Extroverts, the real victims of remote working: how are they coping?

Those who draw energy from people and the environment around them, tend to become lifeless when confined to their homes

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If humans are social animals, extroverts are the torchbearers. In any organisation, the extroverts are the ones who draw from the energy around them and are stimulated to work. For such social people, going out and meeting different people is an integral part of their personality. Several surveys confirm that such outgoing people thrive at workplaces and go on to hold key leadership positions.

“Remote working has had a negative impact on extroverts, with many even slipping into depression.” 

Prasad Kulkarni, SVP – human resources, Citco Group

And then 2020 happened! A pandemic confined everyone to their homes. Did this take a toll on these extroverts who prefer working with people in a physical surrounding? Did the change in work format impact their productivity? What are the challenges that they faced during the new normal?

Prasad Kulkarni, SVP – human resources, Citco Group, reveals that it has had a negative impact on extroverts, with many even slipping into depression.

The effect of the pandemic has been different on different people, depending on their nature. Extroverts are more impacted because there is no social ecosystem anymore. They feel anxious and concerned. Whether that is really impacting their productivity, is not certain, but it definitely does it impact their morale, to some extent. That is because, conversation points have reduced.

“Inability to pursue their interests and lack of forum to meet people has led to stress, and thereby, distraction among extroverts.”

Balachandar NV, executive director, Ashok Leyland

Agrees Balachandar NV, executive director, Ashok Leyland. “Inability to pursue their interests and lack of forum to meet people has led to stress, and thereby, distraction among extroverts.”

“Although they understand that the threat is bigger, however no social outings for months have impacted their morale. People worked online earlier too, but there were enough opportunities to take breaks. The travel time has also been taken away. The blurring divide between work and personal life is only adding to the woes,” he adds.

The question is, how are they coping and how are organisations helping them? While HR experts cannot be sure whether any of these changes influenced their productivity, they did throw light on how such people are being looked after.

“Our leaders have been holding their teams together and have been creative in coming up with virtual activities. However, the problem still remains. Extroverts still want to meet people and socialise, because they tend to draw energy from around them and multiply the same. Getting that energy in the virtual mode doesn’t work.”

Aniruddha Khekale, group human resources director, Emerson Automation Solutions

Aniruddha Khekale, group human resources director, Emerson Automation Solutions, reveals that they haven’t done anything different from other organisation per se. “Our leaders have been holding their teams together and have been creative in coming up with virtual activities, such as BYOB, Catch-Up and others. However, the problem still remains. Extroverts still want to meet people and socialise, because they tend to draw energy from around them and multiply the same. Getting that energy in the virtual mode doesn’t work,” says Khekale. He also adds, however, that such extroverts have figured out alternative means to be social or outgoing. In fact, they have become more adaptive. Social media came in handy for these people, and helped them lead a life beyond work.

Kulkarni, who is a social person himself, recounts how being with family helped him during the first lockdown. “Personally, I also like to talk and interact with people a lot. I call my friends and colleagues frequently. There are ways and means to engage oneself. Initially, it was a challenge but the best part was that I came to Pune. Being with family helped and absence of socialising didn’t bother me much. In the first lockdown, I attended seven to eight online seminars,” recounts Kulkarni.

“We built cross-functional teams. In India, we tried Virtual Time-outs — no official discussions, but just connecting over pizza. That has limitations too as people aren’t at the same place.”

Anurag Verma, VP-HR

As for his organisation, many counselling sessions and exercises were conducted where people could talk to others, especially through the EAP services for physical and mental health. They were conducted not just for the employees but for their family members as well. Many seminars or trainings witnessed regular participation from extroverts, which gave them an opportunity to talk to different people. They became active on social media, sharing their experiences there.

At Uniphore, the first Friday of the month is a Mental Day Off. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there are no meetings, e-mails or conversations about work. That gives the employees time to rejuvenate. Recently, at the US office, since most of them are vaccinated and the government there has relaxed norms, small teams of five to six people, with all social distancing measures in place, organised a few hikes. Anurag Verma, VP-HR, reveals, ‘We built cross-functional teams. In India, we tried Virtual Time-outs — no official discussions, but just connecting over pizza. That has limitations too as people aren’t at the same place.”

“We have a few R&R initiatives which are completely digital, such as the Masterstroke, which is a video recognition series. Then there’s Inquisitive, a virtual quiz contest. We also do something called expert Talks — virtual learning sessions by our internal experts — to keep employees engaged.”

Paramjit Singh Nayyar, CHRO, Bharti AXA General Insurance

Recollecting an incident about an employee, Verma shared that a couple of people did approach him as they were finding it difficult to handle the monotony. To them he recommended looking at their interests and passions that they couldn’t pursue because of time crunch. One of them revealed that during his school days, he used to pursue music and jam often. “I said ‘brilliant, order something online and it can be delivered.’ He took my advice and rekindled his passion. This helped refuel his interest both at the personal and professional front,” Verma recalls.

Verma is also thinking of creating passion clubs inside the organisation to let people come together to pursue common passions, such as cycling and others. After all, “it is more about suggesting individual solutions to work on,” says Verma.

Bharti AXA General Insurance, on the other hand, has come up with a series of virtual activities to keep the employees engaged. Paramjit Singh Nayyar, CHRO, shares, “We have a few R&R initiatives which are completely digital, such as the Masterstroke, which is a video recognition series. Then there’s Inquisitive, a virtual quiz contest. We also do something called expert Talks — virtual learning sessions by our internal experts — to keep employees engaged.”

Ashok Leyland too provided outlet through 43 virtual clubs covering varied interests. Balachandar asserts that they have been a resounding success.

Organisations may not be looking at the well-being of extroverts in an isolated manner, but they are coming up with activities that can keep them interested. However, now that several companies have announced perpetual work from home, will these people reach a breaking point?

While Kulkarni agrees that if continued longer, it WFH may start impacting their productivity, Verma is certain the challenges are only going to multiply. “When people say it will be the new normal, I tend to disagree. It cannot replace the normal. These are constraints and we aren’t built to work under such constraints. It’s been a year and half in India. If it continues for another 7-8 months, it will become a challenge. Unlike in other developed countries, where people go to the countryside on weekends, in India people live in confined spaces. It will definitely have a huge impact,” says Verma.

He hopes with faster vaccination and hybrid work culture such a situation can be averted.

While there’s no data to link lack of socialising to lessening of productivity in extroverts, this class of people do seem to have been hit the most due to remote working. This has led organisations to intervene.

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