Just about everyone who is not accustomed to working from home has faced challenges these last few months. From learning new technology to managing family members.
My colleague and global leadership speaker Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D., CSP, is an expert on introverts and remote working. She is the author of four books about introverts, including her latest one, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance.
“Remote working can have a major positive impact on an organization and its talent,” she said. “For example, a Stanford University study of 500 remote workers at a large travel agency showed an astounding productivity boost of 24 percent, compared to those who stayed in the office. Today, many organizations that might have pushed back on remote working before COVID-19 now see the benefits.”
If you consider yourself an extrovert, you are probably missing the in-person interactions with teammates and even your favorite barista, so you’ll make an extra effort to regularly connect with others.
But what about introverts, who comprise about half the workforce and are typically energized by quiet? Is working at home the ideal arrangement for them? “While they often thrive with fewer office distractions and interruptions,” said Jennifer, “introverts are also more likely to feel disconnected and that can impact their performance and health. Being isolated from other team members makes it harder for introverts to showcase their talents to their boss, coworkers, and others. Too much alone time can also result in losing sight of the larger mission of the company. Instead, they become too focused on individual projects over the team and company goals.”
How can leaders help make remote work work for introverts? Jennifer offers these five strategies:
- Create a remote-working agreement with guidelines around accessibility, in-office time, and accountability. Require each employee to sign the agreement.
- Be intentional about how and when you communicate with remote employees. Model healthy boundaries as a leader by working reasonable hours and managing expectations.
- Schedule regular in-person one-on-one and team meetings, as well as more casual meetings like breakfasts or lunches. This will strengthen both personal and professional connections.
- Make remote employees responsible for tracking 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. It is important for you to have regular check-ins to discuss work progress.
- In team and individual meetings, call out individual and group successes to bring visibility to the work of remote employees who are introverted as they may not be sharing their accomplishments. It will keep them engaged.