How are you feeling about the idea of returning to work? Putting aside questions of should the country be returning to work and will work ever be the same again; how do you feel about returning to work?
Two weeks into lockdown
After the initial ‘change’ many people reacted in different ways. Many missed having colleagues around them, missing the companionship and struggling without it. Some people claimed things like ‘lockdown is the time of the introvert’, others made social media channels get much louder and we slowly got better at working from home.
It wasn’t only extroverts feeling socially lost and I wasn’t the only introvert to feel confused. We all can feel empty and lonely, introvert or not. To help I arranged zoom calls with friends in the evenings and more clients in the daytime.
All zoomed out
It didn’t take long before webinars, social media, virtual coffee shop visits with friends etc. left me exhausted. Turns out an introvert can even get low on “people energy” using zoom!
These interactions were like being really hungry and eating 5 packets of crisps. The immediate reaction is good, but you quickly crave something more substantial.
Two months later, returning to work
Two months have now gone by and the talk is about returning to work. Am I alone in feeling confused? Part of me craves substantial human contact, but how will I deal with meeting real people?
Have I got out of practice?
Will I be better just hiding away?
How should I get back into meeting people?
A couple of years ago I was on a diet for a long time and promised myself that when over, I wouldn’t eat the foods (mainly cheese) I’d been missing. When it was over, I no longer had the same craving for cheese – until I tasted a little, then I splurged until I was unwell.
Is it time to get used to socializing again, will we inadvertently splurge socially? The temptation of meeting everybody, versus quiet and reflective me-time. To some the idea seems ludicrous, to others it’s very real.
Some people are nervous about returning to work
There are also many people who are nervous about returning to work (not only because of lingering fears about covid). They have enjoyed the quieter ways of working and more controlled levels of human interaction.
Some people are keen to return to work
Many people are keen to return to work because they crave human company, as well as the “normal routines” they’ve become accustomed to. Although it’s wrong to say that all those keen to return to work are extroverts
“I’m really looking forward to having more people around me”
“It will make such a difference to actually see people”
“My day will feel so much more energetic when the rest of my team are all around me”
Introverts and returning to work
Most workplaces have a mixture of quieter introverts and noisier extroverts. Will the extroverts be even noisier after 2-3 months of their own company?
Is there a danger that the joy of socialising (even introverts enjoy socialising) will be swamped by the shock of moving from 100% controlled and peaceful work to a much noisier version?
A big frustration for many introverts at work is not being heard in team meetings and discussions. Will this be worse now with extroverts being louder than before? Will they block out even more of the discussions for themselves?
Making returning to work easier for an introvert
If you’re not already back in the office, is this the time to step up and offer your manager more support (easing yourself back into socialisation, whilst getting noticed by the boss for being proactive)?
- Coordination: Would volunteering to coordinate the team and their return to work help you ease back into socialising, and help your boss at the same time?
- Run meetings: Could you start by helping to run remote team meetings? Running meetings, is a great way of being seen at work without having to try and “out-extro” an extrovert. Running the meeting allows you to focus on listening and questioning, rather than giving quick responses, and it allows you to get your point across in your way.
- Work time: Is now the time to discuss work times, or rearranging the balance between home working and office working? Could that work if done by type of work, day of the week or in some other way?
- Rearranging the office: It is quite possible that more people in the firm will work form home, more of the time, after full return to work (the last few weeks have proved it’s possible). Could this less people office allow for a quiet room and normal room? A room for quiet planning, without discussions and phone calls would help many work more productivity (especially introverts).
You know you’re more effective at work when you’re more energised, this is a good time to review how that could work. How do you talk about introversion with your boss? Many people I know have changed their work life as a result of opening up about it. This is be a good time to consider doing so.
We have all (introvert, extrovert and everybody in between) been through very unusual times. Returning to “normal” will feel very odd too. What will help you?