two wildly different workspace environments to choose from nowadays. One is the solitary work-from-home setup. The other is the shared workspace: a busy social hub where people mill around connecting with each other.

What’s most surprising is how working from home is as popular as shared workspaces. A survey conducted by Knight Frank found that out of 731 workers, “49% reported that working from home has had a positive impact on their mental health, while 40% said it has had a negative impact.”

Why do certain people thrive in shared environments whilst others struggle? It might be down to individual personality types.

The “Big 5”

Personality is characterized by a set of individualistic traits that determine your behaviors. Getting to know your personality better will help you understand your needs, which can extend to finding your most suited workspace environment.

The most widely accepted theory of personality today is the “Big 5,” which covers five main personality traits, including:

Openness: Creatives, who are willing to try new things, characterized by being curious and imaginative.

Conscientiousness: Individuals are organized, competent, and self-disciplined.

Extroversion: Being social butterflies, extroverts are energized when they surround themselves with other people.

Agreeable: Refers to the way individuals treat others, with agreeableness exemplified in empathic, trusting, and altruistic behaviors.

Neuroticism: Anxious and stressful individuals fall into this category.

Instead of limiting people into boxes, each of the five personality traits can be measured on a spectrum. For instance, if you’re definitely not neurotic, then you’ll lean towards an emotionally stable personality, and so on.

What does your personality tell you about your workplace habits?

Extroverts love being around others. In fact, it’s this personality trait that, according to The New York Times, “play[s] a powerful role in shaping workplace behavior.” Human connection and socialization define shared workspaces.

Meanwhile, “introverts often need periods of solitude in order to regain energy as attending social events can be very tiring for them,” details Simple Psychology. Given the coworking experience can be overly stimulating, noisy, and exciting, introverts might feel uncomfortable in shared workspaces and opt to work remotely instead.

“Some people simply have dispositions and personality traits that enable them to better adjust to the new world of remote work than others,” according to the BBC. This includes the organized and self-disciplined conscientious individual who thrives on routine and structure.

The work from home dilemma

Defined as having “good impulse control, which allows them to complete tasks and goals,” a conscientious individual is highly tolerant of procrastination, which is often associated with the distractions of working from home.

If you’re conscientious, you can easily work from home or in a third space – workspaces that aren’t the office or home. The Swinburne University of Technology has declared 2023 the year of third space working, according to Forbes.

But if you’re not conscientious, then you’re easily distracted — meaning working remotely isn’t for you. Perhaps it’s not for anyone, because whilst introverts work remotely to conserve energy, and conscientious individuals enjoy a sense of routine, home working day in, and day out, can be detrimental to our health and lead to greater levels of loneliness.

“I think work from home is going to be a major cause of mental ill health in years to come. People are naturally sociable — we need face-to-face interaction,” says Euan Hall, Chief Executive at The Land Trust.

Personality vs. workspace

After all, people need people. To get the balance right, try splitting your time between working remotely and coming into the office, even if you’re introverted. The common misconception is that introverts don’t enjoy being around others, but the reality is more nuanced than this.

A recent study published in the Journal of Research and Personality explored the link between personality types and office workstations. Surveying 231 federal office workers, the results found that “open bench seating was…detrimental to momentary focus for those high on neuroticism” and introversion. Meanwhile, extroverts could more easily put their head down to work.

The study drew attention to the momentary aspects, which was not to say that introverts and neurotic individuals didn’t enjoy being with others, it only became a problem when focus work was required.

The perfect solution here is to find an office with workstations that suit your personality type. Open bench seating clearly suits extroverts, whilst sound-proof booths are more appropriate workstations for introverts, conscientious, or neurotic people for that quiet focus time. With an array of coworking spaces popping up, coupled with more flexible working policies, you’re given more freedom of choice to find a workspace that works for you.

The community experience

In a shared workspace, every individual ought to be given the conditions to thrive. But as we’ve established, certain personality types flourish more easily in shared spaces than others. Openness, for instance, is a trait identified by “someone’s creativity and appetite for novel experiences.” In addition to extroversion, openness is a key trait of individuals who enjoy using shared workspaces.

Essentially, being extraverted and open means you’re the life of the party. Not only that, but if you’re agreeable too, then you’re “easy to get along with, cooperative, and approachable.” Agreeable individuals are more likely to fit into the community, enjoy the coworking experience, and contribute to giving coworkers a good time too.

Finding the right fit

A study published by Forbes identifies that agreeableness is the “most essential [personality traits] when it comes to job performance and career advancement.” In fact, companies are increasingly finding that the “Big 5” personality traits help them determine whether a job candidate will fit into their company culture and team.

“Covid has opened our eyes to the fact that there are different ways in which we can work,” says David Noel, senior vice president of global human resources at Scotiabank in an interview with The New York Times.

When it comes to workspaces, the bottom line is that “there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to work,” says Paul French, Facility Manager at RetPro, and you must work in a way that suits you, and your personality, best.

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