As an introvert, the rapid evolution of digital tools and the unique ways we had to utilize them during the pandemic, especially while so much of the workforce was forced to work remotely, presented an introvert like me with plenty of new ways to participate and contribute in meetings while collaborating with my team. As companies navigate how to facilitate remote work best and create more asynchronous workflows to support a more flexible workday, it becomes increasingly crucial to continue to leverage these tools to allow everyone to bring their whole selves to the table while accommodating their unique work styles and preferences – even in-person.
Digital tools offer many opportunities to enhance the diverse ways people work and create a more inclusive work environment. They provide various means of communication and participation, making it easier for individuals with different personalities, backgrounds, and work styles to contribute more effectively. This levels the playing field by fostering a more equitable work environment and creating more room for creativity and innovation.
Virtual conference rooms allow people to communicate and participate in various ways, such as text, voice, and video. This is especially helpful for people with introverted personalities, who may prefer to communicate in a written or nonverbal way. It is also helpful for people with disabilities or other needs that may make it challenging to communicate traditionally.
However, most conference room set-ups don’t allow for great visibility of the chat window when you have people calling into the meeting. Consider finding ways to allow everyone to contribute even while in person. This could mean spinning up a Google doc or a thread in your favorite communications app.
Best of all, chat or threaded discussions during meetings allow people to share their thoughts and ideas in real time without interrupting the speaker. It also gives people more time to process information and formulate their thoughts before contributing, even giving individuals the opportunity to continue to contribute if they think of something that comes to them outside of the meeting that is relevant to what was shared.
The use of polls and surveys to gather feedback from participants is a great way to get everyone’s input without putting anyone on the spot. You can deliver it live during meetings, or take more regular pulse surveys, by using applications like Polly in Slack, to get a better sense of overall employee sentiment.
Collaborative documents and whiteboards can help brainstorm ideas or work on a project better together, but also asynchronously. This means that I can still hop on and ensure my ideas get included when I am able to get my focus work done – usually in the evenings after my entire family goes to bed.
In fact, while I have heard many individuals, especially leaders, say how they love to come together in person to whiteboard, studies show that how the exercise is typically done does not support the most inclusive environment. Some individuals need more time to process information – this means that in a fast-paced brainstorming session, they may feel pressured to come up with ideas quickly leading them to feel self-conscious or inhibited.
Combining a digital whiteboard with brainwriting as a brainstorming technique can help address these challenges. It is a way to make brainstorming asynchronous and ensure that participants write down their ideas individually before sharing them with the group.
Over the course of the last few years, digital tools have evolved the way we work, especially for introverts and even marginalized groups that have also found more of a voice within the workplace. As companies continue to navigate the return to work, it is important to embrace the use of digital tools both outside and inside the physical workplace. These tools support a better workplace experience no matter where your employees are working and need to actively be incorporated into the in-office experience.
However, I would be remiss to point out that the tools are not enough. If the workplace does not cultivate a culture of respect, transparency, and empathy in the workplace – creating a place where employees feel safe enough to write, say, or type how they are feeling it doesn’t matter what practices you put in place around how you use digital tools.
Learn more about our Author: Evelyn Lee, FAIA, is the first-ever Global Head of Workplace Strategy and Innovation at Slack Technologies, Founder of the Practice of Architecture, and CoHost of the Podcast, Practice Disrupted. Lee integrates her business and architecture background with a qualitative and quantitative focus to build better experiences for the organization’s employees, clients, and guests.
She is widely published, wrote a monthly column for Contract magazine for over three years, frequently contributed to Architect Magazine, and is working with Architizer awards, including the 2016 40 Under 40 award for Building Design + Construction and the 2014 AIA National Young Architects Award. She recently served as the first-ever female Treasurer to the AIA National Board in 2020-2021 and was recently elected to serve as the 101st President of AIA National in 2025.
*Disclaimer: This post was not generated by A.I. It is indeed written by a real life human. A pretty cool human in fact.