As introverts, we have a unique set of needs to thrive in the workplace. Also, just because we are introverts doesn’t mean that we can’t be a part of a dynamic team. We just need some balance, and employers who realize that will have better success at creating a diverse environment of employees that includes plenty of introverts.
Unlike extroverts, who thrive in large groups, introverts need a little alone time to recharge and refocus their energy. Socializing and interacting with others can be especially taxing for us. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t interested, or capable. It just means we need a different work environment to be the best that we can be in any professional role. One challenge for today’s employers is creating a workplace that supports varied personalities and working styles. Fortunately, the introverts are here to help! Keep reading to find out how you can make your office a more comfortable environment for everyone.
Create Structure in Day-to-Day Operations
Introverts struggle without structure. There is no need for military-level rigidity, but an office that has a structured workday and plans ahead is going to set everyone up for success. Not only is it unprofessional to take a more “fly by the seat of your pants” approach to running a business, but it can be especially taxing on employees. Offer structure in the work environment with things like:
- Scheduling done well in advance: this includes work schedules, meetings, deadlines and due dates, and any other time-sensitive tasks or events. Last-minute meetings or schedule changes are extra stressful for introverts, who appreciate a good plan.
- Structured meetings and activities: rather than an open-format meeting or round table setup, create an agenda for office meetings and other group activities. This gives introverts an idea of what to expect. It also helps you keep meetings and activities on-task and on-schedule, which is good for everyone.
Offer Multiple Communication Tools
Believe it or not, some introverts love office life. They enjoy the group projects, the camaraderie, and other aspects of working with people. They just can’t always do it as much as extroverts. They also might need to do things in a different way to avoid over-stimulation, which is the primary reason introverts spend less time in group settings or “busy” situations.
When it comes to communication, versatility is a must. Some days, we might be fine to pick up the phone and make a call or speak up in a meeting. Other days, we might need the option of email or messaging, or a one-on-one meeting with our supervisor to discuss our ideas or express our needs. Make sure that your organization offers a variety of approved communication methods for employees, including options like:
- Chat or messenger services like Slack
- Virtual and physical collaboration sessions
- Group meetings
- One-on-one meetings or brainstorming sessions
The goal is to ensure that all employees still feel supported, regardless of their chosen method of communication. As long as the means are appropriate for the topic or task, introverts shouldn’t be made to feel bad for choosing email or chat over stopping by a coworker’s desk to discuss a work project.
About Those Team-Building and Social Events
Tons of studies have shown the power of team-building activities for an organization. It’s no secret that getting coworkers together outside of the work setting creates a stronger bond that benefits the company. However, for the sake of the introverts, you have to again think about offering options. The best way to find out what works best for your staff? Ask them.
Today’s companies are often fast-paced, fun environments that focus on team bonding and social events outside of work. Some employees don’t have the energy at the end of a long work day to hit the bar or head to the baseball game with the team, and that’s okay. Firstly, make sure none of your employees ever feel bad or are “forced” into work-related social events. Secondly, find ways to create team-building activities and events that are more in line with their interests or offer a more relaxed environment.
- Never make an employee feel guilty or judged for not participating outside of work
- Never assume that because an employee leaves promptly at the end of their shift that they don’t care about their job. They may just be out of energy for the day.
- If you don’t know what your employees want from team building and social activities outside of work, ask them.
Respect Introverts’ Need for Space and Privacy
This is really what it all boils down to when dealing with introverts. They just need a little more privacy and space than extroverts, and employers who realize that will capitalize on the potential of these capable employees. An introvert might need a dedicated office space with a door, or might not be as willing to mingle with coworkers throughout the day. Make sure they know that these things are acceptable.
Thanks to technology, catering to introverts by creating a versatile work environment is easier than ever. Studies have shown that the most productive employees are those who feel like they have some control over their work. Discuss options with your employees in an one-on-one setting, including flexible scheduling, occasional remote work, and other workplace privacy options that can provide a distraction-free environment.
The Bottom Line
With as much as 50% of the population considered to be introverts, employers would fare well to create a work environment that caters to these unique individuals. Our contemplative nature, combined with our love of solving puzzles and strategizing, can make us valuable assets to a number of industries and organizations. By optimizing your organization, you can capitalize on these and other strengths with the introverts on your payroll.
Jen McKenzie is an independent business consultant from New York. She writes extensively on business, education, and human resource topics. When Jennifer is not at her desk working, you can usually find her hiking or taking a road trip with her two dogs. You can reach Jennifer @jenmcknzie