Managing remote workers: 3 personality types to coach carefully

Are some of your team members struggling with working from home? Personality plays an important role. Consider these leadership tips
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Remote employees connecting from around the world

When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept across the United States and millions of employees were ordered to work from home, many of us assumed that the remote work situation would last a few months at most.

But it soon became clear that remote work was going to be more long-term than that. As a result, many of us are rethinking how we approach work – from how we connect with our individual team members to how we allocate our time and consider work-life balance.

According to a recent survey conducted by my colleagues at The Predictive Index, 33 percent of respondents had never worked remotely before COVID-19. And while the transition has been easy for some workers, for others it remains a significant burden that may be impacting their mood, productivity, and overall work performance.

[ For more advice on leading remote teams, read Remote teams: How to build a culture of accountability. ]

As a manager, you may be tasked with new challenges in how to lead and motivate your teams. What should you keep in mind, particularly if some of your team members are struggling with remote work?

Managing remote workers: Personality matters

The traditional business world has long held the misconception that less time in the office means less productivity and lower-quality work. However, today’s reality is challenging that theory.

During this time, many of us have seen some of our brightest and most productive workers struggle. And while it’s tempting to see this as an employee problem – you might assume they are distracted or using office time to slack off – these challenges are often more related to personality and what factors drive people emotionally in the workplace.

Struggles with remote work are often related to personality and what factors drive people emotionally in the workplace.

To lead more effectively, it’s worth taking a step back to better understand the personality of each individual on your team. One of the best ways to do this is through one-on-one meetings. Create a safe space where you can both identify and discuss any pain points or concerns and agree on a strategy to address them.

During your one-on-ones, look for these three personality types. They may need particular things from you in order to work from home more effectively:

1. Stabilizers

Stabilizing personalities are highly collaborative and prefer structure and familiarity. Unfortunately, remote work requires freedom and ambiguity, and there are fewer instances to collaborate with team members in traditional ways.

If you’re working with a stabilizer, create opportunities for them to collaborate with others. Along the way, provide clear instruction and best practices to foster structure in their workday. For example, create more intimate and personalized meeting experiences such as virtual breakout rooms that gather smaller groups of colleagues to work through a project. Zoom and other videoconferencing apps offer this option.

[ Need help with running Zoom? Read also: Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]

2. Socialites

Socialites percolate energy throughout the office. It’s no surprise that these personalities struggle with remote work – they thrive by influencing others, stopping to chat with coworkers, and making connections.

Socialites are also good at reading physical cues about how their work is perceived, and they may lose confidence in remote work settings since there are fewer opportunities for real-time affirmation.

When working with socialites, prioritize frequent communication both through regularly scheduled meetings and ad hoc calls to collaborate or brainstorm. This will increase social engagement and help socialites feel more confident in their daily work.

Prioritize frequent communication both through regularly scheduled meetings and ad hoc calls to collaborate or brainstorm.

3. Commanders

Commanding personalities are generally bold, opinionated, and known for being influencers among their colleagues. In a remote setting, commanders may struggle to feel heard – even in virtual meetings, as they draw energy from in-person interactions.

For leaders, this means providing more structure to meetings. Take the time to speak to these individuals beforehand and coach them on opportunities to speak up. It’s also helpful to set clear guidelines for how each individual on your team should participate in meetings – for example, asking people raise their hand, implementing a round-robin for all to voice opinions, or taking another approach.

Rethinking our own strengths and weaknesses

Throughout this age of remote work, we’ve come to identify new strengths and weaknesses within ourselves and our team members. The best leaders will help their teams adapt to this new environment and support those who may be struggling.

A willingness to shift responsibilities across colleagues, even temporarily, will help your teams stay productive and create new opportunities for innovation while sustaining what is most important: an engaged and happy workforce.

[ Want to build your leadership EQ? See 10 emotional intelligence must-reads for leaders. ]

Matt Poepsel is the Senior Vice President of Product for The Predictive Index, where he is responsible for overseeing the company’s product portfolio and innovation roadmap.