Midway through the month of March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced all but essential employees to work from home. While the restrictions are slowly starting to lift, are people ready to go back to working together in offices? Will organizations continue to allow a work-from-home option?
The work-from-home requirements have provided organizations a track record of trying on new practices of working remotely and employing virtual platforms for everything from staff meetings and training, to even sales. It has highlighted both the challenges and advantages of working remotely. With this knowledge and experience, they should be able to give people in their workplaces more options regarding how and where work gets done.
Still, a fully or partially remote workforce comes with its own brand of trials. While shifting their office to their homes can make an enormous difference for many, for some team members, it doesn’t always work to their benefit.
In particular, when managing remote workers who are introverts, it’s important to come to terms with both the upsides and downsides of providing this option. First, consider the upsides:
With fewer office distractions and greater control over noise, it follows that introverts who prefer a more quiet, focused environment in which to work will be more productive being away from the office. Introverts thrive when they can think without numerous interruptions from their office mates, and they often take longer to get re-situated after an interruption. Considering this, a distraction-free work-from-home option can have a significant effect on introverts and their performance and job satisfaction.
Recruiting and retention
Companies are finding that allowing employees the flexibility to work from home — even just giving them one a week in which they don’t have to commute or put on their work clothes — is a strong retention strategy. For many introverts who have tasted the freedom of working from home, it’s a perk they’re not likely to want to give up. Companies will want to regard remote work options as not only retention but also a recruiting strategy. In particular, with workplace flexibility, organizations are no longer bound by geography to find the best candidate for different positions.
If those are the benefits of working remotely, what are some of the pitfalls?
The risk of being alone too much
The challenge companies may face with a remote work option, particularly for introverts, is that some employees can take it too far. Some may use it as an excuse to avoid the office entirely or reduce communication with their coworkers to an unproductive minimum. Our energy batteries need only a certain amount of alone time to recharge, and any time past the point of full charge becomes self-defeating and yields no positive effects. It leads to isolation, which is never a good thing.
Even though each introvert needs a different amount of quiet time, most agree that too much can impede their initiative. When introverts are left too alone with their thoughts, it can become increasingly difficult to move from idea to action. Millions of books remain unwritten and innovations untapped because their originators kept their thoughts to themselves and didn’t take the step of sharing them with others who could help bring their ideas to life. They end up second-guessing themselves, questioning their abilities, and delaying action. Getting stuck in self-analysis rarely helps move them to take productive action.
Another key challenge of introverts becoming too isolated is their loss of connections to other team members. It’s harder to make their talents visible to their boss, coworkers, and others without some face-to-face time. Plus, when people don’t see each other for long periods of time, they can lose the ability to leverage each other’s creativity. Too much alone time can also result in team members losing sight of the larger mission of the company.” Instead, they become overly focused on individual projects over the team and company goals.
With awareness of these potential benefits and risks, use these strategies to make working remotely work for both introverts and the overall organization:
1. Create a remote-working agreement with guidelines around accessibility, in-office time, and accountability that employees must sign.
2. Be intentional about how and when you communicate with remote employees. Model having healthy boundaries by working reasonable hours.
3. Schedule regular in-person one-on-one and team meetings as well as more casual meetings like breakfasts or lunches to strengthen personal as well as professional connections.
4. Place responsibility for remote employees to track their own work. The introverts in your company will particularly appreciate having the space to work and do their deep, reflective thinking without frequent interruptions.
5. In team and individual meetings, call out individual and group successes to bring visibility to the work of remote employees and keep them engaged.
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