Which people actually shined at working from home?

Amidst lockdowns and uncertainty, can your productivity working from home be better?

When the pandemic forced me in May 2020 to ‘’close’’ my office and pushed me and my whole team to work from home, I realized that I actually became more productive, almost straight away.

I got my power from being alone and recharging. In the early morning hours, when my house was quiet and everyone was still asleep, I was abruptly able to do more than I typically could in my office. Don't get me wrong. I love my office, but I got my power from being alone and recharging. In the early morning hours, when my house was quiet and everyone was still asleep, I was abruptly able to do more than I typically could in an office environment. I would get up every day at around at 5 a.m., prepare my coffee and breakfast and instead of having to go through the hassle of getting ready, I was just in the zone. I got a lot of things done, while I felt energized in that peaceful time.

While the shift to remote work in early 2020 was unexpected for almost everyone, some people found themselves thriving more than others and, in many cases, thanks to their character. Many introverted workers found working from a distraction-free environment preferable. Client needs also changed in ways that benefited introverts’ skillsets, while virtual interaction and communication offered introverts more opportunities to share their thoughts. For those 'quiet' workers who may once have worked unnoticed, remote work offered not only less taxing day-to-day but also an opportunity to blend that extra energy with new ways of working.

While extrovert characters are celebrated for being sociable, action-oriented, and enthusiastic, introverts bring analytical thought and compassion. During the pandemic, those skills immediately became incredibly important. Introverts are reliable; people who take one project at a time and do it completely. They’re good at deep thought and forming personal relationships. And that was important during the period when businesses were trying to hold onto clients.

That inclination to put others in the spotlight, to hold up the team and be that silent partner, is a strength. I do believe that is part of what a lot of managers and leaders witnessed coming through. Managers and leaders needed an empathetic listener. The person who was willing to step back and be something like, ‘’I hope you’re doing OK; how can I help?’’

My staff and my clients who know me well, might be surprised that I can describe myself as kind of... an introvert. I spend a lot of time in meetings and hands-on coaching sessions, but eventually, where I draw my energy from is being in a quiet place, alone. I felt more in control of the management of my time.

And online meetings also tend to have fewer interruptions and overlapping speakers. Business etiquette is different. You’re much more mindful of if you’re interrupting or talking on top of someone. I realize that I have more time to reflect, and then when I offer something when I have something to say it is more meaningful. Virtually there are more tools at my disposal to contribute to the discussion or to the meeting. It’s not just whoever can get a word in; there’s the chat, raising your online hand, and other reactions you can send.

With the return to the office, I am very optimistic that lessons learned from remote work will make leaders and workplaces more accommodating to all.

I have realized that contribution can take many forms, and it’s not necessarily about the person that talks the most.

There are many strategies and tactics leaders, and managers can use to make sure more shy employees can continue to participate, even if the team is transitioning back to in-person work. Easy solutions, like having brain-storming coffee sessions or small-group chats, can go a long way.

As we go back to the face-to-face workplace, managers and leaders need to be asking themselves, if they are offering a diversity of ways for all staff members to contribute.

One of the lessons I learned while working from home, is how different personality types can best perform while they return to my office. I realized that there are a couple of people on my team who need that peace and quiet time.

And If you think you are not as good at working from home as you wish you were, take comfort in the fact that a lot of people, just like you, are working to their full capacity in stressful and VUCA times. It may be challenging to fully understand the stress around you but the more you can adapt to this ‘new normal, the better work-from-home employee and person you’ll become.