When COVID-19 thrust organizations into working from home, a new set of challenges emerged for leaders, including how to support introverts and extroverts in a virtual environment and compensate for a lack of in-person interactions.
Two leaders with opposite personalities— Publicis Sapient creative director of experience Greet Jans, an extrovert, and Publicis Sapient group experience director Eiko Kawano, an introvert—shed light on the lessons they learned while managing teams from afar, during a panel at the 3% Conference, “Rethinking Inclusivity.” Their experiences, and feedback from their teams, contradicted the assumptions they made at the onset of their teleworking journey, opening their eyes to the reality that vulnerability and experimentation beget an inclusive remote work environment, one free of Zoom fatigue and the pressure to constantly be on.
As an extrovert, Jans, who co-leads a team of 70 people in London, believed the increased connectivity that comes with teleworking would energize her. Half way through, however, Jans’ meeting fatigue kicked in: after a long day of calls, Jans felt too drained to partake in virtual happy hours and trivia nights, sometimes asking colleagues to attend on her behalf. Her reluctance to join, and decision to enter meetings audio-only, also stemmed from the embarrassment she felt, and seeming unprofessionalism, of having her three-year-old constantly around.
“The things that made me normally go, kept me sane and energised did not do the trick in this lockdown. But when you’re very open about it, your team feels empowered to make their own choices in the moment—video on/off and only attending work vs. all fun stuff,” Jans said.
Jans suggests leaders recognize when they feel burnout, and accept it’s okay for feelings to fluctuate in lockdown. The experience, she says, made both Jans and Kawano more vulnerable, very authentic and ultimately, better leaders.
Remote work also took its toll on Kawano, who manages a team of 30 from Toronto, and whose management style embodies personal connection. To understand how her and Jans’ team members were handling this new way of working, they surveyed members and managers about where they fell on the range of introversion and extroversion, and about their managerial styles, daily schedules and how they were caring for themselves and others. Fifty-six percent of respondents identified as introverts, 15 percent as extroverts and 30 percent as both.
The results revealed teleworking was impacting everyone differently.
“Linking the new ways of working to introvert vs. extrovert was not the answer. Be mindful and inclusive to all types and mindsets, and adapt to the changing environment. You simply can’t please everybody at the same time, and that’s okay,” Kawano said.
Kawano found it harder to replicate the informal and spontaneous interactions she valued before the pandemic and noticed some of her team members started turning off their video or stopped showing up altogether. This affected presenters, who, unable to see faces and rely on digital cues, lost confidence and felt isolated.
Both agree nothing replaces the serendipitous moments and short face-to-face check-ins, and that for remote work to thrive, constant experimentation, piloting new opportunities and being willing to fail are key.