How Introverts and Extroverts Can Survive and Thrive in the Virtual Workplace
By Jane Finkle
In this novel world of Covid-19 most of us are working in a near vacuum that makes handshakes and hugs taboo. As social beings we are not meant to be constantly isolated or alone. We are taught to seek validation by interacting with others, but are given little guidance in coping with the effects of isolation. The virtual workplace in which many are working, presents special challenges for both introverts and extroverts. With a better understanding of a variety of coping styles, career professionals can help both personality types to better navigate the resultant stress and anxiety as the Gig economy and virtual workplace continues to change, shape, and grow.
Characteristics of Introverts
It may be assumed that sheltering in place would be a dream come true for introverts. While introverts are energized by reflection and solitude, their desire for social contact is a basic need, although it may take the form of one-to-one and intimate gatherings (Aron, 1997). It may be easier for introverts to adjust to the quiet of working at home, but many are feeling the loss of one-to-one interactions with colleagues. There is also a loss of small group meetings with co-workers and teammates in the workplace.
Perhaps the most challenging social impact of the coronavirus for introverts is the explosive popularity of Zoom and other video conferencing platforms, which have become the new normal for working together. While these platforms may be the next best thing to connecting in person, introverts are more likely to suffer from Zoom exhaustion as multiple video meetings bombard them (Patrick, 2020). One perplexing and even maddening feature of video meetings is that people tend to talk on top of each other. Introverts may find it difficult to get a word in edgewise without some ground rules. Added to zoom exhaustion is the continual flow of work texts and emails that seem to breathlessly demand a ready response, allowing for little time to consider and reflect (not to mention the difficulty in breaking away from technology that can easily blur the lines of separation from work and home). A full-blown day of online communications will gradually let the air out of an introvert’s balloon.
Coping Tips for Introverts
To obviate these pitfalls, career practitioners can encourage introverts to suggest starting a meeting with a round robin, giving each person the opportunity to present updates on the status of important issues or work projects. This gives introverts a chance to collect their thoughts and questions beforehand and alleviate worry about how and when to speak up among all the competing “Zoomers”. Introverts can also use the chat and hand raise functions on Zoom to offer comments and ask questions. The socializing that often follows a formal, in-person meeting is not a particular favorite for introverts, however it is important that they not precipitously depart, but stay on for this transition period for at least a short time to support team spirit.
Career practitioners can suggest that if introverts find it challenging to communicate in a virtual work group, a compromise might be to schedule a one-to-one video meeting or phone meeting with co-workers or supervisors. Introverts can use their reflection time to access their imagination and generate innovative ideas that may help transform their field or energize the industry.
Career practitioners can also explain that after a hectic day in the virtual workplace, introverts may need to carve out time alone in a hushed environment. Meditation, reading, listening to music or walking in nature can help decompress from stress and exhaustion (Pflanzer & Orwig, J.,2016).
Characteristics of Extroverts
Extroverts, who thrive on sensory stimulation and social interaction, are undoubtedly lamenting the loss of face-to-face interaction with colleagues in the physical workplace. An extrovert’s energy is triggered and expanded by socializing with a wide variety of people and bouncing ideas around (Cherry, 2019). It can be frustrating and feel defeating for extroverts to be confined to phone and video conferencing as the only method for co-worker and colleague contact. Without the physical social contact, extroverts can also become easily distracted and detoured by stimuli other than work.
Coping Tips for Extroverts
Despite the present limitations of face-to-face contact at work, extroverts still benefit from connecting to co-workers and colleagues through a variety of video platforms. Using Skype or Zoom video chats with teams or a co-worker, where they can see another face on the screen, is more stimulating than relying solely on social media or text messaging to connect. Platforms like Zoom and Miro offer extroverts a dynamic way to pair up with teammates on whiteboards using colorful icons, text and drawings to brainstorm ideas and work out problems.
Career practitioners working with extroverts should recommend joining a live podcast related to their professional field where they can interact and join in on a conversation with other professionals. This offers extroverts an opportunity to stay on the cutting edge of their work while discussing industry topics with other colleagues in real time. Another helpful technique for extroverts working at home is to change the scenery by moving to different locations in the home or taking short walks where they can see other people’s faces, albeit from a distance.
While extroverts thrive in a highly social and active environment, career practitioners can help extroverts take advantage of working alone to develop the skills of an introvert. Practitioners may provide tools to help extroverts focus on developing self-awareness and more carefully thinking through work goals and strategies.
Survival Tips for Everyone in a Work From Home Setting
Both personality styles can manage the virtual workplace by continuing to supercharge their network. Seeking ways to learn something new through webinars and courses or reading articles on cutting edge topics can help to balance the sense of isolation while expanding knowledge. Sticking to a daily routine, which includes exercise, can boost energy and concentration (Ratey, 2008).
With the current threat of the coronavirus, it is natural for all of us to have a healthy uncertainty about the future and to wonder what new catastrophe is lurking around the corner. Finding ways to adjust and bounce back are essential to managing a career. As the virtual work world is transforming how we work with clients, we can use our experience and expertise to help introverts and extroverts adapt and thrive in this new reality.
Aron, E. (1997). The highly sensitive person. Broadway Books.
Patrick, W. (2020). How introverts can survive and thrive on zoom. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-bad-looks-good/202005/how-introverts-can-survive-and-thrive-zoom
Pflanzer, L., & Orwig, J. (2016). 15 simple ways to relax, according to scientists. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/science-backed-ways-to-relax-2016-12
Cherry, K. (2019). 5 personality traits of extroverts. Very Well Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/signs-you-are-an-extrovert-2795426
Ratey, J. (2008). SPARK: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Little, Brown and Company.
Jane Finkle is a career coach and consultant in private practice with over 25 years of experience helping clients to envision and achieve careers that are fulfilling and personally enriching. Jane is currently an external alumni career coach for University of Pennsylvania’s undergraduate and graduate programs. She has been published in Business Insider, Psychology Today, Huffington Post and is a contributing writer to mindbodygreen. Jane is the author of The Introvert’s Complete Career Guide: From Landing a job, to Surviving, Thriving and Moving on Up (Career Press). She can be reached at email@example.com www.janefinkle.com