Most modern offices and workplace cultures were created to maximize collaboration and interactivity. While this might sound good on paper, it can be immensely draining for the nearly 60 percent of the people in the world who identify as introverts.
7 Signs You Might Be an Introvert
- You need time alone to recharge your batteries after social interactions.
- You’d rather listen to music at home than go see live music.
- You do your best work alone and shy away from team projects.
- You’d rather share your ideas in writing than fight for airtime during a meeting.
- You’d rather spend time with one good friend than in a large group.
- People say you’re intense and think deeply.
- It’s important for you to find meaning in your work, and you have difficulty turning “off.”
Add to this modern technology and our “always on” culture, whether working in person or remotely, and it’s a recipe for burnout for more than half of the population. There’s hope, however. With these tips, introverts can better get what they need to thrive and maximize their productivity in the workplace.
Embrace a Power Hour
Carve out and explicitly block a focused hour for deep work, free from interruptions, to maximize productivity. Mute the phone and turn off your email and other notifications.
Whether introvert or extrovert, constant bombardment puts us into fire-drill mode and makes it so we aren’t maximizing the critical thinking parts of our brain.
Consider also having an office hour when colleagues can bring you their needs/asks so you don’t have to always be on. Employees benefit from greater creativity and productivity when we aren’t being pinged continuously and can carve out time to reflect and get things done, free from constant interaction and bombardment by technology, whether working remotely or in person.
Communicate Your Needs
Colleagues and leaders can’t be expected to know what our preferred communication or work styles are without us telling them. Clarity is key, so let your colleagues know when you need time to yourself to recover, and that you thrive in focused, more quiet environments, especially after long periods of interaction, in order to be your best self.
Try Block Scheduling
With block scheduling, you schedule appointments, not just meetings, on your calendar for different types of specific activities such as responding to emails, tackling that big task you’ve been putting off, writing, reading and spending time with friends and family to maximize productivity.
This ensures that you have time to pause, have dedicated blocks for high-value activities and can replenish your energy. This enables you to prioritize more effectively, and protect against distractions.
Use Asynchronous Tools
Introverts in particular thrive in environments with schedule flexibility and the autonomy to choose the work environment that maximizes their productivity. This provides a feeling of control and that we have the ability to balance and juggle the myriad responsibilities in our lives.
Asynchronous collaboration and brainstorming tools can help enable this. They have the dual benefit of providing a forum where everyone can contribute their ideas on their time and with equal volume, so the loudest and most assertive voices in the room aren’t the only ones being heard.
Understand Your Strengths and Motivators
We all have unique strengths that, when understood and appreciated, can maximize our happiness and success. Personality type indicators as well as work-focused strengths finding, motivator/driving forces and behavioral assessments such as TTI’s DISC and Gallup’s StrengthsFinder can provide insights into what energizes and demotivates us. They can also help identify our time-wasters and what we can do about them to be more fulfilled and work together more productively.
Understanding our and our colleagues’ unique drivers enables us to optimize how we work together so everyone’s unique strengths can be maximized, which can minimize burnout and improve well-being.
Feel Free to Say No
There’s often pressure to participate in each and every social activity, but this can be incredibly draining, especially for introverts and introverted parents. You aren’t obliged to attend every event, and doing so can actually be counterproductive. Instead, go to only those events that align with your interests and that provide opportunities for meaningful connection.
Foster Deeper Connections
Introverts don’t dislike interaction. We just need time to recover from it and are typically less drained by 1-on-1 meetings or small-group activities. Depth of conversation one-on-one where you can exchange insights, ideas and shared interests — rather than small talk — enables getting to know your colleagues better and can foster improved collaboration and connection while minimizing interaction overload and introvert hangover.
Communicate Your Passions
Humans function best in work and in life when we operate in alignment with our values and passions. This is especially true for introverts. In a work setting, unfortunately, out of sight can mean out of mind, so if there’s something you’re passionate about or have ideas about, speak up, even if your inner introvert makes you more inclined to keep it to yourself.
Studies show that when people speak up in group settings, others tend to view them as leaders. View meetings and presentations as opportunities to share your expertise, knowledge and insights about the things you care about most.
Actively Listen in Group Settings
We all thrive when we feel heard and understood, but introverts most of all, as much of society was designed for extroverts. When we show others the depth of our care and attention, they tend to respond in kind.
Showing genuine interest and providing thoughtful input, whether live or after a meeting in writing, communicates to your colleagues that you were listening, that you care and that you understand, which means they’ll be more likely to be fully present when it’s your turn to share ideas, too.
Embrace Non-Draining Continuous Learning
Actively seek out personal and professional development opportunities that align with your strengths and interests, from the comfort of your own home — no group interactions required. Now, more than ever, with generative AI, you effectively have a personal assistant at your fingertips, which has enabled a democratization of technology previously restricted to just those with certain education and technical backgrounds.
When company cultures adopt policies that empower introverts to be at their best, everyone wins.
Now, learning things you’ve always wanted to know but never had the time or energy to do is more efficient (and less draining to our inner introverts) than ever. It can be incredibly empowering, should you choose to embrace it.
When company cultures adopt policies that empower introverts to be at their best (e.g. by empowering employees to choose the work environment that maximizes their productivity, subject to meeting clear predetermined performance standards), everyone wins.
It’s not a question of introverts versus extroverts. Instead, by understanding the unique needs, goals and motivators of employees and enabling them to leverage their strengths, their full potential can be unleashed for improved productivity, accelerated achievement of personal and company goals, reduced burnout and improved work/life balance.