Growing up, I definitely never thought of myself as an introvert. In fact, one of the first words I used to describe myself was "outgoing" — I raised my hand in class, had friends, and was generally successful. Weren't introverts shy people who huddled in corners and had a phobia of public speaking? Not necessarily. It wasn't really until I got older and started working in offices that I realized what an introvert I'd become — and how much happier I would be working from home.
Now that I finally am, I've realized just how important it is to me that I continue to have the option to work remotely in any job I take (at least part of the time). If you've always felt a ping of jealousy whenever you meet people who work from home (or cafes, or the Bahamas, or wherever they damn well feel like it) then you might be someone who's happier working from home, too.
To find out more and corroborate my own experiences, I spoke with Barrie Sueskind, a Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with young women and clients with anxiety. Much (but not all) of being happier working from home comes down to being more introverted than you might think you are. Here are some important signs you might be happier working remotely.
Offices Always Eventually Make You Feel Caged — Even When They're Cool
This seems obvious, but you'd be amazed how good some of us are at denying this fact about ourselves. I've been lucky to work in some really cool offices — for a few years, my "office" wasn't even a traditional office, but a house with a roof deck. You'd think that would have been the same as working from home, right? While it was better than going to a traditional open office plan every day, I found that any office environment — "officey" or not — eventually drained me of my energy and sense of creativity and freedom. There is just something about being told I have to be in the same place — every day, for the same hours — that will always make me feel confined.
While the option to occasionally work from an office is nice, I've realized my issue is with the Truman Show nature of having to go to the same place, every day, Monday-through-Friday. If my job doesn't need to be done in that space in order to be done well (and that's a big if, of course) I will eventually come to resent it, no matter how "cool" my office is. Besides being confined, there are other emotional reasons for this. Which brings me to...
Being Around Groups Of People & Noise Tends To Leave You Drained
If you're an introvert, all the noise and humanity of an office — even if you have earbuds in — can leave you feeling incredibly emotionally drained. "If you return home from a social or work event where you were surrounded by people and breathe a sigh of relief, you might be more introverted than you realize. Interacting with others can be depleting, especially when it feels superficial," Sueskind tells Bustle. If watercooler talk gives you anxiety, this might be you.
When I worked in an office, I also had to commute on a packed subway train and walk home on loud, crowded streets. All that noise left me feeling emotionally-drained. I barely had energy to talk to anyone I wasn't on a grunting-basis with, simply because being around so many people all day — even when I wasn't talking to them — had depleted my reserves. If you're a highly-sensitive person or an introvert, chances are you're also more sensitive to noise than other people are. If it's hard for you to focus without quiet, or to do your job when other people are talking, then you might find you have more focus working remotely.
Now that I work from home, I'm able to gauge my people-time. When I need to recharge alone, I can. When I miss a collective vibe, I just head over to a cafe. I leave whenever I want, and it is that sense of freedom over my exposure to other people that leaves me feeling energized, rather than drained.
You Sometimes Like Being Sick, Simply Because It Means You Can Stay Home
This is another one that seems painfully obvious, but took me awhile to accept as a sign I needed to change my lifestyle. I would literally look forward to being sick sometimes, just because it meant I could stay home and not have to be in an office or deal with interacting with anyone but my partner. If you're at the point where you look forward to excuses like snowstorms and illness to work from home, you're probably not an office person.
You're Very Ambitious & Self-Directed
Any job working from home is going to require you be extremely focused and self-motivated. In 2016, Forbes contributor Mike Murphy and his firm, Leadership IQ, surveyed 3,478 employees using an online test called “Is Your Personality Suited To Working Remotely Or In The Office?” Employees were asked a variety of questions, including where they typically worked and how they felt about their jobs. Responders were asked to choose between two statements: "Being average in my work is a truly terrible thought for me; I like to be good at my work but I don’t need to be the absolute best.” Over 70 percent of remote workers felt it was a terrible thought to be average in their work, while just over 60 percent of office workers said the same. Personally, I know that I am an ambitious and self-directed person who is most motivated by proving myself to myself, rather than to other people.
You Get More Work Done When You're Remote
This is a really important one, and goes hand-in-hand with the above traits. Many people might prefer to work from home, but realize they aren't as productive when they do. If that's not the case for you — if you find you get more work done, in even less time, when you work from home — then you might be someone who thrives working remotely. Murphy and his team discovered that both mobile and telecommuting employees "are significantly more likely to say they’re willing to pull all-nighters than their office-based peers," and don't tend to have trouble meeting self-imposed deadlines.
If this sounds like something you'd be happy to do in exchange for never having to be in one place again, you might be happier working from home. That said, this might be the case for most people. Back in 2014, a nine-month study from Stanford found that remote work made most people happier, more productive, and less likely to quit their jobs.
You've Always Preferred Individual Assignments To Group Projects
If you were the kid who dreaded group assignments because being on a team only slowed you down, you might be the kind of self-directed introvert who'd be more productive working for themselves, or at least from home.
If team-building exercises and events at work leave you feeling similarly anxious and creatively-drained, you might also be better working on your own. "A week-long retreat with activities scheduled from morning until night would feel oppressive to an introvert. They need time to be alone with their thoughts," Sueskind says. "Being in groups can feel suffocating to an introvert. Our society rewards those who demonstrate leadership qualities such as confidence and assertiveness. Introverts have a host of valuable qualities that are often overlooked. They tend to be thoughtful, empathic, loyal, and good at solving problems when given the time to work things out on their own."
And you know what? That's OK! Being a team player, especially among women, is a glorified trait for good reason. All too often, however, I think women are judged for being individualistic workers who are more creative, happy, and productive on their own. There's nothing wrong with thriving solo — you just have to find work where that won't be counted against you.
Flexibility Is Worth More To You Than Status, Total Stability, Or Money
If you work from home — especially if you have to go freelance to do it — you are likely going to be giving up some stability, money, and status in exchange for more flexibility. While there's no way to know how OK with that you are until you try, if you suspect that the ability to work from any city at any time and not be tied to an office is worth more to you than a lofty title or paycheck, you may be happier giving up those status symbols and security in exchange for a greater sense of freedom in your life.
Or, you might find you're not. Either way, you won't know until you try. My humble opinion, as someone who's about to do just that? Life's too short to just be working for the weekends. If you can design your work around your ideal lifestyle, it's at least worth a shot. That way, if you have to end up back in an office, at least you'll know you tried to do things another way.