People who know me a little think I’m an extrovert. Maybe that’s because of some of the positions I’ve held over the years – instructor, marketer, cheerleader. Yup, those all include frequent and regular interaction with large groups of people, but that’s misleading.
People who know me a lot know that I’m an introvert. I need time alone to think, re-energize, and recoup. I value one-to-one connections more than large group interactions (which can be wonderful but exhausting for people like me). There are lots of us introverts, an estimated one-third to one-half of the population. This includes people like Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, and even Michael Jordan.
I thought I’d be in heaven when I began working remotely for xMatters a year ago. Peace and quiet, time to think, a private office – what’s not to love? Not so fast. I was surprised by a few things I really missed. If you’re an introvert and you’re also surprised that you actually miss the human contact of an office, here are some things to consider adding to your remote-work toolkit.
Schedule impromptu meetings
I know, I know – it’s like planning to be spontaneous, but I’m serious. We’re all so busy that many of us have little room left for ad hoc discussions. I miss the random, collaborative, brainstorming sessions that occur naturally in an office setting. Whether in a break room or just in the hallway, I’ve gotten so much value from coworkers’ quips and comments here or there. When I collaborate with my team, it improves my work – and my attitude/mood/outlook. So, I often schedule ‘working sessions’ with coworkers to stimulate those kinds of discussions, where ideas can happen organically.
Jump in, even if it seems like you’re interrupting
We all know it’s important to actively participate in conference and video calls. But it’s not always technically smooth. Depending on the technology you use, it may seem like you’re interrupting someone every time you speak. You’re probably not, but even if you are, remote workers need to push a little harder to be heard. This can be especially uncomfortable for introverts. It took me months to overcome the fear of interrupting. But your voice needs to be heard, so stop being so polite.
Connect with humans
Daisy, my 130 lb. Great Dane, seems to be such a great listener (OK, maybe she’s just listening for the word “treat”). Sometimes she just doesn’t get me though. For example, she doesn’t really know what it’s like to be a working mom – but many of my colleagues do. It’s been helpful to talk to them not just about work, but about how they manage their work/life balance and routines. For me, that one-on-one connection can be simulated with an old-fashioned telephone call. When you work remotely every day, it’s important to develop and nurture real connections in some way.
Appreciate the extroverts
So, Erin, thank you for setting up the remote workers Slack channel, for issuing our newsletter, for sending out Flat Stanley managers, and for cheering us all on in true extrovert style. My last piece of advice: to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, another famous introvert, do one thing every day that makes you uncomfortable. Even if that’s having a face-to-face conversation on Zoom (she didn’t say that).
A few helpful resources
Lastly, here are a couple sources of information and entertainment that I have found helpful. I hope you get some use out of them too.
Susan Cain: The “Quiet Revolutionary” is showing people that looking inward is a virtue, not a problem. Watch Susan Cain’s TED Talks.
Mark Normand: This standup is making a name for himself with comedy about being an introvert. Check Mark Normand out on Facebook.
I hope some of these tips work for you, whether you’re new to remote work or an old pro. I’d love to hear from you. If you have more tips, please share via Twitter @xmatters_inc. Or private message me @hspring, if that’s more comfortable. 😊