Is this the end of the office as we know it?

One of the positive implications from the coronavirus pandemic may be that we HSPs are afforded what we’ve been in need of for many years: space. Now that it is abundantly clear that organizing office spaces in such a way as to put many employees side by side or otherwise in close and constant contact is a bad idea, it may be that companies and organization will remodel their previous open office plans to include, at the least, dividers and, at most, more private spaces.

This is theoretically good news for HSPs who prefer greater personal space and less noise so they can focus and concentrate on their work. It may be that many companies also have now seen the viability of having many employees simply working from home and choose to allow it in the future, as a simple matter of doing business. It may be, as well, as the article suggests, that companies allow fewer total numbers of employees in an office space and stagger days when teams meet in person.

Some HSPs, and HSS/HSPs, may see this and feel that they need to have at least some time in their office environments, especially these two groups. Zoom and other video conferencing are useful and now necessary tools but there is no replacement for physically being in the company of others, at least for some amount of time. We are prosocial beings and need to be in proximity with others to some extent. Research shows that it is the high performers who prefer to work from home as the autonomy provides them with the ability to schedule work when they are at their best each day and when they have time and space to think and work through complex issues. For the high performing HSP or HSS/HSP, this major shift in how we work may be a strong positive factor in an otherwise horrific time in our history.

Co-working spaces are the other variable that will likely shift to greater sanitation and reconfiguration of work spaces to provide more space between people and fewer total people overall in a space. If you find yourself working at home, you may be tempted to use co-working spaces, which are commercial spaces where you can pay a fee to work in a space that is wired and set up to bring people together, often from many different industries and companies, as they work. Co-working spaces are becoming increasingly popular and necessary as workers need the variety of being somewhere besides their own home all of the time.

There are a number of salient issues that will have to take shape even if home workers becomes the new reality. We shouldn’t assume that companies will not seek to find ways to squeeze more out of you being at home; indeed, they do and will assume that ALL of your time is company time and will gradually whittle away at your private life if you allow them to. Boundaries become an important factor here again as HSP often lack adequate boundaries and may allow themselves to be taken advantage of or exploited as a home worker.

My advice is to work out your hours when you are available to work and respond to emails and think of that as your dividing line between what you’re being paid to do and your private life. Time becomes your new boundary and it will be up to you to not allow encroachment on it or you may find yourself a slave in your own home answering emails at all hours and working more than you ever did while in an office. This may be especially true as we know people are generally more productive while working from home, probably due to less distractions, noise, and interruptions from others. That being said, working from home will carry it’s own burden of establishing and enforcing your “work” boundary with your loved ones, who may not truly appreciate that your work at home is “real work.”

Over time your family and friends will adjust to the new normal of you being at home and working certain hours and life will go on but be vigilant about maintaining a structured approach to your work that also keeps you focused on what you need to do. Not everyone is cut out for complete autonomy and setting up and maintaining their own structure. It takes a disciplined person with a disciplined mind to be able to utilize autonomy in a productive and sustainable way.

Time will tell how companies and organizations choose to respond to the way their physical environments need to shift to accommodate the health and well being of their work forces. Now is also the time for HSPs to speak up and communicate how they work best to their employers and take advantage of opportunities to work from home! This is a shift that is deeply in your favor!

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person
(both books now in audiobook as well as e-book and paperback forms)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.