An Introvert Goes To the Office

cube4I’m really not here today.  I had to go in to the office.  *sigh*  I’ve already planned how I’m going to go through the day and make sure that I get enough “me” time to recover.

Let me explain… I normally work from home.  It’s one of the greatest perks for an introvert in the software industry, working from home.  Telecommuting.  Glorious peace and quiet.  The ability to concentrate without people stopping by to chat.  No buzzing overhead fluorescent lights.  No background murmur of conversations and telephone calls.  But every now and then I have to go in to The Office.cube3

The office is a huge two story building with a thousand cubicles crammed into it.  It’s what we call a cubicle farm in America.  For those who have never been in one of them, imagine a huge cavernous space, like a warehouse, that has been filled with small spaces, each defined by gray cloth-covered walls that stand about five feet tall.  I don’t have pictures of my office, but I found a few examples on the internet to share with those of you who haven’t had the dubious pleasure of being in such a space.

Ugly, crammed in and noisy.  Surrounded by hundreds of people and movement.  Because I don’t normally “live” there, I will take a “hotel cube”, which is even smaller, with just room for my laptop and not much else.  Those don’t even have walls, just a little bit of clear plexiglass between you and the next person.

What is so hard for an introvert to deal with in such a setting?  Too many stimuli, for one thing.  Lots of noise, movement, conversations, clacking of keyboards, telephones ringing.  Strange smells… cologne and food.  Techies tend to eat at their desks, so you smell what everyone is having for breakfast and lunch.  It’s also quite an international community, so you will smell kimchi and curry, pizza, hamburgers and french fries all at the same time.  The lights are all artificial, with banks of fluorescent fixtures flickering and buzzing. Drawers slamming, chairs squeaking.  It’s just a cacophony of input that needs to get filtered and processed.

Then there’s the lack of privacy.  People are moving everywhere, passing by in your peripheral vision.  The extroverts love to stop by unannounced to tell you how glad they are to see you,  engaging you in *gasp* small talk, destroying your concentration and blocking your exit as they hog the tiny opening to your cube.  The really extroverted ones come in and stand right next to you and you can’t get rid of them.  I always wanted to put up one of those heavy velvet ropes like they have for queues in theaters just to control the amount of traffic in and out of my cube.  Please knock before entering!

Then there are the meetings.  The phone conferences are normal for me, but being in the office also means I have face to face meetings.  That means being the fake extrovert, and that is draining.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the people with whom I work, it’s just draining to be in that setting, pretending to be who I am not.

So today will be an exercise in Introvert Energy Management.  I’ve brought my own food so I wouldn’t have to stand in the long lines in the cafeteria.  I have my iPod and headphones for when I get a little time to myself.  I know where the best hiding places are for when I need some peace and quiet.  (That used to be in the bathroom but now that doesn’t even work.  Did you ever notice how many people are on the phone in the bathroom?  Don’t they mind that the person on the other end has to listen to flushing toilets????)

The last meeting of the day will be a going away party for the old team, and I will be gracious for that and try to make a few witty remarks.  I’ll focus on heartfelt gratitude to those who supported me on the tough projects.  That will be easy.  They are good people.

Then I’ll point the car homeward and decompress during the 45 minute drive, stopping only to pick up fast food for dinner.  It’s not a time to be on my feet cooking.  I will just want to put my feet up and relax.  We’ll probably watch TV, something simple like Worst Cooks in America, and catch up with each other.  I’ll tell Cee funny stories, but only after I unwind a little.  She knows that the level of stress I’ve had is directly proportional to the amount of time I don’t speak afterwards.  She’s loving and patient.

Tomorrow will be purposefully simple.  I’ve already rescheduled my hair appointment.  I’ll finish the mystery I’m reading and look at my new book that just came.  I’ll find something quick to cook for dinner and we’ll chat about having a whole weekend coming up to ourselves, no class, no obligations.

So there you have it, my day at the office.  How did your day go?


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Hi.  I’m Chris.  I’m an introvert.  Look for my ongoing series debunking the introvert myths (Sunday) and introvert cartoons (Wednesday), plus anything else interesting that I find in the meantime.  Come and share with like-minded introverts.  I also contribute to the new food blog Three’s Cooking, learning to cook from the heart, for the soul.

17 thoughts on “An Introvert Goes To the Office

  1. I always struggle these days when I go into the office, as I also work from home most of the time and it’s pure joy. Our office is all opened planed so no cubicles but lots of attention grabbing stuff going on. I also struggle because when I have to go into the office, I use that time as my fake extrovert time so I can catch up with people, see what’s going on and make sure that I’m up to date on work. However they all see me as in intrusion and all sit there working in silo’s not talking! I don’t get it. Everyone has the opportunity to work from home so why not use being at work as interaction/networking/team time? If I have to be around people I’ll put 100% effort in but I couldn’t do it every day.

  2. I’ve worked in software a long time, but never at a place that offered telecommuting as an option without long, drawn-out cases before the boss and appeals in court up to the SCOTUS. I *might* be exaggerating. So I’ve always had to live in Cubicle Land.

    I have the ability to be alone in a crowd. The chatter and noise and such don’t register. I can walk around *Disneyland* and be “alone,” aside from the physical dodging of people that one must do. On the downside, getting lost in thoughts means that I sometimes miss key questions or comments, especially in meetings. So I have to keep that in check. Otherwise I’ll have written several book chapters in my head and done no actual work.

    Now, what I REALLY have trouble with is the fact that the world is still mostly 9-5. My internal clock is ideal for a 9-5 slot… 9pm – 5am, that is. Wherever I work, core hours are always something like “10am-3pm,” and where I work now has a daily 9:15am. No rest for us night owls. (Literally, one might argue).

  3. I’m glad I have some flexibility in my hours, but not that much. I’m an early bird, so it’s just fine for me to start work at 5:00 AM. I like being done mid afternoon. I can do things outside or run errands.

  4. I’ve been there too! One way I dealt with it, and no-one seemed to say anything, was to put my headphones in, some instrumental music, and create a bubble. Imagine, my last place was right in the middle of the office! Thanks for this post Chris 🙂

  5. I have worked in many cubicle farms & I also hate them! It’s worst when some idiot decides microwave popcorn is a great afternoon snack & you’re salivating at the thought of some delicious smelling popcorn while resenting the smell intrusion!

  6. My day is just about the same as yours except I do have a cube by the window so it makes my day a little brighter… Drive home is just as bad… I work 23 miles away which becomes almost an hour drive hm… I feel for you… Know what toy went through…

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