Introvert’s Guide to Working in an Office: 10 Golden Rules
You love your co-workers; you just can’t get anything done when they’re around. Sound familiar? You might be an introvert, which means you need to read our introvert’s guide to working in an office.
For the purposes of this post, I will assume a baseline knowledge of the introvert/extrovert divide. But to quickly review: Introverts are not cave-dwelling misanthropes—we simply need to be strategic about how and when we socialize. While extroverts gain energy from being around others; introverts need solitude in order to recharge.
This can be problematic for those who work in busy offices (particularly open offices) where overstimulation can hinder productivity.
But there is hope. Start with these 10 tips, and if you’d like more nuance, read Susan Cain’s masterful book Quiet—a serious eye-opener for those curious about the topic.
1. Get your most important tasks done ASAP.
When it comes to managing introversion, it’s pretty simple. The more interactions you have over the course of the day, the more drained and distracted you’ll become. Capitalize on the morning hours when people aren’t yet dropping by your desk or making demands on your time. Once these uninterrupted hours are gone, they’re gone—and you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get them back.
2. Fight for a flexible schedule.
If your role allows for it, see if you can come in late, leave early, or work from home on certain days of the week. Chances are, you’ll get more done from home anyway. If this isn’t possible, be proactive about carving out time for yourself in the office. (See next point.)
3. Schedule meetings with yourself.
If you use a system that allows co-workers to put time on your calendar of their own accord, you might find yourself getting pulled into back-to-back meetings, day after day. Keep control of your own schedule by actually making dates with yourself to work on specific tasks. Knowing you have these mental breaks to look forward to will help you manage other interactions that pop up throughout the day.
4. Find secret nooks.
Just because you’re in the office doesn’t mean you can’t hide out from time to time. Book a conference room, or find a quiet corner where you can work in solitude for an hour or two each day.
5. Go for walks.
Not only does walking free up your mind, it also gives you a break from the action in the office. Take a stroll and give yourself time to think—or simply clear your head—at least once a day.
6. Find alternatives to in-person meetings.
Occasional face-time is important, but endless in-person meetings are a surefire way to deplete your energy. Rather than running across town to meet clients, do your weekly check-in via phone. In the office, use email or chat platforms like Slack to communicate with colleagues when possible. This way, you can respond at your own pace—or just tune people out when you start to get overwhelmed.
7. Take yourself to lunch.
For some, lunch is a time to banter with co-workers in the company kitchen. For introverts, it’s a time to escape! Order lunch from a spot that will require you to take a lengthy walk, or go big and take yourself on a date. Some people feel like they don’t “have time” to go out to lunch, but if getting away for a bit will boost your productivity in the afternoon, it’s well worth it.
8. Know when to opt out of company hangouts.
You need to make a showing at big company events (hello, holiday party!), but don’t feel guilty if you’re not in the mood to hit every happy hour that your co-workers organize. You spend all day at your office; you’re not obligated to use your precious evening hours playing ping-pong with the accounting team. In an era when many companies want you to live and breathe “the brand,” it’s okay to assert that you have a life outside of work.
9. Don’t over-schedule your evenings.
In my younger years, I often made after-work plans every single day of the week. But by the end of the workday, I often wished I hadn’t. Dedicate a few nights a week to “me time”—and don’t feel bad about turning down invitations in favor of hanging with yourself. If you’re a true introvert, it’s not selfish—it’s necessary.
10. Out yourself as an introvert.
You might not want to announce your introversion on your first day at a new job, but ultimately, there’s no shame in letting your co-workers know “the truth” about you. Introversion and extroversion are better understood today than ever before, but there’s still a lot we can learn from each other. Starting a conversation at your company about this fascinating dichotomy will help both introverts and extroverts bring out the best in each other at work.
Illustrations by Mai-Dea