Working from home isn’t a great fit for everyone. In this article for American Express, Michelle contributes her thoughts about how important it is to check in with and accommodate your employees who are having a difficult time.
When managing your staff, taking into account your team members’ personality differences is really important, especially given many of us are now primarily working from home. One way we can do this is by considering how best to manage extroverts and introverts in the workplace.
These two groups recharge their energy in different ways. Extroverts tend to recharge through contact with others whereas introverts prefer downtime on their own.
In reality, most people don’t fit neatly into the categories of introvert and extrovert. For example, some team members may be energised by social contact when it’s close and personal, but maybe find it draining in a group setting. Nonetheless, these two personality types still offer a helpful conceptual framework to better understand individual communication and working styles.
How should you help the extroverts?
Extroverts tend to thrive in group discussions and through collaboration and variety, rather than through long stretches of working alone, says Dan Auerbach, an organisational psychology consultant with Associated Employee Assistance Providers.
“They prefer group dynamics that engage their interest and they can be easily distracted when trying to work solo on longer pieces of work. This can make it harder for them to focus at home. So this group may like to touch base regularly with colleagues through video calls and online brainstorming sessions,” he says.
These check-in conversations can be either casual or formal, sometimes focusing on deliverables and other times focusing purely on relationships. “These connection points are an excellent opportunity to offer support, build engagement and sustain motivation,” says author and workplace expert Michelle Gibbings.
How about the introverts?
Introverts are usually more productive on their own and come up with new ideas through reflection, rather than discussion. They generally prefer one-on-one communication rather than group discussions.
Gibbings says sitting down and participating in online meetings all day is especially exhausting for introverts. “It’s important to recognise this and provide options, so there is space to reflect and quiet time. Not all conversations need to be face-to-face online. Some can be done equally as well via phone or other methods.”
For both groups, ensure there are breaks during the day, and as a team agree on how you’ll respond to requests for work outside standard working hours. “You can design meeting and work from home protocols to ensure both introverts and extraverts have their needs met,” she adds.
What does best practice look like in this area?
New collaboration tools such as Zoom, Slack and other platforms enable employee engagement and communication for both introverts and extroverts.
Messenger platforms like Slack are great for creating message chains for work-related discussions as well as separate social chats. “It’s particularly important for employees to continue social interactions when working from home to avoid feeling isolated,” says Auerbach.
Empower employees to set their own time boundaries in how they prefer to respond to messages and emails, as different personality types will have different ways of working. For example, introverts may need longer periods of time without interruption, whereas extraverts may be happy to respond to messages or emails even while they work on other tasks.
For example, avoid sending work emails before and after certain times of day, and don’t expect responses at all hours. It can be helpful to have explicit conversations with employees about the way they like to work.
For example, people who prefer structured work environments might need regular check-ins and specific deliverables to maintain that sense of structure in a home environment. People who thrive in an unstructured environment may work better without regular phone calls or check-ins. Says Auerbach “Chat with your staff about how they work best so you can optimise everyone’s productivity.”
Gibbings says leadership matters no matter the working environment – be it the office or home. “The best leaders are stepping up to this current challenge, reaching out to their team members to understand what support they need. They recognise that while there are universal human reactions to change and uncertainty, individual team members will have different needs.”
Working from home means leaders need to pay more, not less, attention to the team’s dynamics. People want to feel they matter and to know they are valued.
Check for the following signs to spot a struggling employee:
- Does the employee seem less happy or easy going?
- Are excuses for not performing up to task increasing?
- Is it taking them longer than usual to complete their work?
- Does the employee have a shorter fuse than usual?
- Is the employee complaining about lack of sleep or inability to focus and accomplish tasks?
- Is there an uncharacteristic lack of communication?
- Do you see or hear signs of fatigue or sadness?
- Has the employee’s work become sloppy and incomplete?
If staff are struggling working from home, ask what the company can do to help. Don’t forget to schedule regular check-in meetings and offer assistance. Remember, the sooner you identify and address any problems your staff member is experiencing, the sooner they can return to being as productive as possible.