Understanding remote workers' personalities and home working needs during the coronavirus crisis

Written by
John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership, Myers-Briggs Company

16 Mar 2020

16 Mar 2020 • by John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership, Myers-Briggs Company

To ease the sudden transition to remote working during the coronavirus crisus, employers should consider how different people cope with changes to their routine.

In the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, many UK employees are being encouraged to work from home. Twitter recently ordered its entire workforce to move to remote working, and it seems inevitable that more and more companies around the world will follow suit over the coming weeks. 

While remote working is familiar for some, many people have only ever done it for a day or two at a time and may feel uncomfortable being thrust into home working for a longer period, especially when this happens suddenly and unexpectedly. Many teams will not have had a chance to trial working together in this way. 

To help smooth the transition, businesses should take personality traits into account when managing and communicating with their new remote workforce during the corona crisis. For example, some team members may enjoy the peace and quiet of home working, while others miss the buzz of the workplace. Some may immediately feel anxious about sudden change; others will relish the challenge and even thrive on the uncertainty that change brings.

How do people working from home during the coronavirus crisis gain their energy?

In these circumstances, a framework for understanding an individual’s personality preferences, as well as their strengths and blind spots, can be helpful for employers. The MBTI® (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) assessment looks at four areas of personality. One that is especially relevant here is whether an individual has a preference for extraversion or introversion. 

People with a preference for extraversion derive their energy from the outside world of people and things. Without people around to distract them, they may initially be very productive, but will soon miss the ‘buzz’ of the workplace and feel de-energised or isolated. Managers can avoid this by incorporating collaboration tools or by creating virtual spaces for informal communication that would normally be a natural feature of teams that are usually office-based. 

Access to effective online communication and collaboration tools, and their frequent use, will be essential for maintaining these team members’ wellbeing. If they can get out to talk to family or friends, that will also be useful. 

By contrast, people with a preference for introversion gain their energy from their inner world of thoughts and feelings. They may find working from home restful, energising even – provided that they can have a quiet place to work. 

For parents of young children, or those living in a shared house, it will be worthwhile thinking about how they might manage this before they make the switch to remote working. Some introverts may also need to remind themselves to communicate regularly with their colleagues, who may worry when an introvert seems to be maintaining ‘radio silence’.

Using the MBTI framework to build self-awareness among remote workers

The MBTI framework is a valuable foundation for building self-awareness and allows individuals to better understand themselves – something that is particularly important in times of change and crisis.

By better understanding how different people approach and deal with change, employers stand the best chance of success when communicating and executing their plans.

The gulf between those embracing change and those falling behind is growing.

Changeboard and Future Talent have been providing insights and learning on how to navigate a way through change since 2004. Now, as we enter an unprecedented period of disruption, we are providing you the opportunity to develop the capabilities, behaviours and mindset necessary to survive and ultimately flourish.

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