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    Mar 30, 2021    |   Camille Labrie

What does it take to work remotely?

2 minute read

Written by Shawn Bakker, Psychologist

Young woman working with team remotely on laptop

When large numbers of Canadians unexpectedly had to start working from home, the initial challenge was implementing the necessary technologies to maintain connections with both team members and customers. Once the tools were figured out we shifted to finding the best ways of using them – and that necessitated a clearer understanding of people and their new work environments.

One of the most common phrases we initially heard was “Introverted people are going to love working from home, and outgoing people are going to hate it!” And while parts of that have been true, it is not universally so. Instead the shift to remote work has brought some benefits and some challenges for everyone, and these are based on the individual and their unique circumstances.

Our work with the Work Personality Index over the last year has highlighted some interesting data on the intersections of personality traits and work environments that need to be taken into account when hiring, supporting and managing remote employees. We found that the shift required more of the following characteristics:

  • Higher Teamwork – employees who work remotely need to be much more purposeful in their approach to engaging their team members. Previously people could count on the collisions between team members in the shared workspace to provide for the sharing of information and ideas. When working remotely, a much more planful approach is required.
  • Higher Initiative – the opportunity for employees to take initiative and identify and seize opportunities grows in a remote setting. Employees need the freedom to operate with less managerial oversight.
  • Higher Multi-tasking – with work and home now sharing the same physical environment, employees find themselves juggling multiple demands that previously had greater separation.
  • Higher Stress Tolerance – many of our social networks have been hampered by the need for physical distancing, and this leaves people in a more vulnerable state.

Successfully working from home requires more than liking to work on your own. Instead you need to be able to work on your own, but still connect with others; make decisions independently while maintaining lines of communication; take initiative and collaborate on tasks. For each person some of these will align with their personality and come naturally, while others will require some stretching. To effectively make these stretches requires both self-awareness and judgment. The Work Personality Index provides key insights related to an individual’s work style – how they work with others, communicate, manage tasks and deal with change – all important to examine how to effectively work remotely.