Remote working – understanding personality can increase productivity
Over the last 20 years, remote working has slowly worked its way into our professional lives, with an 80% increase since the 1990s. That may come as a surprise for organisations who had not seen the immense benefits until remote working became a necessity throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the CIPD, the significant increase in employees working from home even before the pandemic is primarily due to advancements in technology. After all, the chances of working from home being a success 30 years ago would have been much lower. With the availability of technology limited, the standard office format was difficult to imitate virtually.
Fast forward to 2020, the evolution of technology has led to remote working being instrumental in keeping organisations functioning as best as they could during a time of instability. As the world begins to recover from Covid-19, it looks likely that remote working and hybrid teams are the way of the future. Capgemini research shows that a whopping 75% of organisations worldwide are now expecting and preparing for at least some remote working in the future.
Our recent survey on the impact of Covid-19 on personality also mirrored the results of Capgemini, with 90% of respondents expressing an interest in remote working at least part of the time. The time has come for organisations to listen to the demands of employees and commit themselves towards a future that supports hybrid teams, which means incorporating a remote working policy that includes a combination of remote and on-site working.
It’s clear the benefits of working from home have led to this turning point for organisations. You can learn more in our breakdown The Future of Remote Working; the good, the bad and the ugly. This new hybrid working model is intended to bring significant benefits to employers, such as increased productivity, lower costs, and greater access to talent, to name a few.
The most surprising benefit of remote working discovered in our research was the impact on productivity, with one of the top reasons people wanted to work remotely being down to feeling more productive from home.
For managers, working remotely has always impacted trust levels, with less visibility in the virtual world than in the standard office format. This led to a common misconception that a more relaxed and distracted approach would be taken by employees when they worked from the comfort of their own homes.
However, much of the extensive research carried out in the last year indicated quite the opposite! Most research pointed towards remote workers being more productive than on-site workers. For instance, a survey of over 1000 employers conducted by the CIPD showed that 28% of the sample felt that their productivity and efficiency had increased whilst working from home.
So, what does this mean for your bottom line?
Well, it’s a well-known fact that increased productivity leads to increased profit. Capgemini research indicated that, in 2020 Q3, remote working boosted productivity and cost savings by up to 24%. More research is now available to convince organisations that working from home increases productivity, which means long gone are the days of stigmatising remote working and hybrid teams. In fact, most are realising that offsite workers offer tremendous gains in achieving business outcomes.
Even before the pandemic forced the world to work from home, Nicholas Bloom, a professor at Stanford University, well-known for his study of work practices, carried out research on a company to study remote work productivity. What he found in 2013 seemed to forecast what the world has witnessed in the last year; working from home one day a week boosted output by 13%.
The benefits outlined undoubtedly work in favour of hybrid teams, but maximising productivity from your employees can take a little more than reducing the amount of time spent on-site. To truly access the power of remote working and its maximum impact on productivity, it’s important to consider personality when it comes to how productive individuals can be in the remote space.
Years of research have been carried out in the last two decades to support the theory that personality is predictive of job performance. You would be limiting your organisation’s full potential if you did not consider how different personalities’ behaviour shifts when working from home, and what helps them increase productivity.
How can you appreciate the different personalities in your organisation to maximise productivity levels?
It’s a proven fact that it’s harder to be productive when exposed to an unstructured working environment. The usual structure provided from the standard office hours can be lost whilst working from home, potentially leading to a messy and disorganised way of working.
Discipline Driven people are naturally capable of structuring and prioritising their workload in an organised manner to ensure deadlines are always met. Whilst working remotely, you should encourage your team to make more effort to have that same structure that they would in the office.
That means following in the footsteps of those who are Discipline Driven and making use of the scheduling assistant on Microsoft Outlook to block out time in the day to work on certain projects. Ensuring structured lunch breaks where you give yourself time away from your desk to switch off, and maintaining a tidy working space, uncluttered and free of distractions, will keep productivity levels high.
Our research suggests that hybrid teams are more at risk of feeling negative emotions such as loneliness, exclusion, isolation and feeling disconnected. It makes sense. After all, working from home means that those impromptu social interactions that you find in the standard work office are unlikely to happen. You lose the ability to plan to have lunch with your colleague and so on.
Those who score highly on Extraversion feel energised when they interact with others and easily retain this in the remote space. Other members of the team who may not be so Extraverted may need encouragement to be more deliberate with their social interactions using Microsoft Teams or Zoom, with the option to use video chat, and this can recreate the face-to-face interaction that was once possible in the office.
During the pandemic, organisations worldwide saw the impact of having more Introverted personalities in their team whilst working from home. Without the usual distractions of a busy office, those who score highly on Introversion were able to recharge their energy by being alone, increasing their focus and enabling them to take on one project at a time and do it thoroughly.
Encourage your team to adopt this aspect of personality whilst working from home. Working from home comes with independence, and having fewer distractions allows team members to complete tasks on time and efficiently. Providing meeting agendas ahead of time allows the team to have more time to process and reflect before sharing their ideas, increasing the chance for more meaningful feedback in meetings compared to the fast pace of in-person meetings.
Throughout the pandemic, more People-Focused individuals gained praise for their empathetic approach to meetings with clients. Their consensus-based approach meant that they could get on a call, listen to their clients’ needs and wants, and provide beneficial results during the crisis when stress levels were at an all-time high.
Your team can learn from these individuals and bring this into their work style. Being empathetic and accommodating in their approach to dealing with people helps reduce stress, tension, and conflict in the team, helping everyone get along and move towards a goal together. The feedback they will receive about their performance will surely motivate them and increase their productivity.
Our research paper on The Feminine Advantage in Leadership shows that women who tend to be more People-Focused are highly sought after because of this empathetic and accommodating approach they can bring to a team, which has a real business impact on making organisations more adaptable and profitable.
Hybrid teams are more at risk of burnout, with our research showing that 43.2% of people are working more hours. We talk about how personality can affect what triggers burnout in our blog on How to spot and prevent remote team burnout. Still, there is also the real possibility of spending too much time staring at your computer screen, and we know that digital intensity can lead to burnout.
You can avoid this by encouraging your team to be more like their Inspiration Driven colleagues. Their often-spontaneous nature means they are more likely to take breaks in between tasks. By making more of a conscious effort to split up the workday, they can continue the day without burnout or repetition, helping them focus without being overwhelmed, which increases their productivity levels.
Big Picture Thinking
Working from home can start to feel a bit repetitive, with the lack of commute and change of environment. Those who score highly on Big Picture Thinking are constantly finding new ways to be imaginative and conceptual working alone as you have easy access to new ideas.
Encourage your team to decorate their workspace in a way that stimulates their thoughts. They can do this by using sticky notes or personal touches like inspirational quotes to help stimulate their ideas and explore the possibilities. In doing so, they can better approach problem-solving without draining their energy, increasing their productivity in the virtual workspace.
Down to Earth
Working independently at your desk all day may mean that you can increase your output by coming up with new ideas. This constant stream of creative thought may mean you could get carried away. Encourage your team to be more Down to Earth in their approach to working from home and fine-tune good ideas into concrete, actionable plans that are likely to succeed based on previous experiences.
Using Microsoft Teams to jump on a call with a colleague after a bright idea can avoid wasting time on ideas that are not realistic. Those who are more Down to Earth fact check and act with caution before jumping into projects. This is an excellent way to stay productive as you can ensure your ideas are tangible before spending unnecessary time working on them.
Hybrid teams find that working from home can significantly impact their communication. You cannot walk down the hall, ask your colleagues a question, and have it answered straight away. It can be frustrating when you send a Teams message in the remote space and hours go by without a response. As time slips by, so does the ability for your workday to move forward.
Those who score highly on Outcome-Focused will achieve tasks much quicker with their straight to the point nature. By encouraging your team to adopt this style in the remote space, virtual communications will be faster without the need for more emails back and forth, increasing productivity for hybrid teams.
Hybrid teams make it harder to observe workplace behaviour and predict employee performance. That means now more than ever, it’s crucial to do all you can to keep productivity levels high. We know productivity can skyrocket from the remote effect, but only when behaviour is developed and supported to be effective. You can do this by appreciating the different personalities within your organisation and adopting some of their approaches to maximise productivity.
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