Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Coping as an introvert at work

For introverts like me it's really difficult to work in an open-plan office. Maybe you're even highly sensitive - this makes it even worse.
On the other hand it also greatly depends on your coworkers. A group of programmers, working concentrated and each listening to music is vastly different to a group of people who regularly have conference calls and team work throughout the room.
Here I'll try to give you some ideas of how to cope when it gets too much.

Listen to music
This helps me a lot at the moment. I can't just not listen when I hear people talk all around me and it agitates me when they talk bs, like about a scientific issue they have no idea about or dissing others. Since I started to stream radio on the internet I often feel much more relaxed. Actually the company officially doesn't allow this, I think, but since no one complained yet...
Another possibility, of course, is bringing your own headphones and iPod.

Shift your time at work
This isn't always possible, I know. I commute a lot and am a night owl, so being there early is extra difficult. But recently I found that if I can get to bed early enough, it's worth it. It's a lot quieter and even if your coworkers are already there, probably it's the people who also enjoy some quiet time to work and usually there aren't any conference calls scheduled. Plus you get out of work earlier.
You could also get to work later and stay longer. It really depends on your individual situation.

Change your lunch break

I also found that having my lunch break at a different time leaves you with an blissfully empty office when the others are having their lunch.
Unfortunately in this extroverted society it often looks bad when you spend your lunch break alone. Career advice often tells you to use it to move up. But maybe you can find some different coworkers to eat with - you won't be eating alone, it might give you a chance to learn new things and I found it really makes it a bit easier to spend time with other people than the ones you are around for the other eight hours.
Or maybe you can leave your workplace during lunch time and take a walk outside?

If you have something to talk about with a coworker who's in another office - go there and talk directly with them. Yes, maybe it's easier to write an email, epsecially for introverts. But depending on where they work, the time you need to get there is precious time away from your office. If the others wonder about it, just tell them that it's healthier (which it is) and often more effective.

Seek out empty places
Haven for introverts: the toilet! Socially accepted time alone. And most likely no one will question you if you need a little more time than usual.
I also found staircases to be calming. In bigger office buildings there's often that staircase at the back that hardly gets used by anyone. Use that one. Take your time walking up and down the stairs, take breaks, breathe and enjoy the silence.

Get a laptop
If possible maybe you can use a laptop instead of a desktop office computer. Maybe you can argue with your boss that you need one to have all your data with you when going into meetings. When you have one you can get away from the noise and work in empty conference rooms or the cantina.
I just requested one, so I'm curious how it'll work out for me.

What do you do when you have to get away from people at work? Do you have any more ideas? Please comment and share them.

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