A quiet workspace, some understanding and teamwork can help highly sensitive people function at their optimum.
In 1996, Dr. Elaine Aron released the book, The Highly Sensitive Person, which introduced the idea of a highly sensitive personality type, something that’s now widely accepted. Individuals who consider themselves to be highly sensitive are often overwhelmed by busy environments, sensitive to loud noises, feel intense pressure to perform well at work, and are extremely attentive to detail.
How can HR help the estimated 15-20 per cent of people who have highly sensitive personalities feel more comfortable in the office?
1. Offer a less stimulating environment
Stimulating environments are incredibly overwhelming for those who have a highly sensitive personality. It can be almost impossible to complete work in conditions that are consistently noisy or busy. If an individual is having a challenging time working in their current environment, find an area of the office that’s less stimulating. Reduce distractions, noises, and add warm lighting to the office space. Also, as an alternative to a chaotic office, you can offer your employees a work from home option. Not only can remote working work save your organisation money, but it can also provide much-needed tranquility for the highly sensitive.
2. Lend an ear
The characteristics of a highly sensitive person can cause them to feel overwhelmed, even when accommodations have been made. Sometimes the best resource you can offer is your time and compassion. If you find that someone is struggling with these tendencies, start a conversation and make it known that you are available to listen to any concerns or difficulties they may face. Rather than trying to fix the issues described, listening can often be the best support needed.
3. Encourage team participation
In general, those with a highly sensitive personality thrive in team environments. This is likely due to the reduced visibility of individual performance, and the organised structure of project completion. When possible, it’s important for managers to facilitate team projects to better accommodate those who exhibit the characteristics of a highly sensitive personality (as well as for those who prefer team participation). More specifically, the highly sensitive work well in settings that require team collaboration, and an environment that’s supportive, while balancing the need for reduced distractions within the workplace.
Small steps can make a major impact
When making the workplace friendly for all personality types and work styles, it’s essential to consider the sizeable number of individuals with highly sensitive personality traits. Providing a calm work environment, lending a caring ear, and facilitating team participation are just a few of the best ways to make individuals with these characteristics feel as comfortable as possible.
Highly sensitive personalities are an incredible addition to the workplace for a number of reasons. First, individuals with this trait are excellent problem solvers and often more detail-oriented than the average person. This helps reduce the occurrence of mistakes and preventable errors, and can help teams work through tough situations. Second, people who have a highly sensitive personality are wonderful listeners, exceptional at communicating their passion for various causes, and are highly perceptive to the feelings of others. The combination of all of these strengths make them an asset to nearly every work environment.
Jane Sandwood is a freelance writer with an interest in health and wellness.