Because everyone at Menlo works in pairs, and we work in one large noisy room, we’re often asked during tours if all Menlonians are extroverts. At that point, the tour guide will often ask for a show of hands from those who work at Menlo: “Do you consider yourself an extrovert?” To the surprise of the tour attendees, it turns out that the vast majority of us would describe ourselves as introverts.
“The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney describes introverts by stating that “the strongest distinguishing characteristic of introverts is their energy source: Introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions, and impressions. They are energy conservers. They can be easily overstimulated by the external world, experiencing the uncomfortable feeling of ‘too much.’”
From an outsider’s perspective, work as it happens at Menlo might appear to be overstimulating. After all, you are paired with someone else all day; you don’t have any of your own “me time.” You also sit next to everyone else on the team. No one has their own offices or cubicles. No one wears headphones.
But there are a number of aspects of Menlo that allow introverts like me to flourish instead of suffer:
- - After you get used to it (which takes about a week or two), you don’t even notice the noise. I’m not distracted at all, rather I enjoy the excitement and work happening all around me. The constant buzz of activity is energizing.
- - There is a cadence to how my time is spent each week, based on what project I am on. It makes it nice that I can prepare for and have some expectations around how each day will go.
- - I am comfortable around my co-workers. In a way, they have become like a second family to me. It is less draining and intimidating for me to be around people all day when they are people that I trust and care about.
- - We have rituals throughout the day that allow for a quick break and recharge – standup meeting, lunchtime, walkies.
- - Each day, I get to work on new and exciting tasks that challenge me and require deep focus. Even though I am working with people all day, our focus is on the tasks that we are working on, which energizes me.
- - I am not always expected to take the lead and have something to say. It is comforting that, at times, my role within the pair can be one of listening to my pair partner and letting them drive what we do next.
- - At the end of the day, I am still often exhausted, but I am thankful that I can leave the office and not do any more work until I come back the next day. Menlo’s culture of 40 hour work weeks and not working outside of the office allows me to use my time outside of work to recharge and do other activities that are important to me personally
I acknowledge that Menlo’s environment may not be for everyone, but I wanted to share that it is possible for an introvert to enjoy working in an open and collaborative space. I am thankful for all the ways in which Menlo is a place for both extroverts and introverts to thrive together.