Have you ever felt overwhelmed by things like bright lights, loud noises and strong smells on a regular basis? Do you feel like your senses are overloaded whenever you have watch violent or garish movies and TV shows? Are you the kind of person who goes out of their way to avoid places or situations that may upset you? If you checked the yes box on those questions, you just might be a Highly Sensitive Person.
That’s not just an adjective, either: around 15 to 10% of American adults are Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP), according to psychologist and author Elaine Aron. The trait is defined by one’s Sensory-Processing Sensitivity (SPS).
What Is An HSP?
Generally, a Highly Sensitive Person is more aware of subtleties that others may not notice. They can be very conscientious and loyal workers, the kind that can be very creative and very astute with details. HSP’s also tend to have very perceptive tastes when it comes to music, art, and scents, and flavors.
It is an innate trait – not learned – and has been found in over a hundred other species. Biologists have recognized it in the survival strategies of dogs, cats, horses, and primates, among others.
However, the flipside is that they’re easily distracted by noise and other external stimuli. The feeling of being watched can cut their concentration on whatever they’re doing. That means that for someone in a regular open-office workspace, even a normal conversation happening across the table could kill productivity.
How To Manage It
Unfortunately, since offices have increasingly leaned toward open spaces, the Highly Sensitive Person is affected. They feel they are surveyed, and their focus takes a dip. That, in turn, could heavily damage productivity, and employee satisfaction.
Lynn Stuart Paramore shared on AlterNet about an experience as an HSP. Her boss had informed her that they would be moving her out of her office space, as part of their shift toward an open floor plan. She eventually reasoned how the stress on her could be a liability on the management, which allowed her to keep her office. Other stories, such as one by Lyndsey Kaufman on the Washington Post, argued that open floor plans were disastrous to productivity, no matter what their intentions were.
So we know that bringing the attention of these facts to your management’s attention could certainly help. Companies are typically willing to accommodate changes if the result is increased productivity.
Meanwhile, Highly Sensitive Persons should take the following tips:
Get enough sleep and eat healthy foods to manage your body’s senses and improve your cognitive state. At work, wear noise-reducing earphones to help you zone in. Limit your coffee intake – HSP’s are very susceptible to caffine effects – and turn down the lights so as not to be overwhelmed. Find your comfort zones – tranquil and quiet places, in your home or out of it. where you can retreat to decompress.
And as always, never be afraid to consult a therapist if you feel you need help.