Personality type and working from home

Personality type and working from home

Quick, which personality type is best suited to work from home: introvert or extravert? The tempting generalization to make is that solitude-loving introverts will shine as home workers while their gregarious counterparts will suffer. I’m not sure it’s that cut-and-dry.

Personality certainly affects a person’s ability to work from home successfully. Right off the bat, there are several traits that will benefit any home worker:

  1. Self-motivation
  2. Superior communication skills
  3. Resourcefulness
  4. Tech savvy

Good communication skills are so important for someone who rarely, if ever, works in the office with the rest of the team. The same can be said for self-motivation, resourcefulness, and comfort with tech tools, as those tools will often foster communication. But is that the entire recipe?

You might be tempted to add another item to that list: an introverted personality. Home-workers often spend hours at a desk without seeing another person. Virtual meetings happen, yes, but that’s not the same as working face-to-face. Does this mean extraverts are doomed to telecommuting failure? Not at all.

Let’s get scientific with it

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), is a questionnaire designed to identify psychological preferences. It’s where we get the terms “introvert” and “extravert” in the first place. The questionnaire was designed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. According to Fast Company, about 80% of Fortune 1000 companies use it to help employees the relationship between their personalities and their professional lives.

The MBTI says of the extravert:

“[I get] energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people.”

Likewise, introversion is described like this:

“[I get] energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with.”

Which one would you add to your remote team? The tempting answer is the solitude-loving introvert. However, Michael Segovia, lead trainer for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, says that anyone, regardless of their personality, can work from home successfully.

So which works best?

The key, according to Segovia, is to recognize how you feel energized — and productive — and take steps to make that happen. For example, a person who is extraverted receives energy from a bustling environment where he or she can bounce ideas off of others. A daily video check-in maybe what that person needs.

Meanwhile, a mostly introverted person may struggle to find the quiet he needs in a busy or noisy household. Likewise, these quieter folks could struggle to ask for the interaction or support they need. Again, a regular video check in is a good idea.

These two types also tend towards traits that are very beneficial for the home worker. The people-driven extravert is often a great communicator, which is crucial for a home worker.

Likewise, he or she is often self-confident and fond of talking with others. These qualities make it easier to network, land deals, talk with potential clients and customers.

On the other hand, an introverted worker is typically energized by time spent alone, protective of their privacy — important for remote work — and thoughtful. These folks won’t struggle with extended periods of alone time.

In either case, employers should be sure to offer plenty of face time. The benefits of face time have been demonstrated scientifically as well. A study published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest in 2015 suggests that “…a balance of face-to-face and virtual contact is optimal” for all home workers, regardless of personality type.

Of course, the world isn’t simply divided into introverts and extraverts. Really, the ideal telecommuter is structured and disciplined, regardless of personality type. A self-motivated individual will be more successful than their counterparts.


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