Why WFH Culture is Great for both Extroverts and Introverts
Many years ago while working in a physical office environment, I noticed the very different ways in which workers interacted with one another. The most basic distinction of worker interaction I noticed was between the extroverts and the introverts in the office. For my purposes, I define extroverts as those who glean energy and creativity from relational interactions with others while the introverts do so in more quiet contemplation on their own.
The extroverts thrived in the physical office space due to the degree of physical access they had to their co-workers. The ability to physically walk into the office or over to the cubicle for a face-to-face interaction was life-giving to them. Meanwhile, the introverts, though engaged in these conversations, were not always able to find the solace needed for productive output. Many resorted to donning the headphones as a way a saying, "I need to be left alone right now." However, this unfortunately can be misinterpreted as, "I'm finding a creative way to avoid working or at least, working with others, right now."
A simplistic assessment by those in management would assume that those more highly engaged in collaboration are more productive or worthy of promotions to leadership positions. It's no wonder that one study found that extroverts are more likely to obtain better paying positions than their introverted counterparts. It can be difficult to level the playing field among the extroverts and introverts when it comes to position promotions or even getting a better sense of what each team member has to offer. This is where I think the current shift to a work from home (WFH) culture has it's advantages.
One may argue that the limited forms of collaboration and communication in a WFH team may have negative side-effects, and though in some ways it might, I think it's worth considering the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
1) Equal Input and Access
Regardless of personality, all team members in a WFH environment can utilize only a certain set of communication tools. Whether it be email, phone calls, texts, chats, or web meetings, all have the same set of tools regardless of personality. Moreover, the team can institute a set of guidelines as to what forms of communication are most appropriate for specified purposes.
2) Expression and Preservation
In it's most extreme forms, extroverts can become self-expressive to a fault inasmuch as introverts can become self-preservationists. WFH collaboration and communication tools limit the extreme ends of the extrovert and introvert tendencies. Take for example a webinar setting where all attendees may be auto-muted for a designated period of time and then un-muted for collaboration. The extreme extrovert is forced to participate in a more passive way while the introvert is forced to participate in a more expressive way.
3) Collaboration Longevity
I can only imagine that as extroverts and introverts are "protected" from the extremes of their tendencies from the themselves and others, that collaborative longevity of the team would increase. Additionally, when conflicts do occur, I believe a WFH environment buffers the extreme reactions that can lead to long lasting disruption and distrust among the team members. However, I will say that the way in which the team leader intervenes or mediates will be a key determinant in a positive outcome.
Personal disclosure: As much as I would have liked to write an unbiased assessment of the WFH environment for the extrovert and introvert, I must admit I am human, and also a introvert. I welcome any comments and insight from the extrovert perspective.