HR could benefit from approaching remote working by personality

Working from home under lockdown is challenging for HR and employees. Yet, much of the rhetoric surrounding how to cope with and cater to a more remote workforce is only suitable for certain personality types.

That’s the conclusion of John Hackston, head of thought leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company.

He told HR magazine of the importance of realising a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work when successfully supporting employees in the current crisis.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can be used by employers to discover their employees’ preferences for perception and decision making. There are 16 different types in total, each formed by a combination of four central dichotomies:

  • Outward vs inward focus (Extroversion or introversion)
  • How you prefer to take in information (By sensing or intuition)
  • How you prefer to make decisions (Through thinking or feeling)
  • How you prefer to live your outer life (Via judging or perception)

The indicator finds people with a judging preference, for example, think rules and deadlines should be respected and have more of a tendency to make plans.

By contrast, people with a perceiving preference like to leave their options open and enjoy surprises and new situations.

“A lot of advice around working from home is directed towards people with a judging preference for example, building a routine or dressing smartly for work,” Hackston said. “This wouldn’t work as well for people who prefer perceiving however, as they naturally opt for more flexibility and spontaneity in their work.”

Contrary to popular opinion, remote working may not be an environment in which people with a preference for introversion thrive.

“If you looked a lot at things going around on twitter at the start of the lockdown people were saying things like ‘It’s great for introverts like me who like their peace and quiet.’ However, working from home is not quite as quiet as you might think when you consider people’s personal environments, and therefore it’s not naturally suited to introversion,” said Hackston.

The challenge for extroverts, Hackston posited, is that they get their energy from other people. Now, without the ability to go out and freely see others, things like informal work calls and getting plenty of exercise could be more important now than ever.

A good tip to keep and build rapport in this time is to opt to keep cameras on when video calling people though that can go against the grain of some personality preferences.

“It is of course true that during lockdown, some individuals may be feeling the strain of isolation more than others – notably those with personality preferences for extroversion (focused on and energised by contact with the outside world) and for feeling (a preference for making people-focused, value-driven decisions).

“But even if these descriptions do not fit you, they may fit some of your colleagues, who might really appreciate a video call,” said Hackston.

Hackston’s advice to HR is to look outwardly and try to consider the remote working situation from other peoples’ perspectives.

When asked if he thought that the crisis could help pave new avenues for different ways of working and open up more consideration of others he said, “I certainly think it has the possibility to do so. We all need to be a little bit more aware of ourselves and other people.”