There’s no two ways about it, where we work can massively impact our performance, perception of work and our mental health.
In 2018/19 alone, 12.8 million working days were lost in Great Britain, due to stress, depression or anxiety.
With the impact of COVID-19, many businesses now look to remote working, co-working or Flexspace as an alternative to traditional office space in a bid to cut costs and adhere to government guidelines.
Not all employees are thrilled with the changes. (Especially those of us that were enjoining lock down a little too much!!) We look at what co-working means to introverts and if it can work.
Working remotely as an introvert certainly has its advantages; no awkward tea station conversations or loud, overpowering environments that make it hard to concentrate. If you’re like me and often think about and plan every task meticulously before you get started, you can do so happily, at your own pace, within your own, safe sanctuary of home, no external stresses to bear!
Introverts and Working Remotely
Different traits will vary from person to person, but introverts often prefer to work alone, or at least have the opportunity to do so when required. We like peace and harmony, and a space to work and recharge. Unlike our extroverted friends, who feed off the energy of others and love lively environments. Long or intense office conversations can drain us quickly, and we may find ourselves in need of solitude.
(When we work from home, there is none of this stress! My cat occasionally invades my personal boundaries, but he’s cute, and gets away with it!)
Even at 40 years old, I still have that feeling of dread when walking into a new office! Like a school kid on first day of term. What will I say? How many people will there be?! What if I look stupid?! The butterflies, the sweats, the palpitations! Then I arrive and it’s never usually as bad as I had anticipated! The worry is exhausting though!
Working remotely also has its drawbacks. Without the pressure of office employees watching over you, or an environment specifically designed for work, it’s easy to begin daydreaming, which can quickly turn into procrastination and very quickly, veering of track! There are days when literally everything, even the laundry is more appealing than the work task in hand!
This can then inadvertently lead to stress.
Poor time management, missed targets and a difficulty staying focused can all be bi-products of home working.
In this instance a coworking space or some kind of structured environment may be the ideal solution — (if we can make it work for our needs)
What Are Coworking Spaces?
Coworking spaces work differently from a regular office.
They’re defined as a space where people come to work independently or in small groups on a project. Often on an adhoc basis, pay as you go basis. They’re an excellent initiative for freelancers who don’t like to or can’t feasibly work from home, and for startups, or small companies that don’t want to rent out a huge office space or don’t have the budget to do so.
However, the fundamentals of coworking spaces and the office spaces are similar. Both settings mean that you’re surrounded by people for long periods, in environments you can’t control.
So can introverts really be happy coworking, or is this our idea of hell?
The Advantages of Coworking Spaces
One of the biggest advantages of coworking spaces is networking. If you’re just starting out and looking to make contacts in the same line of work, this is a great way to meet new people and build your business directory. This may seem daunting for us introverts, but it’s actually easier than attending one off networking events or cold calling (my actual idea of hell!!!
Being thrust into a room of strangers in a bid to sell yourself and business within a short time frame?! Pass me the brown paper bag?! I can’t breathe!)
Over time, crossing paths with the same people, especially those that are aligned with the same business ethic and ethos as you, you will naturally build a rapport and business relations can blossom.
As I mentioned above, procrastination is the bane of remote working! Anyone can become a little too comfortable with home working. Hours become a little more flexible, you stay in bed a little longer to take advantage of no commute, stay in your PJ’s (which is not conducive to getting in the business mindset!!), shower at 10am and before you know it, its lunch time! The to-do list is no smaller but you’ve watched 42 Youtube videos and checked the fridge 7 times!
Coworking spaces are a great way to avoid this entirely. When surrounded by people who are also working hard, you’ll be influenced by them. It becomes increasingly difficult to sneakily watch a YouTube video, and you’ll feel much guiltier scrolling down social media when everyone else around you is working.
If you’re an introvert who struggles to focus, (definitely me!) then some sort of flexible office arrangement could be beneficial. If nothing more than to get you away from the distractions of home and into a more focused environment.
Coworking spaces differ from a regular office because they’re so much more flexible and you don’t have to sign a lease agreement. You can choose the hours to work, much like you would if you were working from home. Choosing quieter hours or just a few hours initially can be advisable whilst you get used the space. Many centers are open 24 hours.
There are no strict office rules or regulations or a dress code. You’re still working for yourself and by your own rules; you’re just giving yourself a chance to stick to them.
Create a Routine
If you’re someone who needs a routine to work, then a coworking space or hot desk could work. As mentioned above, there’s lots of flexibility when working for yourself, but you need to be quite disciplined. By booking in a set amount of hours per week in an office or coworking hub, you have an allocated time to get on top of those essential tasks.
Introverts need a space to unwind and recharge. This is especially important for us to avoid burnout and work to our full potential. If you have somewhere else to work, then your time at home becomes precisely that; it becomes your safe haven.
The Disadvantages of Coworking Spaces
As mentioned above, one of the most significant advantages of coworking spaces is the ability to network. However, this can be a disadvantage for us introverts too.
We aren’t antisocial, as we often get labelled! Introverts thrive on social interactions. Whilst we can flourish independently and in small intimate groups, large over stimulating spaces can see us retreating into ourselves. We just have a lower dopamine threshold and therefore need to hit the reset button more regularly.
Co-working spaces lend themselves to small talk and casual conversation, not one of our favorite pastimes! If it’s a big space with a lot of people, this can create a bustling, overstimulating atmosphere — not the peaceful tranquility us introverts tend to crave.
This type of atmosphere can actually be hindrance to productivity, a breeding ground for anxiety and turn your coworking experience into hell.
Nowhere to Hide
If you’re working remotely from home and feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, it’s easy to retreat for an hour or two, take a break, read a book, and come back to things later. This is harder in a shared working environment. If you know you need to take a break, you may have to settle for a quick walk, or making a cup of tea. If you need to recharge, this can be overwhelming and frustrating.
However, these disadvantages don’t mean that you can’t make it work.
So, How Can You Make It Work?
Finding Those Like-Minded People
As introverts make up to 30-50% of the population, the chances are, you are in good company.
Many of the clientele will be freelancers, startups or small businesses, all with their own set of tasks to complete. So whilst there may be some idle chit chat over the coffee machine, the chances are, when you are working, you will be well and truly left alone. Just because you’re surrounded by people, it doesn’t mean you have to network or make awkward small talk. (Often our fear is much worse than reality!)
Find a Coworking Space That Suits Your Needs
It’s all about finding a space that suits your needs. You can always look for a coworking space that appeals to you. Often they can be industry specific, this can be especially advantageous for networking, looking to expand your business, or even honing your skills. Look at a space that may inspire you and actually increase your productivity and ambition. A space that offers set collaboration opportunities, but with limited capacity.
You might actually find yourself working more efficiently than you would at home.
Is Coworking a Haven or Hell for the Introvert?
Whether coworking is a haven or hell depends on the type of coworking space you find and also where you find yourself on the introversion-extroversion spectrum.
There is no one size fits all and it may be a case of trialing a few to see which, if any, work for you.
Everyone needs a quiet place at times, where they can get on with a designated task, without interruption or the feeling of becoming overwhelmed
Business environments all over the world will be transitioning to more flexible arrangements as we try to navigate these unusual times.
The best thing to remember is, it’s not permanent. If you find yourself in an environment that makes you uncomfortable, or hinders productivity look for an alternative solution.
Don’t be afraid to tell others how you are feeling. There is so much more understanding these days surrounding personality traits. Many bosses will work with you to customize a schedule and work environment that will see you working to your full potential.
If you are finding it perfectly fine working from home, hitting those targets, feel in a good headspace and business is going well. Then stay there! If something isn’t broken don’t try to fix it! We are many years at work, so at the end of the day, keep searching to find a solution that works best for you, your mental health and your business.