At Home or in Office?

More companies are requiring employees to return to the office, either full time or part time. Self-proclaimed introverts explain how they view the return to the office.

CREDIT: Moor Studio

Why I Love the Return to the Office

By Emily Carney, SWE Editorial Board

I appreciate the unique benefits my colleagues share about their remote work, yet I wish they were working in the office with me. Without them, I often sit at my desk feeling uncertain, with my thoughts echoing against the empty spaces of my office environment.

You might not expect an introvert like me to prefer working in the office. But the purpose of work seems clearer in the office, and the pace of work feels more productive. There is more physical movement in my day and more variety in my environment.

However, there needs to be a critical mass of employees working in person together to create this energy; otherwise, the office environment can feel dreary, inequitable, and awkward.

The “Women in the Workplace 2023” report¹ by McKinsey & Company in partnership with indicates the top five benefits of on-site work are:

  • You feel more personally connected to your co-workers.
  • You have better access to work resources and equipment.
  • You have an easier time collaborating with co-workers.
  • You are better able to coordinate and communicate cross-functionally.
  • You have more opportunities to hear from and/or interact with senior leaders.

I can attest to the benefits of on-site work. For example, seeing my colleagues in person allows me to interpret their energy and mood instantly, and in more dimensions than an instant message emoji. As a leader, I can modify my inquiries and requests to my co-workers based on nonverbal and environmental cues. If someone is having a tough day, I have the opportunity to console them and build trust. Non-urgent requests can wait for another day.

As an introvert, I appreciate quiet, focused time. Instant messages feel intrusive to me when I’m working on a focused task. Sometimes I hesitate to send a message because I’m concerned it will interrupt my colleague at the wrong time. In the office, I have more information on the best times to engage with colleagues based on their body language and availability.

Finally, working in person makes problem-solving more fun. I create levity when solving tough cross-functional problems by starting workshops with music. I create opportunities for participation with whiteboards, markers, and Post-it notes. Online collaboration tools are less effective and often a source of frustration.

I invite you to join me in the office.

About the author
Emily Carney (she/her) works in manufacturing continuous improvement at uniQure, a global leader in gene therapy. She graduated from Tufts University with a B.S. in environmental engineering and an M.S. in engineering management. An active SWE member based in Boston, Massachusetts, Carney serves on the SWE editorial board.

Why I Am More Energized by Working Virtually

By Marcie Mathis, SWE Editorial Board

In March 2020, when it seemed as if the world was shutting down as a result of the pandemic and many of us began to work at home, I had no trouble adjusting to this arrangement. However, once we started going back to our offices, I struggled with the change. This was at least in part because of my introversion. I have taken several personality tests over the years, and I always come out very strongly introverted on the extrovert-introvert scale.

Several studies have shown that introverts are more likely to prefer working at home than are extroverts. It may be due to the type of work introverts fit into well, which is often work that involves focus and introspection and requires a calm environment. Being in my office includes distractions, small talk with co-workers, and questions being shouted over the cubicle partitions, among other interruptions, which can be exhausting for an introvert.

Some of the reasons introverts do well working virtually are likely shared by extroverts, such as time saved by not commuting, not having a formal dress code, having more flexible lunch options, and being more in control of one’s schedule.

Additionally, an introvert might have specific reasons to prefer working at home. An article penned by Kate Morgan, a features correspondent with the BBC, titled “Why introverts excelled at working from home,” offers a perspective from career coach Beth Buelow, author of The Introvert Entrepreneur. Buelow said that introverts pay a price for each social interaction throughout the day. “That cost dipped considerably with the shift to remote work. They’re not recharging when they’re in the office and stimulated all the time,” she said. “Just by virtue of having the solitude at home, you have more opportunities, more balance. Your alone-to-social-time ratio is much healthier.”

For me it helps that at home it is just me and my cat. It also helps that my work group is not a team working on one project; we are a team working toward a common goal with mostly individual projects. When we need to collaborate it is easily done virtually or by phone. Much of my work, either on-site or virtually, involves being buried in spreadsheets and communicating
via email.

When we started coming in to work once a week, I found this hybrid work model also worked well for me. It gave my group one day to all be in the office and connect, while keeping my much-needed quiet work time on most days.

Introverts are all different and have a variety of jobs. There are no hard and fast rules. While I find working from home great, I understand it isn’t true for all introverts. As employers begin to require more of us to be in the office, I hope they consider flexible schedules, hybrid workplaces, and other ways to create an environment conducive to ensuring that all employees thrive.

About the author
Marcie Mathis (she, her) is a graduate of the University of Washington with a B.S. in electrical engineering. She works at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Washington. Mathis joined SWE in 1988 as a student. She serves as a co-lead of the SWE LGBTQ+ and Allies affinity group and as a member of the editorial board.