Tips for Introverts Returning to the Office

A great realisation may have occurred to some while working from home; you might be more introverted than you thought. According to MBTI 9/10 people in the UK feel pressure to act extroverted. So, during the pandemic many of those pseudo extroverts may have realised they are in fact introverts.

Despite the fact that 50% of the population are introverted, extroverted character traits are more valued in the workplace leaving many introverts feeling they need to show up in an extroverted manner to succeed. While working remotely we may have been able to shield ourselves within a bubble, but if we now face a return to office how do we cope with this?

Here are some tips to help introverts navigate the return to office:

  1. Appreciate your temperament – your natural temperament is genetic so it is very important for building wellbeing that you recognise your needs. If you have found you need quiet spaces to recharge during the day, how can you find those opportunities in the office? Giving yourself space to recharge will allow you to show up better particularly when facing any challenges.
  2. Reflect on your work experience – what have you found has worked well for you while working remotely? Have you been able to focus more or found improved productivity while working in a quiet space? Can you request access to a quieter work area in the office or negotiate a flexible work schedule to allow you to do your focused work perhaps at home and use the time in the office for collaborative work? Maybe, you have found using technology such as contributing in chat functions in zoom much easier than trying to speak up in a meeting. Are there ways to incorporate technology to enable communication and create an inclusive approach?
  3. Have open conversations – sharing that you are an introvert with colleagues might allow others to open up also, it can still be taboo to admit you are an introvert! Extroverts may appreciate getting a better understanding of your ways of working and through improved understanding you can all learn to work better as a team.
  4. Take it slowly – we can’t erase the past 18 months. As an introvert you may have found it lonely, you may have experienced anxiety and worry, you may be experiencing re-entry fear. All of those are natural. If you are experiencing these, can you confide in a trusted colleague? Chances are, they may be feeling the same as you. Social connection is important for our wellbeing and for introverts who have a smaller social and professional network going back to the office can actually facilitate opportunity to connect with others. Remember social skills, communication and overcoming shyness are all skills that can be learned and we may feel a little out of practice.
  5. Put Well Being first – when we make wellbeing our goal it allows us to really listen to what we need and in turn design a work and life that suits us. It means taking a strengths approach rather than weakness fixing. If you are great at research but don’t like presenting it, partner up with a colleague or if your strength is curiosity ask the questions and highlight the issues leading others into conversation.

We have a moment in time to redesign work and I hope we can take that opportunity and make work fit around our needs.

Aoife Lenox as the founder of Inside Strategies is an Introvert Well-Being Coach and Engagement Specialist. Through training, coaching and consultancy she helps individuals and organisations to create positive and meaningful work experiences.

Learn to ‘Surf the Stress Waves’

A little bit of stress can be a good thing according to Catriona Kirwan of Catriona Kirwan Coaching. I was delighted to welcome her as a guest speaker for my Meetup Group Introverts in Business recently. The trick is, as her workshop name outlines, learning to ‘stress the surf waves’ staying on top of stress rather than drowning in it.

Stephen Hawking the Physicist said, ‘quiet people have the loudest minds’. MRI’s of the introvert brain have revealed neural pathways that show increased activity in the pre-frontal cortex in areas of long-term memory and planning functions resulting in higher tendencies for overthinking and ruminating.

Our preferences for one to one interactions, and small groups mean introverts tend to have a smaller social and professional network. This can mean we have less of a support network to turn to in times of stress.

In a study done in August 2020 Nixplay found that 50% of introverts as opposed to 12% of extroverts expressed increased levels of loneliness and 31% of introverts were increasingly unhappy while working remotely. While so many of us have embraced this new form of work at least in a hybrid sense learning to make sure we have the necessary tools to manage stress levels is really important for our overall wellbeing. This starts with awareness.

Catriona walked us through how our stories can influence our states and her visual of the traffic light system was very clear. If you end up in the red zone there are visible signs which you need to be aware of. Our ideal healthy state is to be moving between green and orange, this allows us to maintain a healthy state for our body which is in line with our story but also allow us to push ourselves when we need a little stress to motivate us.

The good news is, this is something we can manage and take control of but we should be proactive about it. Do a regular check in with yourself even a few times a day. How is your body feeling? Do you need to take a quick walk, or do some breathing exercises? Catriona walks us through a great breathing exercise at the end of the video which you can easily learn.

With more and more opportunities for remote work which physically disconnects us from colleagues we will benefit greatly from an understanding of the tiered response to stress and how to maintain healthy levels. If you’re interested Catriona has a 4 week course beginning September 28, 2021 which I can highly recommend or follow her on LinkedIn for lots of tips and tricks on thriving through times of stress.

Start with Temperament to increase Engagement

We’re all really busy. Busier than ever despite our access to increased technology. Authors Jen Fisher and Anh Phillips refer to this as ‘digital taylorism’, our increased emphasis on technology to be efficient and getting more done in as little time as possible.

We tend to put the so called, softer aspects of work such as building relationships and promoting our well-being to the side. Yet, as we regularly see, the cost of doing this is high. In fact, in 2019 the WHO listed burnout in their international classification of disease as an occupational hazard.

Improving workplace wellbeing rates and employee engagement is not just good for individuals, it’s good for business. In my coaching, training and consultancy work I share the importance of understanding your temperament, where you fall on the introvert – extrovert spectrum. It’s only one aspect of personality which is further influenced by our beliefs, values and experiences but it can tend to have a big impact on your workstyle. This in turn feeds into engagement levels and engagement statistics are recognised as pretty good indicators of productivity, performance and motivation.

As we move towards new models of work and teams are dispersed it is more important than ever to recognise our tendencies, weak spots and strengths. Through this awareness we can have open and constructive conversations on how our temperament is impacting our work style.

Feeling like we belong is an important component of engagement and belonging is built through being valued and respected. Despite the fact that the population is divided almost 50/50 in terms of temperament breakdown, over three quarters of introverts in many studies including my own workshops regularly confirm, they view their introversion as a barrier to their career and feel it is perceived negatively.

How can we build true trust and understanding if we don’t have open conversations about temperament? It won’t fix all problems but it can be a good starting point for creating further opportunities to promote strengths, as guide posts around weaknesses and discussions on decision making, communication and motivation all which can be influenced by temperament.

We have an opportunity in time to redesign work. Work which still resembles much of what was built in the industrial age and influenced by Taylorism, we have just added in the digital element which according to Fisher and Phillips is either giving us a dopamine fix when engaging with it or a low level anxiety as we wait for the next fix.

Let’s put well-being as a priority not on a to-do list but as Fisher and Phillips further suggest, design it within the flow of work. Positive work habits growing from increased awareness give back control in an ever increasingly unpredictable world where, belonging within our work environments is becoming more important than ever. Do this by proactively building connections with others, rethink inclusive ways for people to contribute so everyone feels valued and recognised through the use of strengths.

It’s back to the basics for us as we redesign work. Contact me to lead a workshop for your team as you navigate this new journey to redesigned work.

Aoife Lenox as the founder of Inside Strategies is an Introvert Well-Being Coach and Engagement Specialist. Through coaching, webinars and workshops I share how the intersection of temperament and engagement can help us design more meaningful work experiences.

Engage Yourself

Have you thought about how engaged you feel on a daily basis? What does engagement mean to you? People who are engaged usually feel energised about their work, most likely are using their strengths and are closely connected to their purpose.

According to Gallup only 15% of people are highly engaged and if you’re not engaged, you’re either looking for a job or open to taking a new one. We’re in the middle of a mass exodus of employees or the great resignation as it is being referred to. Employers take note, whether or how engaged your employees feel does matter. The pandemic has caused people to really appreciate the value of their time and caused many to re-evaluate how they spend it. Doing something meaningful in a setting where you feel you belong has become priority for many.

Engagement is not just good for your employer and personal satisfaction from work, it’s one of the five components of well-being. If you want to be proactive about managing your own well-being then you’ll pay attention to this part of your life. The handy thing about well-being is that it is a construct, that means it is something we can manage. Happiness is more subjective, dependent on what happens around us but well-being is something we can take control of and be proactive in promoting well-being strategies for ourselves. Here are some ways to help you do this;

  1. Find purpose in what you do – this doesn’t mean you have to leave your job because you’re not working on the front line or seeing direct impact to helping the greater good in the world but look at the small impacts or value you add each day. It might be helping a customer so their day is a little better, supporting a colleague or speeding up an administration process. Recognising progress or small achievements is important. You may have to remind yourself of these on a daily basis. Perhaps keep a journal detailing positive impact you feel you had each day.
  2. Use your strengths – most of us don’t know or proactively use our strengths. Sometimes because our strengths are the parts of our job that we find easy we discount them. Why do we feel overcoming challenges and doing the hard stuff is more important than doing what comes naturally to us? If something comes easy to you then that is your gift.
  3. Find where you belong – this can be a tough one. We tend to look externally for feelings of belonging but I think we need to look more inside of ourselves. Understanding your values and what is important to you. Valuing yourself and a self-belief in your own offering to the world. In my work supporting introverts I see many struggle with this because such negative perceptions around the introvert trait pervade. While the larger cultural shift still needs to happen to appreciate introvert temperaments, internally recognising your own traits as valuable is important work for you to do.

Engagement is not a final destination but a continually evolving experience. Check in with your engagement levels regularly and if you’re leading a team or responsible for others at work I suggest prioritising their engagement levels is a worthy goal.

Aoife Lenox as the founder of Inside Strategies is an Introvert Well-Being Coach and Engagement Specialist. She supports introverts in the workplace in promoting positive strategies for career development and well-being and employers to build internal levels of engagement through inclusive approaches.