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Heard the one about the Extravert who worked from home?

(Written pre Covid-19, but apart from the impact on some advice due to the current social distancing restrictions, these tips are still very relevant!)

Increasing numbers of us are moving towards flexible work. In fact, a recent study suggested that as many as 87% of us would prefer flexible work to fixed hours. Some work flexibly to better manage the demands of making a living whilst caring for younger or ageing family members, whereas others find a flexible working approach better suits their lifestyle – less commuting, better health or simply a desire to stay away from the office environment.

But one thing employers, employees and the self-employed can forget to consider is how differently our individual personalities react to working from home.

I’m an Extravert in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) framework and sometimes find it a real struggle to work effectively from home. I worked in teams for over 25 years before becoming self-employed and working from home. Sitting on my own in a cramped home-office feels flat. On bad days it feels oppressive. I miss the buzz and banter of my team mates, as well as the offers of doughnuts in the tea room, even when I was doing my best to eat healthily!

If you’re an Extravert, you’ll probably be nodding along. We Extraverts gain energy from being around and interacting with others. Long periods of time alone tend to drain our energy, leaving us demotivated and restless. In effect, we can lose our sparkle. That’s not to say Extraverts shouldn’t be alone. We can be easily distracted so it’s sometimes necessary to have time alone so we can concentrate and create the great work we know we’re capable of.

As with so much of life, it’s about balance. I need time alone so I can crack on and complete my to-do list. But I also need time with others to fire up my energy levels and inspire me. To manage this I create a strategy for my working time. Something to provide me with the interaction I require, and the peace, when I need it, for a more focused working day. Here are five of my favourite ways to balance interaction with time alone.

Home Working Tips for Extraverts

1. Plan bursts of work, interspersed with phone calls. If you’re able to walk around as you talk to take a break from your desk, then all the better.

2. Book one-to-one meetings away from the house. Is there a coffee shop you could go to? Find somewhere that stimulates your energy, but still allows you to be productive.

3. Attend networking meetings. Exchanging ideas and support with others helps lessen the feeling of isolation and gives you the sense of a virtual support team you can call upon.

4. Use local co-working groups. Working around others will fire your energy levels, making you more productive. I often find I’m buzzing with ideas after the great discussions and support I’ve had with others in these groups.

5. Schedule in breaks. Working flexibly should mean just that, so unless there’s a practical reason for you to be 100% desk-bound between 9am and 5.30pm, give yourself permission to be more flexible in your working hours. Schedule in breaks that get you out of the house and seeing others; whether that’s running errands, getting some exercise or even just call on a neighbour for a chat. You can then fit in your desk time at other points in the day, happy in the knowledge you’ve already done the shopping/gone for a swim or caught up with friends.

Timetabling these things into your schedule can prevent your energy levels from dipping too low and maintain a happy balance during your working week.

Over to You

I love hearing real life examples of how others make tricky situations work for them, so I’d be delighted if you could share a few thoughts:

What do you do to maximise your chances of a successful day working from home?

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