12 Tips for Introverts in the Workplace
Contrary to popular belief, introverts aren’t always shy, quiet, and antisocial. Some of us are actually full of ideas we want to share, love a good chat, and even enjoy a party. We just need more alone time to recharge than extroverts.
And that can sometimes be a problem in the workplace.
It seems like modern work life is designed for extroverts, with open-plan offices, all-team meetings, and big personalities battling to share their ideas.
But you don’t need to force yourself to be an extrovert to survive, or thrive, at work. Here are 12 tips for introverts in the workplace.
What is an Introvert?
Introversion and extroversion are two ends of the personality spectrum.
Extroverts tend to:
- Enjoy social interaction, especially in big groups
- Get energy from being around people
- Feel drained from too much alone time
- Be more outgoing and outspoken
Introverts tend to:
- Get energy from alone time
- Feel drained after socializing
- Enjoy one-on-one interactions or hanging out in smaller groups
- Be more timid, reserved, or quiet
Most of us sit someone in between the two extremes. So, you might be an introvert who loves big social events, but you just need alone time afterward to recharge. Or perhaps you’re the type of introvert who has no problem speaking up and putting yourself out there in casual settings, but at work, it’s a different story.
12 Tips for Introverts in the Workplace
Want to embrace your introverted ways and build a successful career? Read on to find out how.
1. Prioritize Alone Time to Recharge While at Work
Many introverts feel drained from too much social interaction. If this is you, prioritize alone time in your work schedule wherever possible.
This could be an hour or two blocked off in your work calendar each day where you focus on deep work, without calls or colleagues distracting or talking to you.
You could also add in buffer time to each meeting, ensuring you’ve got at least five minutes after each one to breathe, alone, before jumping into the next one.
If you’re in control of meeting schedules, you can also plan breaks where people can quickly grab a coffee, use the bathroom, and introverts can retreat for a quick moment of solitude.
2. Prioritize Alone Time Outside of Work
You should also prioritize time to recharge outside of work, especially if you don’t have much control over your work schedule.
Look at your week as a whole and see where you could get some “me time.”
Could you get up 30 minutes earlier to start each day by reading alone on your sofa? Or spend your commute meditating or reading? Or could Sunday afternoons be free from social plans to give you time to recharge before a busy week?
3. Embrace Hybrid or Remote Working
Depending on your job, your workplace may offer some kind of hybrid or remote working options.
If so, take advantage of these. Spending three days “on” in the office a week may feel much more manageable when you’ve got two days of quiet working at home to look forward to each week as well.
If your workplace doesn’t offer hybrid working, and you think it’ll be something that could benefit you, ask your manager about it.
Highlight how much deep work you could get done without the distractions of the office. You never know, they might be open to trying it.
4. Schedule More One-on-One Meetings
You’re an introvert, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have great ideas to share. Make sure you’re putting yourself out there at work and getting your voice heard.
If speaking up in large team meetings makes you break out in hives (we’re right there with you), see if you can schedule more one-on-one meetings or smaller meetings.
Perhaps you can meet with your boss once a week to share what you’re working on and your ideas for moving your projects forward. Or perhaps you’ve got no problem brainstorming with close colleagues, but it’s the wider team that makes you close up. Smaller or private meetings could be the answer.
This is also something you can do if you work with or manage introverts.
Instead of getting the whole team together and that being the only time people can share their ideas or concerns, schedule one-on-ones with each direct report to give the introverts a chance to open up.
And if you’re an introverted manager yourself, these one-on-ones will give you a chance to focus on each team member, without the stress of leading in front of large groups.
5. Turn Colleagues into Friends
Beyond one-on-one meetings with your boss or team members, focus on bonding with people on your team in small groups or just the two of you.
Many introverts feel reserved in big groups, especially with a lot of people they don’t know well, but they can easily open up within small groups of close friends.
Your mission is to make your colleagues feel like close friends.
Suggest grabbing lunch together or going on a coffee run, and make time for a bit of getting-to-know-you chat before a meeting.
The better you know your teammates, the more comfortable you’ll feel around them.
6. Network Your Way
Networking can feel like an introvert’s nightmare: large events, strangers, small talk, *shudder*.
But just because you’re an introvert, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the career-advancing benefits of networking. You just have to find a way to connect with people in your industry that suits your personality style.
You could try:
- Using social media — connect with people in your field on Twitter or LinkedIn and enjoy online discussions.
- Attending small events — you don’t need to attend huge conferences to network. In fact, you may even find you make deeper connections with people at small events, as you meet fewer people and talk to them for longer.
- Setting up one-on-one coffee chats — reach out to people you know and ask if they’d like to grab a coffee and talk shop. Connecting with someone one-on-one isn’t as intimidating as walking into a room full of strangers.
7. Chose Email Over Calls and Meetings
Calls and meetings are sometimes necessary, and they can often be more efficient than emails — but that’s not always the case.
Look at all your calls and meetings and see if any of these could be turned into emails or worked out over Slack instead.
Even removing one or two meetings from your plate a week could make a difference in how drained you feel at work.
As well as cutting down on in-person socializing, it may even save you time, meaning you can focus on your projects and excel at work this way.
8. Use Your Lunch Break to Recharge
If your workday involves a lot of socializing — think meetings or calling sales leads all day — be strategic about how you spend your lunch break.
As much as the occasional team lunch is nice, aim to have at least a few solo lunches throughout the week. If you don’t need that much alone time, lunches with just one or two colleagues can also help, instead of eating with bigger groups.
This will give you the much-needed time in your day to recharge your social batteries.
Beyond lunch, you can head out for a walk, hit the gym, or simply find a quiet room in the office to read.
When working from home, be sure to step away from email and Slack while on your lunch break and spend at least 30 minutes taking a break where you don’t have to interact with anyone.
You can also use this time to prepare for any upcoming meetings where you want to speak up and share your ideas.
9. Focus on Your Unique Introverted Strengths
There are a lot of perks to being an introvert. We’ve got some skills that our extroverted colleagues just don’t have.
Rather than focusing on how quiet you are in meetings or how you struggle to make sure your hard work gets noticed, focus instead on your skills. These are the things that can help you shine in the workplace.
Introverts are often:
- Better, more thorough writers
- More thoughtful, reflective, and strategic, rather than spontaneous
- Great listeners
- Self-driven when working alone
- Less emotional in the moment
- More logical
Lean into these skills and volunteer to take on projects that need the things only introverts can master.
10. Use the Power of Noise
One study looked at 70 introverts and 70 extroverts and asked them to do a learning task while listening to a noise. This level of intensity of this noise was either chosen by the person or assigned to them.
The results showed extroverts chose more intense noise levels than introverts, and introverts were more stimulated by noise, even when they chose the noise level themselves.
The most interesting part, though? Participants performed best on the learning task when the noise level was chosen by themselves or chosen by others of the same personality classification.
So, to do your best work, aim to have less intense noise levels in your work environment.
If you work from home, set up your desk in a quiet room. When in the office, take your laptop into quiet meeting rooms when possible, or invest in noise-canceling headphones.
11. Prepare Whenever You Need to Speak Up
Whether you’re showcasing your work to your boss and asking for a raise, sharing your ideas in front of the whole team, or delivering a presentation, preparation is key.
While many extroverts are great at spontaneous discussions and speaking their minds, we introverts tend to think things over and spend more time up in our heads. We might be nervous to jump into a group discussion, or not want to throw a less-than-fully-formed idea out there
For the times you do need to speak up, carve out time to prepare what you want to say in advance.
- Write out bullet points with the things you want to cover in an important meeting.
- Run through a presentation a few times by yourself before delivering it.
- Ask for meeting agendas ahead of time so you can brainstorm how you can contribute.
It can feel unnatural and uncomfortable to speak up, so take the guesswork out of what you’re going to say as much as possible.
12. Plan Your Week Strategically
Depending on how introverted you are and your individual personality traits, you might feel burned out when too many social events happen too close together. But, when they’re spread out, you can perform much better in them. Or you may feel bubbly in the mornings, but drained come 4 p.m.
If that’s you, take time to plan your week accordingly. If you have a weekly team meeting every Thursday that you want to start speaking up in more, consider making Wednesday after work a sacred quiet evening when you spend time alone.
When planning meetings, spread them over the week, rather than trying to group them all together. Make sure each workday has a nice balance of social interaction and alone time.
And try to avoid scheduling important meetings towards the end of the day when your social batteries may be running low.