Like many of you, I’ve been working from home for several weeks now. You’d think this situation would be an introvert’s dream… working alone from home, quietly without interruption, no one swinging by my office and bothering me, right?  Well, let’s just say it’s not exactly how I imagined!

Being in quarantine has given me plenty of time for reflection. What is this new situation like for introverts? How about extroverts? These are certainly challenging times. I have a hope that things will change for the better soon and our inability to fight this virus will end.  We are all in this together, not just here in the states, but the whole world. We’ve all been impacted differently – whether physically with the health of ourselves or loved ones, financially, emotionally, or socially.  But as we navigate our personal struggles through this or any challenge, when we emerge, what will we have learned?

I feel fortunate that I am still able to work during this time of pandemic.  I am working my regular job fully from home. I am now occupying this same spot all day long that was usually reserved for short periods after work writing my blog or paying the bills or sending a quick email.  I have never completely worked from this same spot ALL DAY, EVERY DAY before. Many introverts would enjoy this, right?  Well, there are definitely some pluses and minuses.  I hope to return to work soon, but I can see that working from home may become a more regular part of our society. I could see in the future putting in a day or two at home and then going into the office a few less days each week. After all, we were all forced at the same time to adapt to virtual meetings. If this is part of your new reality, are you getting tired of saying “can you hear me ok?” Emails and phone calls were already a large part of my work, but I am relying on them even more. I can use my cell phone, my “softphone” (office number), Skype for Business, Zoom, Google Chat, or any number of my email accounts to work and stay connected.

There have been some definite benefits. I can get out of bed at 7:58 am and still make it to work on time at 8:00 am.  I save a couple of hours each day by not commuting and I am not spending money on gas or other things.  I don’t need to shave or spend time ironing a shirt.  Since I do not get much exercise during virtual meetings I have been able to take a walk at lunch.  It is nice to have my wife join me (she always works at home).  Our kids are forced to spend a little more time with us and we have more game nights and movie nights as a family.

So what about introversion and working from home?

We all need connection

It’s a common misconception that introverts don’t want connection with others.  As human beings, we ALL have the need to be connected to others.  The needs and amounts will vary between introverts and extroverts and person to person.  As an introvert, I am naturally turned inward often and need some time alone each day to think and recharge.  Normally when I am in the office I try to have some time to myself to work on projects, but want, need, and enjoy working and collaborating with colleagues on a number of things.  I currently see my wife and three kids who I love, but am feeling some isolation from my work colleagues and others, yet sometimes not enough isolation from the “coworkers” at my home. I am in plenty of virtual meetings now.  I don’t really like being on camera, so I trade off between showing myself or just using my headshot. It really is nice to see people on camera to feel more connected.  I also have done a couple of virtual “meetings” with my extended family, but I would definitely like to see them in person as well.  

Introverts and Extroverts

As an introvert, I do best with some time alone each day to think, focus, and recharge.  Outside of these needs I also don’t mind being alone.  Our household is made up of three introverts and two extroverts.  The isolation has been hard on all of us, but more so for my extroverted kids.  Just like I have a need for some time alone, they have a need to be with others beyond just those that live here.  This time has been particularly hard on them. As most introverts, I am not very into small talk, but I love to connect with others, especially to share and discuss deeper thoughts. With extroverts, any type of discussion or connection regularly with others is a need. Conversely, as an introvert in close quarters, even though we are isolated from the outside world, we may not have the alone time and quiet we need with all the daily activity and noise from everyone being home together. Do you know what you need as an introvert or an extrovert?  Do you know what those around you at home or at work need?  Most of us are forced into a different environment and this is a great time to reflect on our needs as we go back to normal or a new normal.

Finding Focus

As an introvert, multitasking is not effective for me.  Starting and stopping takes more time and is not as efficient.  During my regular work life, I work to set aside time so that I can focus on projects.  Now that I am working from home I still have work interruptions, but don’t have the unpredictable in-person interruptions.  These interruptions are not all bad, but I am finding that without them I am getting more accomplished.  However, there are different interruptions being at home with the family or other distractions.  My wife and my kids are all home, and with that comes a lot of distractions. Sometimes I have to ask them to turn down the TV or turn off the blender while I’m in a meeting, or I have to go to another room if both my wife and I are in meetings at the same time.  My tortoise doesn’t interrupt me much, but many do have interruptions with pets.  As we are forced into this different environment what have you learned about your productivity as an introvert or extrovert?  Were you previously getting the focus you need?  Should you work on finding more focus now and in the future?

Meeting Your Needs

So how is life different for you now?  Are you thinking of ways that you would like to make some changes as we return to normal or a new normal? Are you getting the right balance between alone and social time?  Do you have the time you need to focus each day?

I hope that you and your loved ones are safe during these times and that we move into a better future soon – where we get back to life as normal, but hold on to the simple things we have rediscovered during quarantine, and find an even better new “normal.”

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