The office can be hellish for introverts. Every day, for eight to ten hours, you’re faced with hardcore social interaction: constant small talk, frequent interruptions, and no space that is truly your own. It’s a story that never ends. Introverts from all around the world who work live this story. Four or five days a week, we climb out of bed, brave another day at the workplace, and then drive home to spend a few hours in recovery. We steal a few moments of silence to prep for another day of prolonged socializing.
Modern technology has offered a possible escape from this continuous cycle: telecommuting. The internet, cell phones, and communication programs have granted 24% of American workers the ability to work from home. In their PJs. With bunny slippers. Wearing whatever floats their boat.
Before you imagine yourself in similar attire full-time, you should know most telecommuting jobs require the worker to go into the office at least a fraction of the time. How absent you will be from the energy-sapping office will be determined by the company. Here are a few different types of work from home opportunities:
- The ability to work from home without an on-site location.
- The ability to choose how long you work off-site.
- The ability to work from home for a certain number of hours a week.
The benefits of telecommuting
Regardless of what circumstance the prospective telecommuting opportunity falls into, now more than ever large groups of introverts have been given permission to control every aspect of their environment. The ability to work from home grants introverts the agency to decipher when and where they will work most efficiently.
For some introverts it might be alone at home, but for others it might be a combination of home and a sparsely populated coffee shop or library. Regardless of the actual location, the end result is the same: introverts are granted enough alone time to potentially ward off some of the negative health effects of an isolation deficit. Improving mental and physical health not only feels good, but it can also significantly increase work efficiency.
The danger of telecommuting
Introverts must approach the opportunity to telecommute carefully. Unfortunately motivation and the ability to work efficiently is tied to an individual receiving proper social interaction. For introverts who live alone and only hang with friends a day or two a week, the stressful workplace might be the only activity preventing chronic loneliness.
Loneliness leads to many mental and physical health issues that can detract from the quality of your personal and professional work life. Chronic loneliness:
- increases stress levels
- decreases the ability to learn
- decreases memory capacity
- decreases sleep quality
- increases the chances of developing depression
Yes, introverts may be more susceptible to loneliness, but don’t cross telecommuting off your “to do” list yet. Now you simply know the danger you will be facing in the future. The good news is, if you yearn for a telecommuting opportunity, you can take measures to ensure that the lack of work-enforced social interaction does not lead to isolation.
Now is not the time to hide from your emotions. If you take a telecommuting position, spend a few moments every day analyzing how you feel physically and mentally. If you notice a sudden inability to sleep, an increased amount of stress, or a sudden decrease in how restorative social interaction has been in the past, it might be a sign that you’ve been spending too much time cooped up in the house alone.
Increase social interaction
One way to combat the loneliness you experience is to increase the amount of time you spend interacting with people outside of work. A sharp decrease in social interaction while working should mean that you have more energy to interact with friends, family, acquaintances, and the public.
What this will look like will be highly dependent on the person. Balance low stress activities like hanging with friends with higher stress activities like signing up for a new class (cooking or sports). In the end, when it comes to how you socially recharge, choose an activity that you know or think you will genuinely enjoy. The key here is to increase the chances you will be able to “talk yourself into” attending the event.
Work on-site or with co-workers when possible
Another easy solution to prevent loneliness is to opt for a part-time telecommuting gig rather than a full-time one. The fact that you will continue to have forced conversations at work will lead to less of a chance you might experience loneliness or depression.
Bottom line: If you know you lack both the ability to analyze your own emotions and the ability to increase social interactions outside of work, you probably shouldn’t sign up for a full-time telecommuting gig. For the unwary introvert, full-time telecommuting can be loneliness and depression waiting to happen.
But for many introverts, telecommuting is a great option. It allows them a reprieve from the energy-sucking social requirements of office life. Just make sure you’re aware of the dangers and you take care to navigate your new work arrangement thoughtfully.
Are you an introvert? What’s your personality type? We recommend this free, quick test from our partner Personality Hacker.