Are you frequently labeled “a lot,” “difficult” or “loud” at work? Are you an extrovert who thrives in group settings, where you might burst forth with a myriad of ideas (brilliant, beautiful and chaotic), resulting in your colleagues becoming overwhelmed and shutting down?
Do managers often not know what to do with you? Do you accidentally alienate coworkers with your “a-lotness”? Do people look you in the eye and call you exhausting?
Why not try: working from home?
While not the typical environment for high-energy extroverts to thrive, working from home can help prevent your colleagues from getting irritated and shutting down when your energy overwhelms them.
OK, enough with the fake infomercial intro. Many a think piece have been written about how working from home benefits introverts, but I’m a high-energy extrovert. How is WFH playing out for people like me? Spoiler: great!
My whole career I’ve challenged leadership and my teams, not always in a good way. I know my energy intimidates and exhausts people. The feedback I often got was to be less, to take up less space, and generally try to filter more of my ideas and creativity.
Side note: Does this happen as much to male colleagues? No. Is this a gendered issue? Yes, I think very much so. But that’s not what this article is about.
2020 hit, and we all went remote. Suddenly, coworkers who got the rich, unfiltered Melody-energy eight hours per day were getting me in short bursts over Zoom, and rapid, GIF-laden Slack messages. My high energy helped combat Zoom fatigue and lifted the team’s spirits.
I switched jobs and have only worked remotely with my current team. They don’t know that I’m a lot. They think I’m just the right amount of fun and energy. I don’t drain anyone because we just don’t interact enough for that to be a problem. I’ve gotten zero feedback to try to be less and just a lot of praise for my ideas and execution. Apparently, coming through a screen, I’m just the right amount.
Am I drained and exhausted after a day of trying to focus on screens with very little real human connection? You betcha. Is my creativity stifled because I’m working in a vacuum? Of course. Is my career doing better than ever? Heck yes!
“Huh, Melody, that doesn’t sound great,” you might be thinking right about now. “I thought this was going to be a pro-WFH article.”
I can balance household tasks while completely killing it on the job front. The question is, how to hold space for creativity, innovation, collaboration, and those high-energy extroverts in a WFH world?Melody White, marketing expert
Here’s the thing — I wouldn’t have it any other way. Working from home provides me the freedom to live near family, which is critical in my current stage of life. I can balance household tasks while completely killing it on the job front. The question is, how to hold space for creativity, innovation, collaboration and those high-energy extroverts in a WFH world?
Here are my recommendations for building a company culture that works for everyone:
Collaborate in person with intention
Hold regular in-person offsites for planning and innovation. Leave the day-to-day execution to online platforms like Slack and Zoom, but get together to do the deep creative thinking. This will charge your extroverts and get them excited for the next chapter, and yes, the introverts will be drained, so give them some space to recharge the next week. If you’re not in leadership and don’t have the authority to call offsites, consider carving out small, virtual problem-solving groups for intentional collaboration.
My advice? Don’t over-schedule these rare in-person collaboration settings with too many tasks or objectives. Let people connect and build trust; don’t worry about productivity.
Get yourself some work allies
When you’re feeling drained, it’s important to have people to reach out to for real human connection. The author Brené Brown stresses the importance of “marble jar” friends. Every time they do something that builds trust, it’s a marble in the jar. When that jar is full, they’ve earned the right to hear your story. Trust is built slowly over time, so it’s important to pay attention to the people who are putting marbles in the jar (and the ones who are taking them out or knocking the jar over). Once you get that trust built, you know you can go to that person with work struggles and they’ll respond with empathy. This can be a lifeline during difficult work seasons.
I have a few marble jar friends that I know I can Slack when I need to vent, spill tea or just get a little social charge.
Set up in-person time outside of work
In this new remote-first world, it can be hard for extroverts to balance their social needs. Block off time in your calendar to get lunch with a friend. Find a coworking spot to post up one or two days a week. Seek out professional networking events. Your work-week socialization doesn’t have to be your actual coworkers. Remember, your mental health is critical to your success at work, so don’t feel bad for prioritizing it.
Melody White is a Sacramento-based journalist turned marketing expert with an insatiable curiosity, which she channels into everything she does. Her career has spanned daily newspapers, public radio, higher education, technology, mobility and clean tech. She’s spewing her thoughts on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/melodygwhite.
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