Introverts and extroverts: how employers can help both return to the office

As of July 19th, Coronavirus restrictions in England have been lifted and the ‘work from home’ message has been removed. But before you issue a ‘back to work’ memo, consider how you can promote comfortable working environment for your whole team. Whether they are introverts or extroverts.

Defining introverts and extroverts

From a psychological standpoint, introversion is so much more than just being shy and secluded. While an extrovert doesn’t mean you’re bold and brilliant 24/7. According to Psychology Today,introverts gain energy from reflection and lose energy in social gatherings. They seek out and enjoy opportunities for reflection and solitude and they often think better by themselves. Introverts prefer to observe first and act later. Whereas extroverts recharge or draw energy from being with other people. They tend to search for experiences that allow them to interact with other individuals as much as possible. Generally speaking, extroverts feel comfortable in groups and enjoy social situations. But that’s not to say an introvert won’t have some extroverted characteristics, and vice versa. In fact, we all find ourselves somewhere on the spectrum and our behaviours can change depending on the situation and social cues.

Helping you team return to work

We’ve spoken before about the well-researched benefits of having a diverse workforce. But with a diverse cohort of workers comes a diverse set of working styles and preferences. Which is why it’s important to understand your team, have an insight into their preferred ways of working and be flexible to meet individuals’ varying needs. Here are some points to consider:
  • Give back the autonomy

Each of your employees will know how they work best. So, while it’s important to consult them regarding their preferences, it’s also vital to give them the time and the space to work in a way that suits them. Introverts might need some time to take a break from group working, while extroverts might find solace in taking part in some watercooler chat. As long as your team is getting the job done, let them know you are happy for them to structure their working day.
  • Provide documents in advance

Introverts might prefer some time to look over documents and agendas or reflect on their ideas before they voice them out loud. While extroverts might be energised by the pressure of thinking on the spot. Either way, providing as much information as possible up front, gives your entire workforce the opportunity to do their job to the best of their ability.
  • Encourage both speaking and listening

Generally speaking, introverts might not offer ideas or answer questions as quickly as their extroverted colleagues. While extroverts might be first of the mark when it comes to speaking, over listening. Make sure you give individuals time to speak, while promoting time to listen. There needs to be a balance. Encourage managers to facilitate team discussions that include everyone and equip them with the skills to understand their team. For example, this could look like training managers to adapt their feedback style to suit both introverts and extroverts
  • Have a mix of social and private spaces

The return to work has likely prompted discussions around office layout and perhaps increased distancing between working spaces. This is also a good opportunity to consider the types of working spaces available. While introverts might favour a secluded and quiet desk, extroverts may seek out collaboration spaces such as informal picnic bench style desks. Equally, consider the social side of work. Extroverts thrive off social interaction. So, why not try hosting optional social events? Whether it’s a quick after-work drink in-person or informal video call for a coffee. This will give extroverts a chance to communicate and recharge throughout the working day. While introverts won’t feel pressured to join in an optional social. And can find solace in more private spaces to replenish their batteries.
  • Switch up the workday

It’s been a long year of working in a new way. Maybe it’s time to rethink the typical working day? Perhaps ‘no meetings before 10.30am’ or ‘work-from-home Wednesdays’. This will help your team plan their expectations for the working week. Introverts will know they have time set aside to work independently, while extroverts can look forward to the promise of social interactions.

What camp does WPG fall into?

Here at WPG, our team is a real mix when it comes to introverts and extroverts.

Melissa Washbrook, Psychologist, considers herself an introvert. Melissa says: “I love working from home as I find I can get work done much quicker and more efficiently.”

While Senior Consultant Ann-Marie Smith refers to herself as an extrovert. “I’m energised being around people,” Ann-Marie says. “I like making broad connections, which is harder to achieve working from home.”

One of the key learnings we can take from last year is that when employees are left to their own devices, they manage themselves well, without productivity being impacted.

So, when considering a return to the office, it’s important to take these new learnings with us – rather than automatically reverting to our pre-pandemic ways of working.