It’s been over a year since the world has changed due to the pandemic. How are you doing? Do you work from home now?  Or have you always worked from home?  Or maybe you did temporarily, or work doesn’t lend itself to working from home. Or maybe you haven’t worked from home but would like to try it out.  

It has been over a year now since I started working at home full-time.  I will be returning in person at least a couple of days a week later this month.  I definitely have some mixed feelings about it.  

Finding Focus

Someone said in a meeting recently that introverts love being left alone all of the time and the research shows that they are more productive. While I think we may be more productive in many ways, I can’t unequivocally support that we all “love being left alone.” What do you think about this statement? Are you loving being left alone or do you miss in-person interaction?  What is your work environment like?  Has it been better or worse this past year? If you are working at home, have you been more productive?  Why or why not?

Scott Dust and Meagan Connley in an article in Fast Company, “How to design a plan to return to the office that works for introverts,” state “Thanks to the pandemic, 50% of Americans are working remotely.” According to the article, “Employees are more engaged and committed when they can be their authentic selves and work in ways that align with their tendencies and preferences. For example, in a two-year study across 500 employees, Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University found that compared to employees working face-to-face, employees opting to go remote were 50% less likely to leave the company and had a 24% productivity boost, primarily because they didn’t have a commute and had far fewer interruptions.”

Focus is a key to an introvert’s success. How much quiet time do you need?  If you are now going back into the office after working remotely, it’s a great time to have this conversation with those around you. I don’t always have focus at home as there are five of us living here.  So I am not sure how much better it would be in a different situation with fewer family members.  I do know that focus is a need and multitasking is not effective. I have found it effective to schedule blocks of time for certain projects.  Otherwise, there are always new things popping up that demand your attention and diminish your focus. Are you returning to an open office plan?  Maybe there is a private space you can use from time to time.  In the past, this hasn’t always been available when sometimes workspace is tight, but I remember giving an overworked introvert a day in a private space and she thought she was in heaven.

Recharging During Work

Working from home, did your recharge time look any different?  Back in the office sometimes just walking to meetings or other people’s desks may have been a break.  Now I take more deliberate breaks because I really need to get up from the same old spot.  When in the office, I probably ate at my desk far too often and rarely took a long lunch.  I now schedule an hour every day and may use the time for a personal business, hang out with my wife and kids, or may just chill or even take a nap.  I was not having this kind of recharge at the office.  Which of these things could I or should I continue? I’m not sure I would ever be able to take a nap at work, but maybe planning to better use my lunch hour would help. Also, what about your work environment?  Working from home, I have a recliner in my room.  This is often where I take my lunch break.  My office back at work isn’t big enough for a recliner, but maybe it is now time to see what kind of break spaces we have and if they can be improved.

Connections with Co-Workers

How about connections with others at work?  Dust and Connley review the importance of connection, “Notwithstanding these benefits, connecting with others in person is at the core of the human experience, and not having that ability could cause some to feel lonely and isolated. Additionally, virtual interaction will never be a perfect substitute for face-to-face communication. For example, research illustrates that the richness of face-to-face communication makes it easier to develop a shared understanding of team and organizational objectives.”

So for the statement, “introverts are loving all of this alone time,” what do you think?  It’s a myth that introverts want to be alone ALL of the time.  In general, we may have a few close friendships, but these friendships tend to be deeper.  Connection is very important to all, but it will just look different between introverts and extroverts.  I know after this much time away, even as an introvert I’ve been feeling a sense of isolation from work colleagues and the world in general.  Zoom meetings have their place, but can be just as draining as an in-person meeting.  And I do miss meeting with people in person.  I fear that many meetings we used to have in person will be virtual now. We need to work for the right balance between time to socialize and time to focus. 

Home or Office?

What does your telecommuting future look like?  I think it will be some combination for most, while some may not ever return to the in-person environment.  You know what you like and perhaps this past year has given you the opportunity to have some different types of work experiences.  What environment do you want for yourself?  You may need to justify how telecommuting makes you more productive. Or you may need to justify why you don’t need to meet in person or maybe why you do.  Yes, introverts may request in-person meetings. 

Impacting Your Introverted Work Environment

So this is an excellent time to have conversations about your strengths and needs and what works best for you and what doesn’t.  You may have had more focus time now than you were ever able to before and you can see how it helped your productivity. Have conversations with your supervisor and your work teams. This could be a great time for a workshop to talk about introversion, extroversion, and other personality factors. There are plenty of well-known workshop options such as the Myers-Briggs, True Colors, StrengthsFinder, and the DISC that are designed for groups in the workplace.  Self-awareness can be also gained by articulating your strengths, needs, and preferences to others and then in turn listening to them. You may find some common ground, but you may also discover where you are unique and what really helps you shine.  Introversion is not good or bad, but understanding that sometimes you need a little space alone is not strange but it’s what you need to function. An introvert may think it’s strange that an extrovert seeks out people when taking a break. Help others know how you work best and things that you learned this past year.

It has been over a year now since many people have started working at home full-time. Some have started to return to work, but for others, working remotely may be the new normal. What have you learned this past year if you were telecommuting for the first time?  Did you find more productivity working from home?  Did you have enough human connection or did you feel a sense of isolation?  What will change about your work now?  Are there permanent changes to the way you work? This is a great time to have conversations about your strengths and needs as an introvert and promote understanding of different personality types. The more your strengths and needs are integrated into your work environment, the more productive you can be!

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