I’m going to state something seemingly outlandish here: 2020 was a good year for me.
I usually print off my computer calendar, month-by-month, and clip it to the front of an ever-increasing bulk of calendar month pages. I printed off 2021 and, as I flipped over the calendar from 2020 to 2021, I looked back to the previous years’ notations.
Sick. Undefined symptoms.
Every 2-3 weeks, something was going on with my physical or mental health. That is, until 2020.
When I reviewed my health over the past year, I found I’d had very few migraines and very few sick days. I also had more energy in the evenings and on weekends. I started an exercise program that I managed to sustain the entire year. I had motivation to try new things, and didn’t feel I couldn’t commit because my energy wasn’t sustainable. I was also reading more.
Even though I had started a new job in January 2020, I broadened this health review to include the past several years, just in case. Turns out that 2020 was an anomaly for my health. A good one.
This evidence brought me to a conclusion: commuting to and working from an office environment is detrimental to my health. Remote work is beneficial to my health. And the more I discovered and explored my personality and neurological hardwiring, the more I saw why this made sense.
In February, I discovered I am an INFJ. This is a Meyers-Briggs personality type that, to simplify, means I am an intuitive introvert who tends to ‘think’ through their feelings. To break this down further, I thrive in my own space, where I can hear and figure out what my intuition has picked up about my environment. To add to this, I am highly sensitive and empathic. This means that I am deeply affected by sounds, lights, textures, smells, and can even feel the feelings of other people without them expressing. If you want someone who can read the body language of another or whisper to an animal, pick me.
On the flip side, the number one way to knock me off my game is to put me in a bright, crowded room and scream directives at me. To me, this is a massive amount of overwhelm: white noise that prevents me from assessing and processing boat loads of information I receive from my environment. Unfortunately, this is EXACTLY how I view an office environment: a bright crowded room, full of loud talkative people who are being told what to do for 7-8 hours/day for 5 days/week. Add in a 2-hour daily commute through traffic and you have a recipe for misery.
It’s no wonder I was sick every 2-3 weeks. It’s no wonder I was drained every single day. It’s no wonder I didn’t have enough energy to make supper and lived off prepared meals.
But also, it’s no wonder that working from home has allowed me to be energized, productive, and healthy.
As a highly sensitive, empathic, INFJ, I need to manage my environment so that I can be productive. I hear, see, and feel EVERYTHING. If I could work in a sensory deprivation tank, that would be a good thing.
Some cynics may argue that I should just take drugs so that I can function in the real world. To this I argue that I don’t want to nor should I be forced to be like everyone else. No one should take drugs to fit in.
For a while, I was taking over-the-counter drugs for migraines, stomach cramps, and a host of other symptoms. I was up to 8 – 10 pills/day, and still having symptoms. The conclusion here was that my work environment was not in alignment with what I personally needed to function. My symptoms were a reaction of my person (physical, mental, emotional) to an inappropriate environment. As soon as I switched jobs, my symptoms decreased and I was able to go off the drugs.
Not only do drugs mask the symptoms that are indicating an issue, drugs also deprive us of our gifts. One thing that people like me are really, really good at is holding space. We have an amazing ability to demonstrate empathy and compassion. And, yes, drugs do alter empathy.
We need to appreciate and honour our differences as human beings. I believe this pandemic is giving us an opportunity to see life from the other side.
When the pandemic lockdown started back in the spring of 2020, it seemed a lot of people started having mental health issues, or pre-existing issues could no longer be buried. Many people experienced depression, isolation, anxiety, etc. I’d like to suggest that these mental health issues were because extroverted people were isolated and unable to obtain in-person contact with others. In essence, those who need to experience their world through their outer world are being cut-off from how they experience of life.
I feel for all the extroverts out there who are now experiencing issues from being cut-off from what gives them life. However, being cut-off from how I experience life is a daily struggle for me.
The world seems to be configured for the person who derives energy from in-person contact, for those who need to talk things through to think them through, for louder, for brighter, for faster. This is not a world in which people like me thrive. We can’t even function in this world.
Now it seems the tables have been turned.
Remote work is the realm of the introvert, and, oh, how we are thriving. Would it be too much to ask that post-pandemic we integrate a balance of in-person and remote work into our work lives?
Would it be too much to ask that we now acquire an awareness that diversity is more than skin deep? That diversity is more than including those with a DSM diagnosis?
Diversity is recognizing that each of us is an individual. It’s time we embraced a workplace that is truly inclusive and that appreciates individuality on more than a surficial level.
Cal Newport – What Remote Work is so Hard – And How it Can be Fixed
Introvert, Dear – For Introverts, the Open Office Concept Is Hell on Earth
Dr. Judith Orloff – The Best and Worst Jobs for an Empath
Lauren Sapala – The INFJ Revolution