Writing Challenge Day 21: Not All Introverts WFH

“You must be loving this.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this statement in the past nine months. Being a self-proclaimed introvert (and proud of it!), the implication is that I love being able to work from home, away from all the people and all the small talk. To be fair, getting away from small talk might have been one of my greatest dreams (pre-WFH). In the end though, joke’s on me.

My family consists of me, my husband, two kids, three dogs, and a cat (and a partridge in a pear tree). This means my WFH conversations consist mostly of:

  • “Do you want to go outside?”
  • “Are you hungry?”
  • “Turn that tablet down!”
  • And some version of attempting to explain 5th grade math to my 10-year-old daughter.

Let me tell you—not the most stimulating conversations I’ve ever had!

I often find myself missing the buzz of the office. The underlying sound of chatter, keyboards, and the coffee machine. The ease of just popping my head over to my cube neighbor to see how the weekend was or really any other conversation to be had with an adult. I find popping into someone’s computer on Teams or Zoom or any other platform doesn’t have the same effect. And meetings a few times a week with folks online just doesn’t fill the communication need in the same way!

Do I miss the hour commute each way? NOPE. Do I miss cramming 20 people into a conference room made for 10? NOPE. But, do I truly miss the relationships that can only be built when you spend eight (or 10, or 12) hours with people five days a week? You bet I do.

So yes—joke’s on me. I’ll be counting down the days until I can see people for real again. People who know that just because I’m an introvert, doesn’t mean I’m loving this any more than my friends who are extroverts. I can’t wait for run-of-the-mill conversations at the snack cart or intense whiteboarding sessions in a conference room. But, don’t be surprised if I still try to explain 5th grade math to you when I’m back in the office!

  • I was working from home about 1/2 the time prior to the current situation so it was a pretty good balance between both. I think one of the best things we 'fell into' was we were about year in to the SAFE/Agile process when the current situation presented itself and that has been one of the best Project Management process I have used in over 30 years. Even though hundreds of team members were suddenly working remote we were able to plan out all of our goals and dependencies thanks to our great team of Agile Scrum Masters. 

    As far as introvert/extrovert, for me it depends on the work that needs to be done. I love 'playing with all the other kids in the sandbox' especially helping along the new professionals in their career. I love training people in new skills and have no problem giving presentations to large audiences. Then there is also times when you need some 'heads down time' to figure out how to interface system A to system B and that's better done while working from home at least for me.  

  • I can take it either way--working from home has proven a better return on investment, more cost-effective, for my employer.  And it's been better for me--I can eliminate ~7,300 miles of commuting, and eat from the refrigerator for a fraction of eating at a restaurant.  

    Plus, I can sleep later in the morning before starting work, and get started on home projects & hobbies earlier after work.

    Truly, I get more work done for my employer, since I'm more likely to work longer from home.  I think it's a win-win for both sides.

  • I love WFH and do not miss the drive to work.  Yes, some days I miss the people and the beautiful building that I work in with the perks that come with that building - cafeteria, awesome work out area, outdoor trails, Ferris wheel (yes, I did say Ferris wheel), even Thursdays Company social after work, etc.  Some days I don't miss those things.  All we can do is try to make the best of what we have and where we are.

  • I tend to be quite the introvert in that I do not have a large group of friends, and I don't seem to make. However, I do like to strike up friendly chit-chat with just about anyone when an opportunity is there. If we're both standing in a line and wearing gear for the same football team, we have something for a brief chat. If it's a group of people wearing Nationals gear randomly sitting near each other at a mid-day As-Royals tilt in Oakland, you bet I'm going to wind up in a conversation! (That really happened, and was a blast!) If I see someone wearing a SolarWinds shirt, that's just another topic to strike up a friendly conversation. If I see someone having some nice whisky or even talking about a trip to a distillery, I have plenty of ways to turn that into a conversation.

    Regarding WFH, if you have office friends, you can still keep up with them talking on the phone, texting, or online. My direct colleagues and I have not been at the office simultaneously in months now, but we still know what is going on with each other. We schedule conference calls to discuss work-related topics, and wander off into other topics as well, just as though we are in the office. I actually had to get something to a colleague who was home after surgery, so wound up driving over to his place. We wound up getting to talk for a minute or two -- both masked with me in my car and him standing15-20 feet away in the middle of his front lawn. It's not the same, but it helps.

    Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, you can find ways to keep in touch. If you miss relationships with colleagues, pick up the phone, schedule a conference call to catch up, or keep a group chat open in WhatsApp, Slack, or whatever else is appropriate. If you miss sometimes talking with sometimes random people around the office, look for something someone says in an email thread or conference call, then reach out afterwards. Most of us still go out, at least to go shopping or pick up takeout. If you have an opportunity for a brief chat, take advantage -- just keep six feet apart. In WFH, you cannot duplicate the social interactions you get at the office, but you may be able to come closer than you think.

  • As an extrovert, you'd think the opposite of me - "how are you dealing without the interaction that <you people> thrive on?" First, interaction can be found in many places. As      and can attest, my conversations on Teams are many, varied, and long-winded. For me, it's the exchange of ideas, more than the medium in which that exchange occurs, that scratches my extroverted itch.

    I guess you could say my variation on this day's theme is "Not all extroverts WFH".

    That said, I'm going to repeat something that I heard a lot at the start of the pandemic, but not as much now: I have been 100% remote work for over a decade. Many of my colleagues have as well. NONE of us are finding this easy. This (waves hands around at the state of the world) is hard. For introverts. For extroverts. For everyone.

    Take a breath. Be kind - to yourself and to others. Continue to be open to new ways to recharge your batteries. As the sun rises acknowledge the reality that you may be as different as the day. Yesterday an introvert, today a little more extra.

Thwack - Symbolize TM, R, and C