It may come as a surprise, but there are more introverts than extraverts in the world. According to data collected by Myers-Briggs, around 56 percent of the US population prefers introversion, with just 44 percent—fewer than half—having an extraverted approach to life.
That might be because introversion is often misunderstood: it’s not about being shy or socially inept, but rather about energy and focus. Introverts get their energy from and prefer to focus their attention on their internal thoughts and feelings. They operate in a more extraverted way when they need to—often very effectively—but eventually they need to spend quiet time recharging their batteries.
The COVID-19 Pandemic and the WorkplaceUS business culture (and Western society in general) approves of and rewards more extraverted behaviors. When we surveyed people who knew their personality type, 92 percent said that they felt pressured to behave in an extraverted way, and only 8 percent reported that they felt pressured to behave in an introverted way.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, many people suddenly had to work from home—something of a silver lining for those with a preference for introversion. The data shows that introverted types were more likely to enjoy working from home, appreciating the peace and quiet and were significantly less likely to miss having people around or to worry that they were becoming too isolated. And many agreed that they would like to continue working from home once the pandemic has run its course.
Now, many businesses are asking employees to go back to the office or thinking about doing so. Does this mean that introverts will once again be put at a disadvantage? Not necessarily. Here are ways to shape the workplace that allow both personality types to thrive:
- In both face-to-face and remote meetings, allow time for thinking. Don’t expect the best answer straight away. If you ask a question to a group and don’t get an immediate answer, wait. You may need to encourage some enthusiastic participants to remain quiet while the group listens to what someone else has to say.
- When an introvert makes a suggestion, listen. Introverts think things through before speaking, so brushing the idea aside or not taking it seriously demotivates them. And try not to interrupt—let them finish!
- Think about how you communicate. Some employees appreciate information written down, others may find one-on-one meetings helpful, but large group sessions, whether face-to-face or virtual, are unlikely to work well for introverts. Our natural tendency is to communicate in a way that works for us, but this may not be what our audience needs.
- Allow introverts time alone to recharge their batteries. This isn’t wasted time; to stay energized and productive, they are likely to need some “me time” before they can fully re-engage. In a traditional office, ensure there are quiet spaces. For remote workers, remember that having virtual meetings back-to-back can be hard on anyone, but it tends to be especially draining on introverts.
- Check in with introverts. Introverts often enjoy remote working but can become isolated—cut off from contact with others in the organization or even from friends and family. It is important that introverts working remotely keep in touch with their co-workers, even though this may seem unimportant or unnecessary. Lack of connection impacts their well-being and motivation.
The events of the last two years have given us the opportunity to re-invent our workplaces and work culture to get the best from everyone. Let’s take up that challenge.