Why back to the office is bad news for Introverts
That’s an alarm you haven’t set in a while.
It’s back to staring at baby on board stickers and spotting the odd Tesla as you fester in traffic, strewn coffee cups already piling up on the passenger’s seat.
It’s a return to office politics, small talk in the kitchen and 2019 ‘presentee-ism’, when the Boss shouted, ‘are you on a half day?’, as you hightailed it out the door at 5.20pm, even though you’re so ridiculously efficient, you’d finished all your work at noon.
While Covid-19 lockdowns seemed very HG Wells at first, we gradually eased into our jogging bottoms and continued to be entertained by our Krusty the Clown hair, angry birds’ brows and the feeling that for the first time in our lives, we could professionally and privately let it all hang out.
INTROVERTS V EXTROVERTS
Lockdowns have been great for introverts; a ‘get even’ for all the years of being shamed by extroverts; a kind of “let’s see how you like having the world our way” attitude. Extroverts, however, will remember how difficult they had it, having their social norms turned upside down for the first time ever.
However you fit on this introvert/extrovert scale, there’s a general consensus that going back to work feels so 2019 and there’s huge anxiety around going back and a feeling of ‘haven’t we moved on?’
“Chances are you know a few people (likely hard core extroverts) who are counting the days until they can return to the office and ‘days of ol’’; when colleagues would gather around coffee machines and have a ‘banter’. In fact research shows that seeing work colleagues in person is a stronger motivating force for returning to the physical workplace than securing face time with the boss.
A survey by CHG Healthcare found that only 9% of the workforce wanted to return to the office a full five days a week. And while the majority (54%) are more interested in a hybrid work week, as many as one in three would happily spend the rest of their working lives working remotely.”
With mass booster vaccinations taking place, what if you’re an anxious introvert totally stressed out at this return to ‘normal life?
(And by the way, being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. Extroverts can be shy too. Being an introvert means you choose where and who to give your energy to; making small talk can drain you and being alone can recharge you).
Tyler Cowen, a USA economist reckons introverts have always been undervalued whereas the stuff extroverts love, like boardroom presentations, breakfast meetings and racking up those business airmiles have been unfairly appraised and universally adopted.
“Having the highest-productivity individuals in a company be free to do what they want, to have a Zoom call with the people they want; that’s going to drive a lot of innovation and productivity growth.”
But then that would mess with 2019’s boss’s presenteeism.
Also, with many companies offering a full time or hybrid return, women and men may find themselves making very different decisions about how they negotiate resuming office life.
With more women wanting more flexibility and more men wanting a full on return could this lead to male dominated offices in the future, asks BBC Worklife?
“A UK-based poll of 2,300 leaders, managers and employees showed that 69% of mothers want to work from home at least once a week after the pandemic, versus just 56% of fathers.
These figures suggest women would occupy relatively fewer desks, intensifying gender inequality, reinforcing domestic roles and stalling women’s earning potential and prospects for career advancement.
While there are certainly benefits to giving flexible options to workers who can do their jobs from home, there’s also a risk of widening the long-standing gender gap in housework and caring responsibilities that’s already been exacerbated by Covid-19.”
Wherever you stand on the workplace divide because it really is a divide, hopefully company culture, going forward, will no longer be dictated by everyone in at 9 and out at 5, with an occasional break out in the kiddult room, with the obligatory pool table, which might be ok for the Gen Z’ers but could be seen as infantilizing older employees, (although Google offers ‘cool’ offices, they’ve actually thought beyond the push scooters and millennial deco and tackled childcare).
COVID-19 KILLED OFFICE CULTURE
Employers have really got to listen to their employees and support them in their decision about going back to work fulltime, hybrid or remote. If they do this, employees will move walls for them.
Something Tim Cooke, CEO of Apple should have considered before telling all employees that they have to return to the office September 2021. His announcement spectacularly misfired when his employees reacted by crafting an open letter, addressed to Cooke, (reported by The Verge) and signed by over 80 Apple employees.
Their tempered anger went something like this:
“We feel like the current policy is not sufficient in addressing many of our needs.” The Apple letter pointed out that workers delivered “the same quality of products and services that Apple is known for, all while working almost completely remotely.”
Some Apple employees have already quit, citing:
It forces people “to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.”
Was the fact that Apple spent $1billion on their new offices have anything to do with Tim Cooke’s presenteeism stance?
In 2019 BC, we would have bitten an employer’s arm off for a Friday, working from home.
With the government’s attention being drawn towards drafting the ‘right to ask’ bill for employees, it’s time employers big and small are instrumental in creating a new work culture which reduces anxiety and stress by letting the introverted and the extroverted, the Gen X’ers, Millennials and Z’ers, work out what works best for them.
If you create a workplace that listens to the individual needs of its workers, you will have a workplace working in perfect harmony.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, we’re here to help at firstname.lastname@example.org