Remote work and work-from-home setups are the new norms in the age of Covid-19. And many employers and managers assume that for introverts, remote working environments are ideal. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Contrary to popular belief, introverts face significant challenges in this new remote work environment. Many introverts are struggling to cope with the changing work environment, and feel more isolated and disconnected than ever. Since approximately four out of 10 employees are introverts, these struggles can affect productivity and lead to low remote employee engagement.
To address this significant issue, employers and managers need to identify and acknowledge the most common struggles facing introverts in remote environments to learn how to support them. And introverted employees need to understand that they’re not alone—and that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. After all, improvements in just one introvert’s working experience will ultimately benefit many other introverted employees, not to mention employers’ bottom lines.
Difficulty of finding quiet workspaces
While many of us are still navigating our way to making remote work more productive, the most reserved workers are likely having an even harder time adjusting. Introverts are known for carving out their quiet workspaces so they can stealthily focus. But working in a home office setting can present challenges that are both distracting and mentally exhausting for introverts.
Being surrounded by family members, noisy neighbors, or even pets can cause concentration issues. If a home office space is limited or lacks a sense of privacy, it can take a toll on introverts' wellness and balance. This is why it’s crucial for managers to help everyone on their teams, including introverted employees, establish effective workspaces.
Ideally, there should be quiet spaces to improve focus and to promote the ability to recharge. Employers and managers can help by offering access to co-working spaces or, if possible, allow a safe number of their team members to work in their physical office. Alternately, employers and managers can support introverted employees by enabling flexible work schedules so they can work in places or during times with fewer distractions.
Feelings of isolation and disconnectedness
Introverts prefer measured doses of social interaction. However, thinking that they function better and happier in a remote work setting is untrue. In fact, introverts tend to feel more isolated and disconnected when working from home.
Recent studies show that for those who identified as introvert, self-isolating and working from home can lead to mental health issues. While introverts treasure alone time, human beings, in general, are still social beings—too much isolation can be ruinous to anyone. And remote work can prevent introverts from participating in any kind of meaningful social interactions, even measured ones.
So, to support introverted employees, managers and employers should think about adjusting to their new work setups, perhaps encouraging weekly (or even daily) virtual social gatherings to keep employees connected.
Struggling with certain forms of communication
Although video calls are often convenient for remote meetings, managers and employers should also consider using instant messaging apps and cloud-based collaboration tools. Not everyone has the same preference when communicating, so it’s essential to give people options.
For example, video calls are known to be more draining than real-life interactions to introverts, who often find it hard to read nonverbal cues or relax easily into conversations. So, video calls can make them feel exhausted and intimidate them.
To address this, managers can encourage introverted employees to give inputs using chat functions or collaborative tools. Also, managers should refrain from using impromptu phone calls as much as possible, and try to send talking points or meeting agenda via email before virtual meetings and events.
A final note
Introverts might like the solitude of working remotely, but that doesn’t necessarily mean remote work is without its disadvantages for introverts. So, if employers and managers want to have more engaged, cohesive, and productive teams, it’s essential to pay attention to and serve the needs of all team members, including introverts.
Meggie Nelson is an HR manager at AMGtime and a passionate freelance writer with ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She is deeply convinced that valuable experience sharing is key to business success. Meggie believes in a win-win formula and utilizes it on a daily basis in staff management.
Larry English is the president and cofounder of Centric Consulting, a 1,000-person tech and strategy consulting firm that has operated fully remotely since its founding 20 years ago. In June 2020, English published Office Optional: How to Build a Connected Culture with Virtual Teams, which offers a step-by-step guide to creating strong virtual cultures.
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