Absolutely. For those of you who aren’t as familiar with the term introverts, that doesn’t mean they’re shy. Introverts or people who gain more of their energy from time alone so they can enjoy being with people that can need being with people. But they tend to like get rejuvenated and refilled and re-energized with downtime or time alone with just their thoughts. Introverts also tend to be the kind of people who would be less likely to jump into a large group meeting and say, “Hey, my idea is…” and really put themselves out there.
In that way, the extroverts are the people who gain their energy from being with others. So if extroverts spend too much time alone and isolated in their bedroom office, they’re going to become more and more lethargic, and depressed, and anxious. So the extroverts really need that exterior energy and the extroverts are the ones who would dominate and jump in and take over a big meeting.
So they’re very different in how they’re relating to working remotely. That doesn’t mean all introverts love working remotely or love everything about working remotely because introverts still need that connection with others and they still need the external validation and employers to say, “Good job.”
What also has happened oftentimes for the introvert is that there are lots of Zoom meetings or telephone conferences and they can get lost in the shuffle because if no one specifically saying, “Hey, Susie, what do you think about this idea?” or “John, what are your ideas?” they’re not going to be the ones to jump in and speak up. And with Zoom and telephone, it makes it even harder because you can’t pick up the subtle clues when we’re in a face-to-face talk, where you see where the conversation stopped and you have a moment to jump in. In Zoom and in telephone, people are so worried about, “Am I going to step on someone’s words?” And after they do that a time or two, they become fearful of talking again.
So some employers lose out, because some of the great ideas and innovations and contrary views that the introvert might have, they may not be share in those kind of settings.
Emotional Challenges of Working Remotely
That’s really interesting. So I think that regardless of whether introvert or extrovert, you’re going to be affected by remote working, it may depend on how you’re affected, but you’re certainly going to be affected. So, Kim, what are some of the emotional challenges of working remotely?
Well, lots of emotional challenges of working remotely. I’ve definitely seen a lot of individuals who are experiencing more anxiety, more loneliness, more depression. It’s kind of interesting because with remote work, employees aren’t always knowing what the expectations are as clearly. They don’t have their manager, a boss, walking by, popping into their office, and being able to say, “Hey, good job, you did that well,” or “Let’s tweak it in this way.” So when things come across via email, you know, it may be what you did wrong or what isn’t working on this report. There may not be as much of the warm fuzzy surrounding it, couching it and making it a little bit more gentle so they’re not getting the same external validation.
Now, both introverts and extroverts need that. Extroverts do tend to often feel that their locus of control is external. So when their bosses are smiling, shaking their head, and giving kudos, that is going to energize them. The introvert doesn’t need that in the same way, but they need that also. So that can lead to the anxiety of what’s expected of me.
Some employers, I’m finding, haven’t really figured out how to measure what’s getting done. Some employers have moved to and thought about various kinds of tracking systems to see what their employees are doing. And I have not found that good for the employees. That definitely diminishes trust, diminishes feelings of connection to the corporation, to the employer. So being able to measure and set standards more along the lines of we expect you to get this amount of work done and less so we expect you to work nine to five.
Unless you have a job where the person is literally managing a call center or needs to take calls, it’s much more useful for employees to have it based on projects. So it’s expected that you get this project done or you get this amount of work done. This also allows in the remote working so the employee knows what’s being measured and it allows them to still pop out of their work office and go throw their laundry in or pop into their kid’s bedroom and say,”Hey, is everything working on your class?” So it allows them to have some of that flexibility, but they still have measurable. So they’re able to say, “OK, I know I did what I was supposed to. I know I did a good job.”
Finding Ways to Improve Company Culture
I think some of the other issues that start coming up are, again, like I started saying, the isolation. There’s oftentimes in remote working, there isn’t as much attention paid to some of the employee enhancements and human resource aspects. So I think in continuing in the future of remote work, the more H.R. gets involved, the better. But being able to make sure that there are still the employee parties, even if their online parties or once we start going back to a hybrid or even a face-to-face work model, being able to make sure that employees are having ways to connecting.
I’m finding boundary setting is a big one for employees. They don’t know how to end the workday. So on some levels, yes, on some levels, this is making employers say, man, we’re actually getting higher productivity. But on the employee side, they are not setting their boundaries. So they wake up at six a.m., have their coffee, think, “I might as well sit at my computer and check emails.” And then they might have little breaks in the day where they feed their kids lunch, but pretty much they might be on their computer till 9:00 or 10:00 at night because a new email came in that I need to respond to. So that lack of boundary setting is making employees more stressed and making them have a more difficult time having a work-life balance.
Model Company Values
I think on this it’s also important for the employer to reinforce or set or model those values. So if your boss is sending you text messages starting at 6:00 a.m. or you see the emails come in all night, it is setting up a company culture that’s saying, “We want you to work 24/7. We don’t value balance.” So in some ways, it’s what managers and supervisors do, because employees see what they do more than what they say. And if they see their manager continuing to text, call, email starting early in the morning, late at night, the message they’re getting is I’m supposed to keep working.
And so to set the work-life balance, to have it actually be where an employee can set boundaries, employers need to model that. Supervisors, hey, if they do their work after hours, don’t press send on that email until it gets within work hours. Ok, maybe you don’t have to wait till eight or nine, but wait till seven. Don’t send them all night. That gives a different message to the employee and makes it hard for them to set boundaries with themselves.
I also think that employees have gotten more anxious and have felt fearful of their jobs because of communication difficulties with remote working. And this varies per boss and manager. Some don’t really check in unless they have it to do or and or unless they have a complaint. So the kind of, you know, the old saying used to be like, “management by walking around,” instead of that usual thing you see in an office where see people and you walk by and you chat and they say, “Oh yeah, that was good.” Or, “Let’s change it this way.” Employees aren’t getting that kind of communication. Some managers are better at checking in every day or once a week or at the end of projects and giving feedback and others don’t.
Some managers, an employee will stand like a letter they wrote or a project and ask for managers feedback, and they may not get back to them for days or weeks until 20, 25 minutes before it’s due and the changes made. So that communication piece, if employers are really focusing more on that as a way to help employees stay calm and keep their anxiety down, it actually goes a long way to improving the emotional challenges that employees face in the workplace.