The pandemic has proven that remote work models suit many companies and a large subsection of their employees. One group that has particularly benefited from this great awakening are the introverts among us. I consider myself a part of this group, and as businesses weigh a return to the workplace policy--either part or full time--you should consider how to retain and reward this quiet army of employees who flourished during the work-from-home mandates.

These are people who relish the lack of constant forced physical interactions, and many of them were stressed before we'd even heard of Covid-19 to see companies moving away from private offices to open plans and cubicles.

Open workplaces are supposed to foster teamwork. But the reality is, for every person who loves office birthday cakes and those not-mandatory-but-you-really-should attend happy hours, there are several people who would prefer to get their work done and go home. Some of these people find mandated "fun" to be the opposite of fun, and in many cases, draining.

Finding Freedom in Isolation

For many, the isolation that comes from remote working provides freedom over their office hours--allowing them to get assignments done before breakfast and after dinner as needed to facilitate child and elder care tasks. Or they might just be night owls who are most productive from 5 p.m. till midnight.

A related bonus of remote work for these people is not having to sweat the watchful eyes of traditional managers who still equate being in the office with actual productivity. Often the opposite is true. Introverts like to have the time and space to think things through, often in ways that benefit their companies.

This is a quiet workforce--people who don't call attention to themselves but get the job done--and they're a constituency that companies must embrace and empower.

Empowering the Introverts of the Workforce

Of course, you still need key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics to ensure that projects and tasks are completed well and on time, but that is completely doable using today's workplace tools. Under remote work mandates, introverts have probably shown greater productivity than their extrovert analogs, since they don't really care about hanging out with associates, either in person or via Zoom. They just got their work done.

The great news for managers is that fewer in-person meetings with those self-motivated team members gives managers more time to confer with their more extroverted--some might say needy--reports, and to train new recruits.

Prioritizing Workforce Wellness Both At-Home and In-Office

That being said, you should check in occasionally with all employees to assess their mindsets and moods. Some research shows introverts may suffer more mental health issues than their more outgoing colleagues during the shutdowns.

You should make sure to keep lines of communication open, though you should consider using one-on-one chats with introverts as opposed to massive Zoom calls. That will make it easier for you to keep an eye on your introvert workers' level of burnout, and other mental health issues that may be affecting their work.

If you see a worker that needs help, you can do things like encouraging them to take paid time off (PTO) so they can have time away from work to recharge. Or, you can make sure your workers have access to online mental health services such as virtual therapy.

Developing a personal relationship this way may also give you insight into how worries at home are affecting work, and how you can provide support.

Establishing a Future of Flexibility

As you assess your teams with an eye on the end of remote work mandates, you should allow your introvert stars to control how they want to work going forward. If an excellent performer wants to keep working from home full time or four days a week, make it so.

Flexibility is the key to retaining great people. The single most important thing to remember as we navigate the future of work is that, when it comes to raises, bonuses, and promotions, employees must be rewarded based on their accomplishments, not their personalities or their degree of sociability. Productivity, not the fun factor, is what matters.