“Office centricity is over” recently tweeted Tobi Lutke, founder and CEO of e-commerce store giant Shopify.
And he’s pretty right.
The Covid-19 pandemic propelled working-from-home (WFH) from a niche trend for select professions to the new normal.
In fact, remote working in Australia has seen a dramatic increase, moving from a third of the population in 2019 to almost half by May 2020.
Yet for many people, WFH is a whole new experience. More to the point, not everyone can adapt—some thrive working autonomously in a flexible environment, while others struggle to switch off. It depends on your personality.
If remote working is here to stay, managers need to understand the impact of different personality types.
Let’s look at the challenges...
Why does personality matter so much in remote working?
Bringing the office into the home has brought about a range of consequences—good and bad. For some, the prospect of WFH means avoiding a long commute and enjoying a better work-life balance.
For others, it’s the opposite. Remote working encourages an ‘always-on’ culture that can feel overwhelming and stressful. Furthermore, without daily face-to-face interactions and spontaneous conversations, employees can feel isolated and depressed. At the same time, the limits of online communications can amplify personality clashes and motivation and productivity issues.
What are the benefits of understanding your employee’s personalities to WFH?
‘Hang on, I’m not a psychologist’ you may be thinking. But it’s ok. Although, before we dive into how you can support employees based on their personality traits, let’s look at the benefits of taking this approach.
For starters, understanding how your employees are wired enables you to tap into their strengths and better identify solutions to support their weaknesses. Rather than just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks, you can identify tangible solutions to help them thrive in their new environment.
Sounds good—want to know how? Read on.
How Do We Cater Remote Working to Each Personality Type?
Arguably the most popular personality test is the Myers-Briggs assessment. It’s based on four groups of characteristics.
When considered in a workplace setting, each trait represents its own needs and expectations.
Let’s look at how you can use these insights to support your virtual employees...
Introverted vs. Extroverted
These are concerned with how we relate to others. Pretty essential to WFH. Extroverts are drawn to the outside world of people and things. In contrast, introverts are more reserved and concerned with their inner world of thoughts and feelings.
How to support an introverted employee:
Introverted employees embrace remote working as they are more capable of working alone for more extended periods. Also, they enjoy the familiarity and peacefulness a home-office offers.
On the flip side, they struggle with distractions.
Allow for flexible schedules to reflect individual needs and responsibilities such as childcare. For instance, arrange meetings at convenient times and have flexible deadline options.
How to support an extroverted employee:
The extroverted employee may find remote working more challenging on a social, emotional level as they are naturally outgoing and thrive on human interaction. Watch out for issues related to not coping with isolation.
Organise regular virtual social events such as a book club or team happy hours.
Sensing vs. Intuitive
These two traits focus on how you process information. Sensing individuals draw their conclusions through the use of data and past experiences. In contrast, intuitive individuals find meaning by looking to the future and the bigger picture.
How to support a ‘sensing’ employee:
Because sensing employees are task and outcome-focused, they need a vast amount of information to draw conclusions and make decisions.
Provide these employees with researched-led tasks with clear milestones rather than ambiguous open-ended projects. Give them easy remote access to company databases and other vital resources, so they feel prepared and supported to achieve their goals while working from home.
How to support an intuitive employee:
Please don’t throw a heap of unrelated or random tasks at intuition-led employees with the hope it will keep them busy. You will only contribute to making them feel overwhelmed. Indeed, intuitive employees relish direction and need instant guidance to stay calm and on track.
Schedule regular check-ins via Zoom meetings or phone calls. Have an open-door policy.
Thinking vs. Feeling
AKA how we make decisions—the thinking type makes decisions based on objective logic, while the ‘feeling’ type uses personal values and external impacts.
How to support a thinking employee:
Direct, task-focused, impersonal—without face-to-face contact, they can easily be misunderstood, leading to unnecessary conflict.
Provide regular feedback and foster two-way communication (there’s plenty of communication apps you can use). Encourage more generous information sharing to avoid information silos.
How to support a feeling employee:
Feeling individuals are more concerned with how their decisions will impact others. Of course, isolation is an issue and can lead to mental health issues and procrastination.
Ensure there are open lines of communications. Use apps like Slack, Teams and Whatsapp for quick-fire conversations and simple queries.
Judging vs. Perceiving
This distinguishes how you choose to plan your day. In short, the judging individual wants structure—think rigid 9-5. In contrast, the perceiving person prefers flexibility and has a spontaneous style.
How to support a Judging employee:
Without an organised daily schedule, these individuals can become unmotivated and unproductive. They also struggle to switch-off. So, provide work-life balance solutions and use scheduling tools to lessen the stress.
How to support a Perceiving employee:
Night owl, early bird, a weekend worker—employees with a perceiving style thrive in their ability to craft their own daily schedules. Yet, this is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Similar to the Judging person, utilise AI-powered scheduling tools to balance flexibility with structure.
As we see WFH sticking around for a bit longer and potentially becoming a new permanent way of working, even if it is just for part of the working week, we need to make sure we understand one another’s personalities. This way we can create various working environments to suit different team members and be conscious of the effects WFH can create on our wellbeing and mental health. Maybe it starts with a conversation with your team to make this happen.