Back to Work Survey: Introverts, Women and Non-Management Employees May Dread Going Back to the Office — While Leadership and Extraverts are Raring to Go

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on May 12, 2021

With vaccine rates increasing and a post-pandemic reality on the horizon, we wondered, “How are workers really feeling about going back to the office?” Turns out, it depends very much on who you ask.

In April 2021, Truity surveyed 3,244 people who have returned or are returning to the office after a period of remote work. The results uncovered some big gulfs about how employees feel about bringing back in-person meetings, fluorescent lighting and pants with zippers. 

The survey found key differences in responses based on job role, gender and personality type. Overall, men, senior managers and Extraverts are looking forward to returning to the office. As for women, non-management employees and Introverts? Not so much.  

The gulf in attitudes between these groups are likely further exacerbated by the fact that managerial ranks tend to skew male and be much more Extraverted, which may manifest in the development of misguided return-to-work policies. 

This disconnect was on full display with WeWork CEO’s comments to the Wall Street Journal, that engaged employees mainly want to go back to the office, while, “Those who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home.” 

In addition to the question of why anyone is taking advice from WeWork on how to run a company, the comment raises a series of questions about leaders' assumptions around employee attitudes to returning to work — and how biased assumptions may translate into misguided return-to-work policies. 

Take a look at some of the key findings from the Truity survey and read on for some tips on how companies and individuals can navigate these gulfs and make the return to normal more rewarding for everyone involved. 

Back to Work Survey: Key Findings

There are some similarities in attitudes about returning to work among all survey respondents. For example, more than 70% of respondents say they enjoy some perks of remote work such as flexibility, no commute and better work/life balance. However, how negatively or positively a person feels about going back to work is likely to be influenced by their job role, gender and personality. 

  • Senior leaders and managers are more likely to look forward to returning to work. 53% of those with management titles (Executives, Directors or Supervisors) reported feeling “very positive” or “mostly positive” about returning to the office, versus 42% of those with individual contributor titles (coordinator or assistant). Strikingly, in one comparison of the data: 62% of those with “director” titles feel “very positive” or “mostly positive” about it, versus just 42% of those with a “coordinator” title. 

  • Introverts are twice as likely to dread going back to the office compared to Extraverts. 36% of Introverted respondents said that they feel “very negative” or “mostly negative” about returning to the office, versus just 18% of Extraverts. In contrast, 59% of Extraverts said they feel “very positive” or “mostly positive” about returning to in-person work, versus 36% of Introverts. 

  • There are significant gender differences when it comes to concerns about going back to work. Women, overall, reported feeling more apprehensive about returning to in-person work. 28% of women reported feeling “very negative” or “mostly negative” about returning to work, versus just 23% of men. 

    • When asked about which factors related to returning to the office are most concerning, women were more likely to report concerns about work/life balance (51% rated as a top concern, versus 46% of men); getting sick (49% of women listed this as their top concern, versus 43% of men) and generalized uncertainty (26% of women listed this as their top concern, versus 19% of men). Men were most concerned about commute time (53% listed it as their top concern). 

Back to Work Tips for Managers

So, how can leaders provide better support to employees who may be dreading the return to normal? 

“Managers who are looking forward to a return to work need to be cognizant that those benefits that may make the transition manageable for them are not always available to their employees — and as a result, their workforce may be experiencing quite a bit more hesitation and doubt about what’s ahead,” says Molly Owens, CEO and Founder of Truity. 

1. Take into account the needs of your Introverted employees. 

Although 50% of working professionals identify as Introverts, 96% of leaders and managers identify as Extraverts. Thus, it’s likely that Introverts’ hesitation to going back to work in the office is in part due to feeling like their needs are going unmet. 

“Although it’s not surprising that Introverts are less enthusiastic about returning to the office, the contrast with Extraverts’ attitudes is still striking—Introverts are twice as likely to feel ‘very’ or ‘mostly’ negative about having to return to in-person work. While  59% of Extraverts felt ‘very’ or ‘mostly’ positive about returning to the office, only 36% of Introverts agreed,” adds Owens. 

“While the population as a whole is pretty evenly divided between Extraverts and Introverts, it’s key to remember that Extraverts are more likely to fill leadership roles—and thus more likely to make policies that suit their work style.”

Extraverted leaders considering their return-to-work plans will do well to keep in mind the needs of their Introverted employees, who report better moods and higher productivity when working from home. Taking into account these Introverted teammates’ preferences for quiet and focused work time will help them adjust when they report back to the office. 

2. Check your biases and consider changing up your pre-pandemic work model. 

It might be time to reconsider your requirements for in-person work, period. 

“Almost nobody we surveyed reported that they liked being stuck in the office all week,” says Owens. “86% of Introverts and 79% of Extraverts preferred either part- or full-time work-from-home arrangements, citing benefits such as more flexibility, better work-life balance and time saved commuting.”

3. Keep mental health top of mind. 

Over one-third (36%) of Introverts surveyed cited “better mood” as a top perk of working from home. Conversely, 29% of Extraverts reported looking forward to their mood improving when they return to the office. 

Making plans and policies that focus on the wellbeing of your workforce can have a positive long-term impact on productivity, morale and retention. By understanding your team members’ personality differences, you’re more equipped to create an environment and team dynamic that keeps everyone’s mental health top of mind. Making your policies more flexible gives different types of personalities on your team the ability to select the most productive and optimal work environment for their own individual needs.

4. Understand the roles that gender and job roles play. 

“Senior leaders crafting these policies should not only look at productivity and business needs, but also examine their own biases in wanting to return to the office.  The aim should be to maximize productivity for all employees, not just the types who tend to be overrepresented in leadership,” says Owens.  

The senior managers represented in the survey sample were disproportionately men. This correlates with national data that suggests women lag significantly behind men in terms of their representation in leadership positions. This means that many decision-makers may not fully grasp the strain that the policies they create put on women in the workforce. 

Compared to male respondents, women reported much greater concern about the uncertainty that lies ahead.

“The gender gap here is likely attributable to the fact that women have shouldered a disproportionate share of child and elder care as schools and other support systems have been disrupted,” says Owens. 

“Women report much greater concern about the uncertainty that lies ahead, as they’ve borne the brunt of upended schedules during the pandemic — and they may be unsure of how they’ll manage unpredictable demands when they’re required to report back into the office.”

We’ve learned a lot from our year of remote work, including the fact that hybrid and remote work does not seem to impact productivity and that the disproportionate caregiving burdens which were exacerbated during the pandemic have driven women out of the workforce in droves. Ensuring that return to work policies reflect those learnings and don’t gloss over the very real need for flexibility for those who are caregivers, will likely boost retention and productivity. 

5. Make social connection a top priority. 

It may be no surprise after a long year of social distancing, but both Introverts and Extraverts cited “social connection” as the thing they most enjoy about in-person work, including a full 78% of Extraverts and 60% of Introverts. 

Stronger social connections make people happier and healthier, which can lead to better work performance. Prioritizing social connections also helps reduce stress and burnout, increase loyalty and cultivate more creativity and teamwork among employees. 

Final Thoughts

Our research found that a worker’s feelings about returning to in-person work may depend heavily on their job role, their demographics, and their personality traits. 

There is a wide disconnect between how leaders feel about the return to work compared to rank-and-file employees. There is also a clear gender gap — with women as a whole feeling less enthusiastic about coming back to the office.  Further, Introverts are much less likely to see the positives of coming back to the office. 

When it comes to going back to “normal” managers should take into account the needs and desires of all of their employees and create an environment that works best for each individual and therefore, the company as a whole.

Megan Malone

Megan is a freelance writer and brand marketing consultant at Truity. She is passionate about helping people improve their relationships, careers, and quality of life using personality psychology. An INFJ and Enneagram 9, Megan lives quietly in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and two pups. You can chat with her on Twitter @meganmmalone.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

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