Why Introverts Excel at Working Remotely — Andy Sto
In many facets of life — both social and professional — extroverts are praised and often times also rewarded for their outgoing behavior and charisma. The traits associated with extroverts usually are seen as positive and those that should be celebrated as it portrays self-confidence — which itself is a highly valued trait in society. While when you compare extroverts and introverts to judge which groups is deemed more successful, it’s hard to say — as many of the wealthiest people in the world are introverts: Larry Page, Warren Buffet, and Mark Zuckerberg among others. However, when you look at the professional level, where most people work, you see the extroverts shine.
There have been multiple studies that have shown that extroverts generally are rewarded more in the workplace. In a 2015 study on career progression by personality type, the results showed that extroverts occupy more managerial roles and have more responsibility than their introvert counterparts. Additionally, in another study by Sutton Trust in the UK in 2016 had key findings that also demonstrated more success in the workplace for extroverted professionals. Specifically, it found that key characteristics of extroverts (sociability, confidence, assertiveness) as well as self-esteem and positive outlook as particularly beneficial for career success.
Furthermore, in the same Sutton Trust study, they found that highly extroverted people — those that possess the same extrovert characteristics — had a 25% higher chance of holding a high-earning job. This supports the common observation of extrovert bias that the “happy extrovert” is oftentimes promoted ahead of others, which has been going on for decades in the office environment.
However, this isn’t a story of the extrovert. This is about how when the business world was shocked in 2020 and millions of office workers had to exchange the open office for the remote office. And how the introverts are able to shine when removed from the energy-consuming workplace that allows their gregarious counterparts to shine. It turns out, introverts have been able to shine when working remotely and their skills, which previously often went unnoticed, were demonstrated to be highly effective. This is a story of why introverts excel at working remotely.
Characteristics of Introverts
First, it’s important to understand the characteristics of introverts and what exactly it is that sets them apart from extroverts. This is important because these traits are what allows them to be more successful in a decentralized work environment, away from the coffee-pot chat and the seemingly endless impromptu meetings.
In the United States around one-third to one-half of all people are introverts. This may be a bit surprising. But while there are many characteristics, introversion can look different in everyone. An introvert will likely have some or (maybe) all the following:
- Need peace and quiet to effectively concentrate
- Are self-reflective
- Prefer individual work rather than group work
- Would rather write than talk
- Being in a crowded and social setting drains their energy
- They regain energy by being in a quiet and peaceful environment
- Feel comfortable being alone
- Take time to make decisions rather than being reactionary
- Have fewer friendships but have deeper relationships with their friends
While some introverts may exhibit all these traits, it’s more likely that one would only have several of them as there isn’t a single type of introvert. They can even be not very introverted and be more in the middle of the extrovert-introvert scale, and they’re called ambiverts. But one study found that introverts can generally fall into one of four subtypes: social introverts, thinking introverts, anxious introverts, restrained/inhibited introverts.
Social introverts are the “classic introvert”, meaning that they’re what most people think of when they think of an introvert. They like small groups and quiet settings over crowds. The thinking introverts are the daydreamers of the bunch. They tend to spend much of their time in their heads and are more prone to be more imaginative. Anxious introverts seek out time for just themselves not only because they like it, but also because they have feelings of awkwardness and shyness when around other people. And lastly, the restrained/inhibited introverts are the ones that think before they act. They are likely to spend more time thinking before speaking or taking action. They are more self-aware in this regard.
Myths About Introverts
One common myth about introverts is that they’re shy. Some introverts may be shy, but this is not the case for all introverts. Other myths include:
Introverts Aren’t Friendly
Unfortunately, if you’re not overly outgoing, which seems to be praised more and more, many people feel that you come off as unfriendly or cold. And since they don’t tend to have large friend groups, from the outside it may seem to reinforce this notion. This is an unfair characterization of introverts.
Introverts Can’t Be Leaders
While the statistics from the aforementioned studies demonstrated that most leaders happen to be extroverts, doesn’t inherently mean that introverts can’t be leaders. While the data may suggest that, it also suggests that it’s extroverts that choose to be promoted due to the traits that make it seem like they would be a better leader, due to the traits that are often associated with a leader. However, just because there is an association with those traits, doesn’t make it the only type of leadership. Leaders can just as well be effective leaders as they can be more empathetic and listen to their employee’s ideas, stay focused on long-term goals, and seem less threatening and more approachable.
It’s Hard to Get to Know Introverts
While introverts may be more introspective and quieter, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to talk to them or to get to know them. While they may not be so interested in small-talk, and skin-deep conversation, the relationships they do form tend to have a deeper bond and you can get to know them very well.
The 9 Reasons Why Introverts Excel at Working Remotely
Introverts Are Less Reactionary
Overreacting can be a very costly mistake to make. Whether it’s an angry email sent in reply to being passed over on a promotion, or saying something in a business or social setting without thinking of the consequences or how it would come off to others, saying something in the heat of the moment can have serious consequences. But this is something that introverts generally don’t have to worry about. Since they are more thoughtful and mindful than their extrovert counterparts, it’s not as common for them to end up in such precarious situations that can result after an action with little thought.
When it comes to working remotely these traits work even better. Due to the nature of Zoom calls and the etiquette of video conferencing, it allows for more thoughtful and polite speech, which is associated with introverts. As it’s much more obvious when undesirable and rude behavior (interrupting others and talking over people), which often is associated with extroverts, occurs.
They Work Better Alone
Unlike their extroverted peers, introverts don’t need an abundance of social interaction to get energized and motivated. While others may be chatting in the break room, building up energy, they find solace at their desk, dreading when the banter eventually swallows them as well. And such dread isn’t an issue when it comes to working remotely.
Since introverts are more comfortable alone in general — and not just when working — it allows them to work in solitude. And the digital nomad life, which one may think is reserved more for extroverts, is actually ideal for the introvert when you dig into it. Working remotely as a digital nomad is quite a solitary life. You are also able to choose the setting that you’d like to work in — whether it’s on the beach, in an Airbnb, or in a quiet café. The independent nature of introverts can really shine when it comes to remote working.
Their Emotional Intelligence Gets to Shine
Having a deeper understanding of emotions (or a high level of emotional intelligence) is a very important trait when it comes to interpersonal communication and leadership. It allows one to communicate effectively, diffuse conflict, and empathize with others — amongst other things. And even just these three abilities are highly valuable when it comes to remote working.
By leveraging their emotional intelligence, they can communicate very effectively in a decentralized environment. And when you are talking with someone on a video call, when all you can see is their face and hear their tone of voice, being able to respond effectively and empathetically can have a very positive impact when it comes to the outcomes of the interactions with clients or coworkers.
Additionally, introverts tend to stay focused on conversations and truly understand the perspective of others. Which can lead to a deeper understanding between parties and better outcomes overall.
More Creative in a Quiet Environment
Oftentimes, the office isn’t the quietest place. Among the conversations and other noises reverberating throughout the office, it can be difficult for an introvert to focus on this situation — and not to mention the conversations that they can find themselves trapped in. Furthermore, interruptions in the workflow can have detrimental effects on overall productivity and creativity. Not only can continuous distractions cause an increase in errors, but also, it takes on average 23 minutes to regain focus after becoming distracted. And this measure doesn’t delineate between introverts or extroverts. So, for extroverts, it may provide an added boost in creativity to have a short talk about a recent reality tv show. But for introverts, it can prove even more costly as it consumes their energy. However, when working remotely, many of these distractions are gone. They can maintain their focus and thus their creativity can flourish.
They Prefer Scheduled Meetings
Impromptu meetings tend to be more in the realm of the extrovert. And in the traditional office working environment, there are many of them — perhaps too many. While there is a lot to be said about the overall efficacy of so many meetings as it’s thought that organizations have too many meetings, and it disrupts productive work, they are still a common occurrence. And this doesn’t bode well for introverts, which prefer scheduled meetings. So, the remote work environment is much more suitable for them as ad hoc meetings are much less common due to the decentralized nature of remote work. Scheduled Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls are much more common, and in turn, are more beneficial for the introvert.
They Are Observant
Many introverts are much more attentive to detail. They are more likely to notice when someone gets a new haircut, or they bring a new laptop to a meeting. While this trait can have a positive impact in the in-person working environment, it’s also quite beneficial when working remotely. This is because of the more empathetic nature of introverts and their ability to observe not only physical differences, but changes in the emotions of others, how someone else talks, or the quality of work they produce. All of these things are useful when only seeing others through a screen or via written message.
Attention to Detail
Introverts are known for their attention to detail, their unwillingness to let things lapse, and their meticulousness in completing duties, which is crucial in a remote location. While extroverts are frequently the ones who come up with the big ideas, introverts are usually the ones who carry them out.
One-on-One vs. Group Work
Given the characteristics of introverts, it’s of little surprise that they would prefer to work either with only one other person or just themselves rather than in a group. This is perfect when it comes to remote working. Since the dynamics of group work are not quite the same as when working remotely, work that might have been done in a larger group setting in a physical office is consigned to smaller groups or even individual tasks when working remotely.
Now we can see why introverts excel at working remotely — it closely aligns with their inherent characteristics when it comes to the working environment. And working remotely does a great job of aligning with them.
Originally published at https://andysto.com on July 28, 2021.