When you work outside of an office, a bad Wi-Fi connection or screaming kids in the background can put a real damper on your productivity. But technical difficulties and home distractions aren’t the only factors that make it hard to work remotely. In fact, many of a person’s successes or challenges with working from home have to do with his or her personality.
It’s easy to make broad generalizations about personality types, and assume that extraverts feel too isolated or distracted at home, or that introverts fall off the radar if someone doesn’t check in with them — and in some cases, it’s true. But there’s a lot more to someone’s personality traits — and consequently, their work preferences — than whether they like to work alone or surrounded by colleagues.
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment assigns people one trait from each of four type pairings: introversion or extraversion; intuition or sensing; thinking or feeling; and judging or perceiving. These traits inform the way a person perceives the world and makes decisions, and based on that, the MBTI offers insight into the way that person thinks and behaves. Michael Segovia, a lead certification trainer for people-development company and exclusive MBTI publisher CPP, shared some key strengths and weaknesses about the way each type pairing approaches remote work.
Introversion (I) vs. extraversion (E)
People who tend toward introversion are often seen as the ideal work-from-home candidates, because they thrive in quiet, calm environments where they can be alone with their thoughts. However, Segovia noted that the solitude of the home office typically gives introverts less motivation to speak up and contribute to group discussions.
Extraverted individuals, on the other hand, draw their energy from others, and they may find it difficult to be creative and productive without an office full of colleagues to bounce ideas off of, Segovia said. Similarly, psychologist Dr. Jennifer Jones, founder and CEO of the EntrepreneurShift app and live-event program, said that extraverts may experience an “energy rut” while working from home if they don’t get that face time they crave.
Intuition (N) vs. sensing (S)
When it comes to processing information, people who are more intuitive tend to want “big-picture” ideas, and to look at things from a broader perspective, Segovia said. They don’t necessarily need or want a lot of direction, and may react negatively to micromanagement.
In contrast, sensors need specifics, and find it challenging when the directions and tasks they’re given are too general. Segovia said these individuals need to be able to ask a lot of questions to understand and focus in on the details.
Thinking (T) vs. feeling (F)
This MBTI type pairing usually refers to the way people make decisions, but Segovia said a person’s preference for thinking or feeling also affects the way that individual interprets remote communications. Thinkers, he said, look for clarity and brevity, while feelers want to make a connection with the person they’re speaking with. This can be problematic if a manager or colleague is too chatty and excitable (for thinkers) or too blunt (for sensors) in their daily text-based communications, as the emotions and subtext one would look for in face-to-face interactions are absent.
Judging (J) vs. perceiving (P)
Segovia said that people who tend toward judging want closure in their work. They find it easier to work from home because they can naturally focus on getting their tasks done, and separate work time from relaxation time. However, this can backfire when a judger makes a decision too quickly, without all the necessary information, because he or she simply wants to resolve the matter.
Workers who prefer perceiving like to spread out their tasks, and are OK with being “on the clock” longer if it means they can take frequent breaks in between, Segovia said. However, this tendency also means perceivers can easily become distracted when their lines between work and play are more blurred. They may also find it difficult to make a firm decision, as they like to keep things more open-ended.
Making ‘work from home’ work
Since so many companies do offer their staff the option to work from home full- or part-time, it’s important for both employers and employees to agree on a remote-work policy that makes sense for everyone, regardless of personality type. Jones noted that regular video conferences, occasional in-office days and a good project-management software can enforce a strong sense of accountability in remote staff.
“Companies should have a video conference with the person who is working from home every other day,” Jones told Business News Daily. “This will also help those who tend toward distractibility to be accountable. In addition, companies should have the person come into the office at least twice per month and have a roundtable with the others on his or her team.”
Publicist Jana McDonough, a full-time remote staff member at Maracaibo Media Group, said that frequent communication can help anyone who works outside the office remain confident and connected.
“When working from home, you have to be able to reach out if you have any questions or concerns,” McDonough said. “In other words, you have to be completely transparent. Just because you can’t physically see what each other is working on, doesn’t mean both sides can’t check in with each other.”
Ultimately, Segovia said the success of any employee, remote or not, depends on how motivated he or she is to meet and exceed the job requirements.
“Any personality type can do any job, as long as the motivation to do that job is there,” Segovia said. “You learn to use the opposite preferences [from those that you prefer] … as you mature and grow.”