I Need Alone Time at Work
Are you an introverted classy career girl? Do you just want some alone time at work? I get it, being an introvert can be overwhelming and at times, frustrating. At my previous career in the public sector, I led a group of four extroverts. Over the years, there were a number of interesting challenges working in such a contrasting dynamic, my diplomatic way of saying a “recipe for disaster.”
We gained a lot of valuable insight and interpersonal skills from each other. Below are some of the daily encounters that we learned in order to be a high performing team.

Here is how to handle the day when you are an introvert working with extroverts:

When I arrive at the office, my ideal routine would be to read my inbox and plan out my schedule for the day. I prefer to do so in silence so I can focus. My team loved to start to mornings off by talking about what they did the night before. Even if they just went home and ate dinner, somehow there was so much to say! They shared their opinion on the latest current event and what they planned to do over the weekend, to include organizing the next happy hour.
They had the amazing ability to produce quality work through the chattering (aka distractions) which typically lasted throughout the day. I on the other hand, had a hard time focusing with the background noise, let alone multitasking.
If I could have had it my way, I would have had my own office instead of sitting in the cubicle setting. But not only do I lack the seniority, it would be detrimental to our team’s work quality based on the constant need for interdependent coordination.

Morning Tip #1: Be Present From the Start

I found a balance through participating in the morning chit chat for a few minutes while waiting for my computer to log on. I love my team and genuinely do want to know about what’s going on with them in order to get to know them on a personal level. I learned to be present in the conversation despite itching to get to my routine and alone time.

Morning Tip #2: Make it Clear You Are Starting Your Daily Tasks

After at least 10 minutes of shooting the breeze, I eased out of the conversation by turning towards my computer screen to start my daily tasks. The physical turn and lack of eye contact gave them the indication that I was going into my zone. No one took offense because I’ve given them my undivided attention. I also didn’t feel like an anti-social butterfly by just heading straight to my desk to check my morning inbox.

Morning Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Bow Out

Sometimes, they just want to continue as I’m trying to bow out of the conversation so I’ll say something along the lines of, “That’s interesting but let me just respond to these emails first and I’ll get back to you on that.” Sometimes, the conversation does not pick up once meetings get in the way, other times it naturally picks up again the next morning. Win-win.

And then……the afternoon…..

It’s a party during lunch hour at my office. Most days, I felt drained from a series of urgent phone calls and meetings all morning that required my undivided attention. Thus, I preferred to recharge with alone time. While the team wanted to grab lunch with others, I much rather eat in silence, read the newspaper or go for a walk.

Afternoon Tip #1: Stick To a 2 Time Per Week Lunch Rule

At least twice a week, I would join in the lunch shindig. If we were going out to a restaurant to eat, I told the others I would meet them there after I finish up a task at hand. That way, I could fit in the alone time or even walk to the meet up location, be it the cafeteria or restaurant, by myself.

Afternoon Tip #2: Don’t Feel Bad When You Decline

On other days of the week, I simply declined. I would either say that I needed to leave the office at a decent hour by working through lunch or that I need the alone time.

Afternoon Tip #3: Escape For “Alone Time” Breaks

Throughout the day, I also took breaks by reaching out to other colleagues for a walk, going on a walk by myself, or going to the gym.
And into the early evenings…
By 2:30pm each day, it was noticeably louder in the office as folks began to hit the afternoon sugar low. After a busy day of meetings, presentations, and more meetings, I was ready to mentally check out as well.
The team’s way of letting off steam was to go to happy hour and/or dinner. I preferred to go to yoga, read a book, or just eat dinner in front of the TV. Sometimes, I would just rather have dinner with a friend from outside of work as I’ve already spent nine hours with the gang and needed my space.

Evening Tip #1: Communicate Socializing Boundaries After Work

I am typically depleted at the end of the workday regardless of how busy or slow the day goes. Thus, I draw firm boundaries when it comes to socializing after work hours. I joke with the team that I would fall asleep at the bar standing up because I’m just that drained. They get it as we’ve all worked hard all day.

Evening Tip #2: Never Miss Celebrations

However, if there was an actual celebration, be it a promotion, farewell, or birthday, I would join in on the happy hour no matter what. At the same time, if there was already a celebration during work hours, I gave myself permission to decline.

Evening Tip #3: Respect Your Differences

The most important lesson as an introvert leading a group of extroverts was accepting and respecting our differences. I decided that it did not have to be black or white. Initially, it was extremely frustrating to work through. I use to feel suffocated and my “people pleaser” mentality created a sense of guilt for being “anti-social” when I was just being my introverted self.
Once in a while, our office would have moments of tension as it was always a work in progress. Later on, as I learned to accept our differences, I also learned to appreciated their extroverted nature. Whether they meant to or not, they taught me how to step out of my shell and learn to turn on my extroverted side when it was time to network or give a group presentation.
One thing I know for sure, what looked like a nightmare the day I first walked in to our office, turned out to be an ideal work environment. Not bad for a silver lining!

How do you get your alone time at work? Any tips we missed?

Hi, I'm Anna!

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