I no longer have to endure the powerful social pressure imposed upon me from sitting in an open office surrounded by people I am not close with.
As an introvert working for a corporation with a very extroverted culture that often makes me feel out of my element, when it was announced three weeks ago that we would all start working from home, I felt a tremendous relief and delight in my heart. It was like a triumph for us “quiet ones” who had been suffering from office life for far too long.
Most of the time, how I am situated in the company’s structure makes me feel like an outsider, and a meeting-obsessed culture that highly values social interaction adds another layer of discomfort to my work life.
It is not enough to just get the job done. I often feel negatively judged simply because I don’t speak the corporate language or present myself like the others, whose extroverted dispositions naturally fit the culture.
Whenever I am physically in the office, my actual responsibility is not the only thing I worry about — the expectation of social engagement is always lurking in the background. I know I am doing my job, and doing it well, but the office environment makes me all-too-aware that my quietness is too strange to be ignored. I can feel that it is perceived by my coworkers and supervisors as an “issue,” and sometimes I force myself to talk to people just so I don’t look like a complete alien.
Working From Home Is My Heaven
Therefore, as my fellow introverts can probably imagine, this new remote working reality really works in my favor. Although I hate the circumstances that brought it (a worldwide pandemic), I find it a form of rescue sent by the universe, as I am suddenly free from all those problems that used to bring me so much discomfort on a daily basis.
I no longer have to endure that intangible yet powerful social pressure imposed upon me sitting in an open office surrounded by people I am not close with neither professionally nor personally. No more corporate setting, just my own private space, the haven that sustains me as an introvert.
I no longer have to worry about running into people in the kitchen or anywhere else inside or near the office building. I can finally enjoy my tea and lunch breaks in peace without any enforced social interactions. No more waiting impatiently and hungrily for the kitchen to clear, and no more small talk awkwardness — just me resting or enjoying some time together with my husband.
I am no longer disturbed by loud chit chat around me or irritated by the music played in the office. I simply cannot work and concentrate well with noises like those. At home, I don’t have colleagues hovering near my desk oversharing about their private lives or talking about things I have zero interest in — and now I choose what kind of music to listen to.
I no longer have to worry about being dragged into meetings full of faces I do not recognize because I have not been given any prior context. For someone who hates meetings and only talks when it is absolutely necessary, online meetings/calls — though still dreadful and awkward at times — are more bearable. Not being physically present together somehow reduces the amount of pointless exchanges between people.
Also, when a meeting ends, it ends. There are no more prolonged conversations on your way back to your desk.
It’s Improved Both My Work and Personal Life
While working in the office, I was always left with a feeling of unease due to the social pressure I had to cope with, knowing how my quietness was negatively viewed. Now, all those introvert office nightmares do not bother me as much anymore. Without crowds of other human beings around, there are no longer inconsiderate disturbances so unpleasant that I want to scream.
Stripped of those issues, it not only enables me to focus on my work better, but it also makes me happier and healthier in general. It helps that I can truly take quiet, energy-recharging and soul-enriching breaks whenever needed.
Without the hassle of commuting back and forth five days a week, I am also able to rest more and have more time to myself, which has dramatically helped my physical and mental health.
I have always found traveling in herds and going into the same office every day miserable and unbelievable. Working remotely means no more before-the-day worries about what to bring for lunch and what to wear the next day, and with the early morning scramble out the window, I have stopped feeling tired and drowsy during the day.
More time means more freedom. Now, with all the extra time I wished for in the past, I finally have the space and right state of mind I need to nourish my creative soul. Mornings are ideal for gathering my thoughts, and I can always switch off from work in an instant and dive right into my own creative world after 6 p.m.
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This Is Still a Really Hard Time
It’s true that so far, working from home has been a positive change for me, and I am extremely grateful for it as I know I am one of the lucky ones to be able to feel this way. I am aware that this is an enormously challenging time for a lot of people, even other introverts.
Most people do need that social boost from time to time, and for some, the home is simply not a suitable place to work or a sanctuary that can provide peace of mind. People living in shared homes are faced with the additional challenge of being confined in the same space with their family or roommates day in, day out — thus getting little restorative alone time.
Meanwhile, many people have lost their jobs (unemployment levels in the U.S. and U.K. may be worse than those of the Great Depression), while others aren’t even physically safe in their own homes (domestic abuse worldwide is on the rise since the pandemic began). There are also people living on their own who might be experiencing the greatest loneliness ever.
I am also thinking about the countless frontline workers who cannot work from home, from doctors and nurses to supermarket clerks and delivery drivers. I have nothing but great respect and gratitude for them because they are risking potential exposure to the virus everyday to help keep us safe.
With the global health crisis getting worse each day in front of our eyes, I’m certainly not leading a trouble-free life. Deep down, I am greatly saddened by what is happening and terrified of the level of uncertainty and chaos we are all in. Working from home suits me well, but when normal life suddenly becomes so different, it is a scary thing to come to terms with on all levels.
I hate going to the office and dealing with meaningless social interaction, but I do miss the freedom of going out for a nice cup of coffee and not having to worry about where to buy groceries and how to get a hold of hand sanitizer. When Chelsea Wolfe’s acoustic gig in London got canceled in March, I felt truly heart broken, as it was the most-anticipated concert for me this year. I also wonder when I can travel again to visit my family.
It’s Time to Rethink the Office
This unprecedented time may leave us feeling like we’re walking in darkness, but I’m trying to use this enforced social distancing as a light within. It illuminates the fact that a home-based job, or a more introvert-friendly job at least, is what I need for my wellbeing.
When we come out of this, companies should rethink their focus on the collective office and implement new ways of flexible working that finally give employees true work-life balance. Now that we have experienced how much of our work can be done remotely, it’s going to be hard to go back to the way things used to be.
At times, the world was way too noisy, crowded, and materialistic for me to cope. Now that we are all being forced to go back to the basics, maybe it is time to inject some much-needed stillness into the earth, which would benefit us all in the long run. I don’t know how soon we can be free of this pandemic, but I know that I will take good care of myself and make use of each moment during this period — from home.