Personality and the Future of Work

4th November 2016

We were delighted to welcome a full house for our first Occupier Forum hosted at our new offices at 5 Old Bailey last month.

The topic for the morning was Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace, and we welcomed three top speakers to deliver insights on the subject: Rosalind Lambert-Porter from Forte Acoustics, Monica Parker from Hatch Analytics, finishing with the preview of our recently commissioned White Paper, delivered by Lily Bernheimer from Space Works.

Rosalind Lambert-Porter’s fascinating presentation covered the difference between noise and sound, and how this effects our concentration in the workplace, explaining how sound helps us focus whereas noise distracts us. Interestingly, a completely silent office means every single noise is heard at a higher level, therefore conversation seems louder and more irritating, resulting in less productivity. By contrast, on an aeroplane there is constant loud background sound yet we can still focus. So in an office context where noise or lack of noise is often cited as a key irritant, Rosalind suggested that open plan offices could benefit from ‘speech privacy,’ quiet zones to improve productivity.

Monica Parker provided an alarming statistic, that 71% of workers are not engaged in the workplace. To emphasise these statistics, she highlighted 4 primary elements: cause, control, contemplation and community, with productivity being driven by cause (94% of people agree that a job with meaning and significance results in engagement). A key element in improving engagement is the management style, with good employers being those willing to relinquish control and give autonomy to their employees.

Monica emphasised taking time and space to rest so we can contemplate and discover new innovative ideas. Unfortunately 71% of employees shy away from this for fear of being seen as ‘slacking off’. Lastly she described loneliness as the new smoking. Stronger relationships within the workplace are a primary contributor to a sense of engagement. Monica concluded the discussion with a piece of advice and a quote from Yoda ‘you must unlearn what you have learned’. We need to create a new relationship with technology and work, and encourage organisations to support their employees.

Environmental psychologist Lily Bernheimer assists organisations in using their spaces better. Presenting the BW commissioned white paper “Personality and the Future of Work”, which proposes the Enneagram as an untapped model for understanding the complexities of personality to support different types of workers. Lily compares the Enneagram to the established Five Factor Model and the popular Myer-Briggs as a better way to offer insights and dynamic growth potential for the ‘whole person’.

And this is important – understanding personality and individualising employee’s workspaces to ensure they are happy can lead to a 12% increase in effectiveness.

As we redefine relationships between individuals, organisations and workspaces to create a more productive environment for our employers, it is critical to consider how we can unlock greater potential to support diverse personality types. The dynamic between people and place is becoming increasingly complex as technology rapidly expands into every aspect of our lives. As we move away from rigid work structures we must also move away from our out-dated perceptions of personality and towards a more individual and innovative approach.

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