I recently received an unexpected confession from an introverted colleague. He, who was in what I’d imagined to be his work-from-home glory, was secretly struggling with remote work life.
It took me a moment to process this. When quarantine forced many of us to set up home offices, I watched my extroverted coworkers at my crypto trading platform cling tight to their social connections —scheduling any event of social significance into their virtual calendars. I mused at their bubble tea Zoom dates, but also worried what might happen when the screen time wore thin and lack of physical connection took its toll.
Never once did I worry about my introverted team members. I assumed they were basking in their JOMO—joy of missing out–and embracing “the Age of the Introvert;” precisely why this proclamation took me by surprise.
When you think about it, however, working from home may have it perks for introverts who tend to recharge away from crowded social environments, but it can also have its pitfalls. In fact, a study by Greater Divide recently showed those who identified as introverted were more likely to experience mental health issues during quarantine, a time when work-from-home orders were at an all time high, than their extroverted peers.
In the pivot businesses have had to make toward distributed work, introverts, who make up an estimated 40 to 50% of the global workforce, are also wrestling with the changes, just differently. For those, like me, who might not be aware of their challenges, here are three struggles your introverted colleagues may be facing and how to support them:
Group video chats kill batteries faster than Tesla
When the stock market crashed in February in reaction to the pandemic, Zoom’s price was unaffected. In fact the videoconferencing company was steadily rising to it’s now game to lose position as video chat king.
While convenient for remote meetings, video calls can actually be more draining on introverts than real-life interactions, according to Thea Orozco, author of The Introvert’s Guide to the Workplace. Not only is it harder to read nonverbal cues or relax into the conversation naturally, but video calls can create dissonance, bringing up conflicting feelings, which can leave introverted employees, particularly, exhausted.
You can support your introverted colleagues by being more selective when scheduling group video calls. Consider making nonessential group meetings or brainstorms optional and offering alternate ways for them to provide input. Channels like Slack and collaborative software like Google Docs can be a great way to respect the needs of your introverted colleagues, while still allowing them to provide valuable input into group conversations.
Open concept condos and homeschool are a cruel reality
Unless you were part of the 3.4% who worked remotely prior to 2020, most of us are still figuring out how to make a home office productive. For introverts, who are adept at carving out quiet work corners, having a partner or children at home during the work day, particularly when quarters are tight, is not only distracting, it can be mentally exhausting.
If your company has moved to a remote model, finding ways to help your employees create effective work spaces has a huge benefit on productivity and employee wellness. For introverted employees, more than an ergonomically correct chair or desk, this likely means ensuring they have a quiet space to recharge.
And while you can’t purchase quiet off of Amazon, you can offer more flexibility over work hours, allowing employees who need a peaceful place to work around high traffic times at home. Offering part-time access to a coworking space or allowing a safe number of employees into an existing physical office, can also help your introverts who are struggling with a full house. The key is, checking in to see if the at-home set up your employees have is optimized so they can be productive and stay mentally fit.
Virtual happy hours don’t quench their thirst for socialization
Introverts may be the first to leave the holiday party, or stick to a tight-knit group at business events, but they need social connection just as much as their extroverted coworkers; they just go about it differently.
Where your extroverted colleagues may cast a wide net socially, for instance, your introverted colleagues are more likely to spark thoughtful conversation with fewer people. Introverts are rarely interested in small talk and prefer to engage in bigger conversations around ideas, values and feelings.
In a virtual workforce, however, it may be harder for introverts, particularly those living alone, to initiate meaningful social interactions. Unlike their extroverted coworkers who are more likely to have an array of connections outside of the workplace, introverts may rely on their place of work to spark those connections through organized events.
To help introverts adjust to remote work culture, encourage social gatherings where employees can build meaningful relationships and keep connected with their colleagues. Think quality, over quantity. Smaller meetups, for instance that rotate around a shared interest, or creative idea, can be a great way for introverts to nourish their need for deeper connections in a more intimate environment.
Before remote work became widely adopted, policies commonly leaned toward extroverts whose skills are often more rewarded in the office. But the crisis has shined a spotlight on introverts who are often overlooked, yet vastly contribute to an organization’s success. From observational and reflectional skills to intrinsic motivation and well-thought-out opinions, introverts bring great assets to any workplace. As such it pays off to take the time to listen and create an environment where they can thrive alongside their extroverted counterparts. You may just be surprised at what you learn.
Mitchell Demeter is a serial entrepreneur and pioneering figure in the cryptocurrency industry. Having gained worldwide attention for launching the world’s first Bitcoin ATM, Mitchell now serves as president of Netcoins, a trading platform that makes it easy for anyone to buy, sell, and understand cryptocurrency.