Working outside the office can present challenges, including poor Wi-Fi, family distractions and miscommunication. But your environment isn’t the only factor driving work-from-home success. Your personality may put you at an inherent advantage – or disadvantage – for remote work.
We’ll look at personality tests and what they reveal about how well your strengths and weaknesses will align with a remote-work arrangement.
Is your personality suited to remote work?
When businesses institute a telecommuting policy, many of the successes and challenges remote workers experience come down to personality. Preferences, tendencies and needs can all impact your remote work success and enjoyment.
Personality tests can help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses and how they may impact your work-from-home experience. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a well-known assessment tool that assigns people one trait from each of four type pairings:
- Introversion or extraversion
- Intuition or sensing
- Thinking or feeling
- Judging or perceiving
These traits inform how someone perceives the world and makes decisions. Michael Segovia, a lead certification trainer for people-development company and exclusive MBTI publisher CPP, shared some key strengths and weaknesses of each type pairing and how these attributes may affect someone’s approaches to remote work.
Did you know? Benefits of remote work include eliminating the commute, more time to develop healthier habits and not being exposed to office germs.
Introversion (I) vs. extraversion (E)
- Introverts: People who tend toward introversion are often seen as ideal work-from-home candidates because they thrive in quiet, calm environments where they can be alone with their thoughts and avoid workplace stress. However, Segovia noted that the home office’s solitude typically gives introverts less motivation to speak up and contribute to group discussions.
- Extroverts: In contrast, extroverted individuals draw their energy from others; they may find it challenging to be creative and productive without an office full of colleagues with whom to share ideas. Similarly, psychologist Dr. Jennifer Jones, founder and CEO of the EntrepreneurShift app and live-event program, says extroverts may experience an “energy rut” while working from home if they don’t get the face time they crave.
Intuition (N) vs. sensing (S)
- Intuitive people: According to Segovia, when it comes to processing information, people who are more intuitive tend to want “big-picture” ideas; they prefer to look at things from a broader perspective. They don’t necessarily need or want a lot of direction and may react negatively to micromanagement.
- Sensors: In contrast, sensors need specifics. They find it challenging when the directions and tasks they’re given are too general. Segovia said these individuals must be able to ask many questions to understand and focus on the details.
Thinking (T) vs. feeling (F)
This MBTI-type pairing usually refers to how people make decisions, but Segovia said a person’s preference for thinking or feeling also affects how they interpret remote communications.
- Thinkers: Thinkers look for clarity and brevity.
- Feelers: Feelers want to make a connection with the person they’re speaking with.
Both types can experience problems with remote work. For example, in their daily text-based communications, a manager or colleague might be too chatty and excitable for thinkers or too blunt for feelers. The emotions and subtext someone would look for in face-to-face interactions are absent for both types.
Judging (J) vs. perceiving (P)
- Judgers: Segovia explained 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 completing their tasks and separate work time from relaxation time. However, this tendency can backfire when a judger makes a decision too quickly – without all the necessary information – because they want to resolve the matter quickly.
- Perceivers: Workers who prefer perceiving like to spread out their tasks. They’re OK with being “on the clock” longer if they can take frequent breaks. But according to Segovia, this tendency also means perceivers can easily become distracted when their lines between work and play are more blurred – and distracted workers cost businesses money. They may also find it challenging to make a firm decision, as they like to keep things more open-ended.
Use what you learn from personality assessments to improve your job search. When you interview for remote roles, ask about team dynamics, schedules and expectations to ensure it’s the best remote role for you.
Other personality tests and how they relate to remote work
The MBTI isn’t the only helpful personality-assessment tool to help evaluate your remote-work suitability. The DiSC personal assessment and 16 Personalities test can also shine a light on your work style as it relates to telecommuting.
The DiSC personal assessment was created to help individuals understand their leadership style and how others may react to it. It includes approximately 80 behavior-based statements people answer using a five-point scale. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete and is particularly effective at team-building, communication and productivity in a work environment.
Each letter in the DiSC acronym represents a different personality type:
- D (Dominance): Individuals with a high D score tend to be more focused on results at work. They may be considered more outspoken or demanding.
- i (Influence): Individuals with a high i score are better at influencing and persuading others. They’re often more open, energetic and optimistic.
- S (Steadiness): Individuals with a high S score are more concerned with cooperation, loyalty and dependability. They’re often the more calm team members and don’t enjoy rushing through their work.
- C (Conscientiousness): Individuals with a high C score value accuracy and expertise. They love independence and don’t like to be wrong.
You will naturally score higher in some areas than others. However, the results leave room for more nuanced differences. For example, your type may be SC or CS if your scores are similar in those two areas.
A DiSC assessment’s value in a remote work environment is helping identify your tendencies, needs and preferences regarding teamwork and communication. The more you understand yourself, the more effective you can be while working from home.
Here are two examples of how you can use DiSC assessment information to inform your remote-work approach:
- Evaluate your communication style. Consider your results as you approach team meetings, projects and more. Are you too blunt or demanding sometimes? In a traditional work environment, people see more of your personality in action, which can balance out your directness in meetings. But if all your team knows about you is how blunt you are on a Zoom call, they may find it off-putting. Consider asking your team for honest professional feedback on your communication style – and be open to what they say.
- Understand your needs. If you’re a high S and enjoy steadiness, you may find that, in a remote work arrangement, you miss the regular check-ins that are a part of an office environment. Or perhaps you feel uneasy about adopting and using new technology regularly in a remote-work situation. Consider how you can address your needs with your manager or team.
The 16 Personalities test results are based on the NERIS® model, which combines one of four personality types with various personality traits. It includes roughly 100 statements using an agree-or-disagree scale. The test takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete. While most personality tests show your score or percentage in one specific type, this test goes a step further to show how personality traits relate to different characteristics. Additionally, the results specifically address career paths and workplace habits.
The test’s four core personality types – defined as roles – help you learn more about your goals, interests, and preferences:
- Analysts: Analysts tend to be independent and open-minded. They do not fear debate. They are great strategic thinkers but may struggle in social relationships.
- Diplomats: Diplomats tend to be more focused on cooperation. They’re more empathic and often considered to be workplace harmonizers. However, they may struggle to make difficult decisions.
- Sentinels: Sentinels tend to be highly practical and great with logistics. They may also be inflexible.
- Explorers: Explorers tend to be practical and can react quickly when necessary. They easily master new tools and techniques but may pursue more risky endeavors without much thought.
The test also outlines four strategies to help you learn more about your preferred way of doing things and achieving goals:
- Confident Individualism: People in this category tend to prefer doing things alone and strongly believe in individual responsibility. They don’t pay too much attention to others’ opinions.
- People Mastery: People in this category tend to enjoy social contact and have great communication skills. They enjoy learning what makes other people happy but don’t care what others think of them.
- Constant Improvement: People in this category tend to be quiet perfectionists. They are curious hard workers who are very concerned about their performance.
- Social Engagement: People in this category tend to be more social and energetic. Social status is important to them, as are others’ opinions.
By combining the results of these and other categories, you receive results about one of 16 personality types. Here’s what the test can show you about your probable remote-work strengths and challenges.
- Do you need social engagement? If you learn that social engagement is essential for you, you don’t want to work for a remote team that rarely connects. This preference is something you can address during the hiring process. Once you join a team, you may look for opportunities for remote work engagement, such as planning a recognition or team-building event.
- Do you like to work alone? If you discover you prefer to work alone, consider how that impacts your role. Can you limit meetings and contribute via Slack or Teams? Perhaps you can discuss this with your supervisor.
- Do you enjoy close team relationships? If you’re a team leader who enjoys workforce collaboration and building strong relationships, you may find it challenging to foster the healthy business relationships you’d experience in an office. Consider how you’ll handle this – perhaps by scheduling more regular one-on-ones or inviting the team to more casual catch-ups.
Remember that results are not absolute, no matter what personality test you take. Use what you learn about your strengths and weaknesses to become a better team member and employee.
Making ‘work from home’ work
Employers and employees must 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 (if possible) and excellent 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 advised. “This will also help those who tend toward distractibility to be accountable.”
Publicist Jana McDonough, a full-time remote staff member at Maracaibo Media Group, says 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 any employee’s success – remote or not – depends on how motivated they are 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.”
Put your personality to work for you
The demand for remote work is strong, even amid back-to-office and hybrid arrangement trends. If you prefer to work remotely, take the time to learn how your personality impacts your work style and preferences. An increased sense of self-awareness can open doors to new opportunities, increased productivity and better relationships with colleagues.
Nicole Fallon contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.