The introvert’s return

content introverts return to work

It’ll be nice to see catch up with colleagues face-to-face, to be able to go for lunch in cafes and restaurants, to not have to do every meeting via video call. But aren’t we going to miss working from home in comfortable clothing, not having to commute, and generally being more flexible in our approach to work and daily lives?

Extroverts are likely to be firmly in the former group of people keen to return to the office. Whereas, for introverts, it might be a different sentiment entirely, a huge shift, having become accustomed to a working scenario and environment that favours their characters.

Having said that, lockdown may not have been the introvert’s nirvana you’d assume, with introverts also struggling with less social contact. Essentially, not all extroverts and introverts are predictable.

For example, returning to the office having displayed perhaps more of the ‘real you’ via video calls that introduced colleagues and clients, unexpectedly or otherwise, to family members and pets, your hobbies, interests and libraries could be either a welcome intervention or a social weight.

It might feel like a burden of expectation for those who might not necessarily feel comfortable about bringing more of their personality to work, despite this being generally viewed as a positive of the pandemic’s lockdowns. But then, for other introverts, it might have offered something of an unexpected social closeness, a warming of relations not easily done in person in the office.

More inclusive workplaces

There is an opportunity for workplaces and organisations be more inclusive of different personality types, believes Shola Kaye, communication specialist and speaker on empathy and inclusion in the workplace. ‘People will be grateful for the opportunity to be in the same space and with that gratitude will come more acceptance, which I hope will happen automatically.

‘I also feel that there will be more sensitivity and awareness around introversion and extroversion. I do think there will be a natural move to being more accepting. A greater sensitivity to the way all of us respond differently in different circumstances and there will be more appreciation for the skills of introverts as we go back to work.’

Jon Baker, professional speaker and coach at Introvert in Business, said that for introverts to consider bringing more of their whole personalities to work, the first question to ask is why and who benefits? With the answer potentially being everyone, if handled well.

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‘First, teams normally work more effectively, have more team loyalty and are more enjoyable to work in when team members know something about one another’s work and non-work lives,’ says Baker.

‘Secondly, introverts value being with other people and value social contact, although they might show that differently to extroverts. Most introverts like belonging to a group where they have deep and real connections to that group.

‘And finally, using a wider range of your personality can help you increase the power in your communications, so you will be able to influence others more easily.’

How can introverts navigate a return to work?

In this world where extroversion is typically celebrated more than introversion, and where if you’re an introvert you’re made to feel a bit weird, Kaye thinks the first port of call is for introverts to work on self-acceptance and self-worth.

‘This can be loving yourself and affirmations, writing a list of positive attributes and all the good things you can bring to the table because of being an introvert,’ she says.

‘When people start to list successes achieved because of their introversion, it tends to lead to more of an appreciation of oneself, which can only be a good thing.’

Jon Baker’s four ways introverts can comfortably bring more personality to work

  1. Tell stories: Stories can be very powerful when communicating, if they’re used to explain your point. Having a few stories from your non-work life that you’re happy to share means you’re not opening up completely, improves your communication and helps team bonding.
  2. Choose some people: You don’t have to open up with everybody at work. Let a little more of your personality out with some people, see what the reaction is.
  3. When saying hello and goodbye. Giving a chosen vignette of your personality is a good way to express personality and stay safe. One way of doing this is the beginning and end of the day. ‘What are you up to this evening, I’m …’ is a safe and controlled way to bring more of your personality to work.
  4. Talk about something you’re proud of or really enjoy. Most people I know on social media and that I chat to know that I love scuba diving (there, now you know it). Because of the enjoyment it gives me it’s easy to talk about and brings more of my personality to work. It makes it easier to get into conversation with people I don’t really know, as they often ask about it, and there the conversation has started without me trying.

Introvert skills and qualities

  • Extended powers of concentration
  • Not needing a lot of external input
  • Able to work alone for extended periods of time
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Require less in terms of input and praise
  • Reflective
  • Self-aware
  • Imaginative problem solvers

Author: Neil Johnson, journalist

This article was first published in Student Accountant in March 2021

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