In the wake of sweeping closures of schools, conventions and organisations due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, increasing numbers of people are being advised to stay away from their offices, and work remotely from home.
Aside from the severity of the situation, for introverts, forced remote working may be a welcome change from the office. Working from home means no more open-plan office distractions, over-use of noise-cancelling headphones or booking a meeting room just to get some peace and quiet from all the buzz.
For extraverts, however, remote working can instill anxiety. As we know from decades of research in personality science, a key difference between introverts and extraverts is that extraverts are more stimulation-seeking and enjoy frequent social interaction. In an office-based company, extraverts thrive on spontaneous conversations, can be more distracted when working alone, and prefer to problem-solve with others.
Interestingly, in lab studies in personality psychology, research has found that when instructed, extraverts acting introverted (e.g. quiet, reserved), on average, feel less happy, and perform worse on tasks. In these personality studies, participants were randomly allocated to either an “act extraverted”, “act introverted” or “control” condition. Participants then completed baseline and follow-up surveys about their feelings and behaviour. On average, while introverts did not have adverse effects of acting extraverted, extraverts on average, experienced increases in negative emotions and performance on a task.
So if you’re an extravert, how do you survive remote working?
Here are three ways:
Find micro-outlets for extraversion
This is key. In personality science, “restorative niches” are places/spaces/activities where individuals can be themselves and "restore" their true nature. For extraverts who suddenly find themselves spending long periods of time working alone, find restorative niches that channel extraversion and provide the optimal amount of stimulation. This could be reaching out to a friend for a whatsapp call during the day, going out for a run at lunch, or listening to some high tempo music as you work. Find the right restorative niches that work for you.
Set up regular check-ins with your team
In an all remote-working environment, extraverts are more likely to feel the loss of social connection with their team. This may impact their ability to concentrate and feel productive. Use slack or a similar tool to keep in regular contact, whether it be sending funny memes or simply checking in. While this does not mean bugging your colleagues every few minutes, driving virtual sociability can make extraverts feel part of their team.
Lean on others to brainstorm
Extraverts often struggle to problem-solve alone, as they prefer bouncing ideas off with team-members. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague (or even a family member!) to talk through a problem or a task, especially if you find yourself procrastinating. Sometimes its just enough to have an ear to listen and reassure you’ve made sense of a problem.