As masks come down and Covid restrictions ease, offices are opening their doors to employees again -- for some as an option, others as a requirement. There's been a lot of ink spent on the pros and cons of these hybrid work policies, much of which touches on three key considerations: safety, productivity, and employee preference.
That last one is a sticky wicket. The convenience of remote work has been a boon for many employees, happy to ditch long commutes and spend more time with kids and family at home. But there's another piece of the puzzle: The natural inclinations of introverted employees versus extroverts.
At first blush, you'd expect the extroverts to be clamoring for in-office, in-person work. That's not what Myers-Briggs discovered in a recent study detailed in The Wall Street Journal. In fact, they found something quite different: 82 percent of extroverted workers would prefer a hybrid work model, with 15 percent actually preferring full-time remote work. Self-described introverts, on the other hand -- a whopping 74 percent of them -- said they wanted to be in the office at least part-time.
CEOs and people leaders who are navigating our new normal should see a lesson here, namely that employee preferences aren't as black and white as management would like.
As one introverted employee, quoted in the article, noted: "At the end of the day, I want to be home by myself, but it doesn't mean you can't crave other people's company." Indeed, as Myers-Briggs's head of thought leadership, John Hackston, noted, the takeaway here is that new work models shouldn't be all or none -- or even as highly regulated as some managers would want. The control should land with employees.
The study is instructive on another level. Beyond the formal in-office/at-home work policies now being drafted and implemented, companies creating culture from the ground up should understand that inclusivity includes those of varying introverted and extroverted tendencies -- and that each employee's comfort level for engagement can be mapped on a scale, not bucketed into either/or categories.
At the end of the work day, culture -- in many ways being reborn as companies reconfigure in our ongoing digital transformation -- must be organic, not forced. Much as a CEO or leader may want meaningful relationship-building on an ongoing basis (both internally and with outside communities and partners), the way there cannot be forced. The better tack is to model healthy relationship-building at the top, to live the values that champion team members and community, and to share personal vision for growth and engagement.
Forcing introverts to engage in a specific way or extroverts to back off is a no-go. Leave room for those on the social engagement scale to find their own cultural fit as you model inclusivity in whatever working model best fits with your business needs.