Highly sensitive at work: open-plan office - a power killer?

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Constantly ringing phones, bewildered voices and overstimulation: working in an open-plan office often resembles a battlefield. Learn how highly sensitive People can successfully master the typical challenges of everyday working life.

Kathrin Sohst_Power killer open-plan office

Here writes for you:


Kathrin Sohst Kathrin SohstKathrin Sohst is an ambassador for high-sensitivity, a PR consultant and a book author.


Cavemen of modernity

People used to live in caves. And today? We also live in caves. Only that they are now called houses. And we live there because we need our private, comfortable rooms. People used to come out of the caves and houses to get food. Or they went to war. And today we're going out to indulge in consumption, polish our status, and work. And the latter may feel like war to some. Today the battlefield is called "open-plan office" for many people. Everyone is under observation. Often only the toilet remains as a retreat. Everyone has to do it - always.

If you can not do that, even though you might want to, you're out of the game too soon. Because there is no time to lose. After all, it's about cutting costs, increasing sales, and producing more and more growth. It has long been evident that the constant presence, the noise level and the climate in most open-plan offices or overstaffed small offices, especially for the introverted, but also for the extroverted are always higher - especially health - load. The annual reports of the health insurance companies speak volumes. If then added a highly sensitive temperament, then the office worlds are no longer bearable for many people - even if the willingness to perform is right, the payment fits and the job itself is fun.

High sensitivity: a short portrait

Highly sensitive are perceptual. A feature which, in addition to many positive features such as solution orientation, empathy, quality awareness, differentiated perception, conscientiousness, creativity and high intuition in our economic system, can lead to challenges: If others are still on high rides, Hochsensible already need a break or react Stress because the brain and nervous system absorb and process much more stimuli and information than on average sensitive people.

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And while the colleagues are just choosing the overtime king of the week, highly-sensitive employees want relaxed co-operation, single offices, less, and above all, no frank meetings and Scandinavian working time conditions - without oblique view from the boss Afternoon or evening for the children, a walk in the forest, a good book or just a purchase before 20 is reserved.

Highly sensitive features

The high sensitivity research is still so young that the scientific findings have not yet arrived at many human resource managers, doctors, psychologists and educators. The term high sensitivity comes originally from English and was used in the 1990 years of Dr. Elaine N. Aron coined: Highly Sensitive Person - short HSP. High sensitivity is not a disease but a temperament that affects 15-20 percent of people. It is equally common in both women and men, and is believed to be hereditary. Aron describes four characteristics that are typical of highly sensitive personalities:

  • high sensitivity of the senses
  • intense emotionality and long reverberation of feelings
  • slight over excitability
  • high processing depth and strong networking in thinking

Typical challenges for highly sensitive employees

Highly sensitive people sitting in a room with others crowded together will rarely be able to consistently bring their horsepower to the racetrack. Because the gauntlet starts in the morning, when the moods of all colleagues counter. The first is freshly in love, the table neighbor has lovesickness and the next one has a bereavement in the family. This can cause chaos before the work even starts. Add to that the smell of food on the table of the colleague, the penetrating perfume of the styling queen in the team, noisy phones, at least 3 mini-meetings at the table neighbor every day, because the meeting rooms are all occupied. Not to forget the permanent dilemma - fresh air or drafts. Concentrated work? Wrong!

Almost everyone knows that multi-tasking is a productivity killer. And yet the challenge in the room, not only on eMails have to respond but also to use and manage new communication channels. Not to mention the high work density and lack of separation between working hours and private time. What puts even the toughest employees to a hard test is an attack on health for highly sensitive top performers and economically a negligent waste of valuable lateral thinker, finetuner and solution finder potentials.

Delicate strong power carriers

Highly sensitive people are enthusiastic, responsible and deliver their work in high quality. Provided they work in an appreciative environment where they have the opportunity to reduce stimuli and breathe through them - a look out of the window, five minutes of fresh air or a few breathing exercises in a quiet corner - and not only after four hours.

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It is high time to incorporate these findings into the design of workplaces and conditions. Clarification on the subject of high sensitivity is urgently needed. Anyone who knows high sensitivity can react much more relaxed when the sensitive colleague suddenly has an “overexcitation alarm”. And highly sensitive people who know that because of their constitution have different needs than most others, can act with self-care and focus on their strengths.

Openness for otherness

It takes flexibility in those who give work and tender-strong self-assurance with those who want to do this work. We are currently experiencing a time when the prerequisites become better: individual offices, home offices, free work, part-time solutions, restrooms and retreats, flexible breaks, and the realization that productivity does not have to depend on the working hours and presence of employees.

For the highly sensitive, these are all very good ways to transform the daily struggle into the joy of working life. And Company have the chance to discover the full potential of highly sensitive consumers.

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