How to survive an office job as an introvert

How to survive an office job as an introvert

In England open plan offices are the norm. I’ve never known any different and nor have most people I’ve spoken to about it. The idea of open plan offices is, I guess, to get everyone working as a team. To improve camaraderie and inspire collaboration.

And yeah, it is nice not having everyone closed off in their own separate offices – but sometimes working in an open plan office is hard. I think it can be especially hard for introverts, i.e. those who get their energy from quiet, alone time.

Long meetings, colleagues popping over to ask questions, constant instant messages and an abundance of small-talk can be challenging when, really, you would rather be working at home from your bed.

I’ve worked in an office environment for about six years now and while I do love the social aspect and open plan nature of my current company, it does come with its challenges.  

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How to survive an office job as an introvert

Getting to understand my introvert tendencies has helped me figure out what I need to do at work to manage my energy levels. If you struggle sometimes, hopefully there’s something here you can take away and use.

Make friends with your headphones

I’m not sure I would get much writing done at work without my headphones – they are a little barrier between you and the outside world. As mentioned in my productivity at work post, entering hermit mode is a must for me. Come off your instant messaging platform (in our case, Slack) close your email tab, stick your headphones and enjoy a little alone time, even if you are technically still surrounded by people.

Set expectations

If I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, either by workload or by conversation, I ensure I set expectations for anyone asking me for something. I’ll often say “I can’t look at X today, but I will make it a priority tomorrow”. Only you know where your limit is – your colleagues can’t read your mind. Informing other people of what you can and can’t do right now is therefore essential.

Prepare ahead of time for meetings

Oh meetings. Long periods of time with multiple people where you have to be engaged, contribute to the conversation and be on the ball. These can be tough when you’re already low on energy.

My tip for getting through meetings is to be as prepared as possible. Ensure you know roughly what the meeting is about beforehand and write some notes so you don’t have to think on your feet. And if you’re flagging during the meeting? Take a bathroom break, go make yourself a coffee, take a breath and be alone for a few minutes.

If you struggle to speak up in meetings, or get ideas afterwards when you have had time to process everything – don’t be afraid to email your ideas/thoughts to your manager.

Recharge your batteries

Take regular breaks and get out of the office when you can. Our team often pop out for walking breaks – this gives you valuable alone time that’s also away from a screen, bliss! And while lunchtimes are usually a chance to catch up with work friends, don’t feel bad if every now and then you need to break away from the group and go for lunch solo. Sometimes you just need to sit with yourself and breathe.

(Sanka gets it)

Can you escape?

OK, escape sounds a little dramatic – what I mean here is, are you confined to working in your office? I take my team out for ‘coffee and creative’ sessions now and then, plus we recently got laptops so we can escape to a meeting room if/when we really need to knuckle down with some writing.

If your company allows it, work from home some days or a nearby cafe. Sometimes just getting out of the office environment can revitalise you.

What do you struggle with in your job? Do you think open plan offices are fine or would you prefer your own office? 

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