Why some employees don’t want to return to the office

As mentioned in another of our recent blog posts, CEOs and senior leaders tend to be keener than more junior staff to have their people in the office several days a week.

Common reasons for why that might be of course are to often to do with continuing some of the benefits enjoyed during lockdown, such as saving commuting time and money, having more flexibility with children, parents and pets, and enjoying more time with partners and other interests.

But what I am noticing some leaders overlooking is that their more introvert staff might be resisting returning because they dread being back in an open plan office. Many studies have established that large, airy offices, though intended to facilitate collaboration, are in reality a productivity nightmare – especially for introverts.

Introverts and open plan offices

For an introvert (the definition of which is someone who is energised by time alone with their own thoughts – extroverts are typically energised by being with and talking to others), an open plan office is a noisy place to think and work. It’s distracting and reduces their productivity. And having had to put up with all that noise, having to listen to other people’s conversations, and the constant interruptions of people coming over to their desks to ask questions, they find themselves exhausted at the end of the day. The quiet of home during the pandemic has been a godsend for many introverts, and they’re nervous of having to go back to the office environment.

If you’re a leader, I know you’ll be having conversations with all of your team right now about how they want to work in this new, hybrid world.

I urge you to take special care to dig deeper and ask your introverts about the working environment that enables them to do their best work – and to embrace their answers.

How to accommodate the needs of the introverts on your team

Small adjustments can make a big difference for that introvert, who still has a human need to connect with others in their team, but may work very differently to you (especially if you are higher up the extroversion scale).

It might be being able to book a small, private room for deep work. It might be moving to a quieter corner. It might be wearing noise cancelling headphones, or using a small signal – such as a toy on top of a monitor – to signify “I’m thinking, please do not disturb”. Or being able to come to the office for a couple of hours before others arrive, to work in peace and quiet.

Of course, many companies are completely redesigning their space to adapt to a smaller workforce being in the office at any given time. When speaking to your designers, including your introverts in the consultation process will pay dividends to everyone’s morale – as well as company productivity.


Diverse workforces mean we need to learn new skills to lead different personality types and cultures in the workplace. As a leader, if you’d like to develop your communication styles for different groups to lead highly engaged, productive teams you can book a free consultation with us to learn more about how Ros Toynbee Coaching can help.