Remote Work Personas That Emerged in 2020

By: Andrew C. Jackson

After our transition to a remote work environment, I began to notice the different ways in which individuals adapted to working from home. While I am not a psychologist and don’t claim scientific knowledge in this area, here are four distinct work personas I’ve observed from a management perspective.

1. The Reluctant Productive

These employees are doing the work and meeting expectations, but their morale is suffering. They miss the energy, structure, and social connections of an office setting, and may also be experiencing stress related to working and living in the same space. You can keep these employees in a remote setting, but make sure to schedule frequent “office-like” activities including virtual meetings, spontaneous check-ins, and networking opportunities, so they do not miss an office setting so much that they leave you to find it. When it becomes possible, schedule in-person meetings or lunch dates to keep these employees engaged.

2. The Reluctant Unproductive

Reluctant unproductives may have performed well in an office environment, but they are just not wired for remote work. They are trying to survive, but the distractions at home and lack of structure make them uncomfortable and they are not succeeding. Try to get these employees back into an office environment as quickly as possible, because they will continue to struggle and may leave.

3. The Willing Unproductive

These employees enjoy the freedom of remote work so much they will avoid returning to the structure and accountability of an office setting. They may make an effort to present an image of confidence and progress, but in reality, they are accomplishing little. In an effort to cover for their lack of success, they may take credit for co-workers’ accomplishments. If you dig a little deeper, you may find they do not have a history of success working independently.  If you suspect you have one of these personas on your team, isolate and deal with them as quickly as possible. Their co-workers know who they are and are often willing to point them out. When hiring new team members for remote work, include questions about successful projects in which they worked independently or took a leadership role.

4. The Willing Productive (a.k.a. The Natural)

These are employees who excel in a remote work environment and seem to overcome any obstacle put before them. They can produce superior results with little or no help from management. They may clock more hours than the rest of your team, or they may work unusually late or early hours to get around distractions or personal obligations at home. These individuals are dream employees because they adapt well to remote work – but keep in mind that they know their potential and probably enjoy the flexibility of working from home. To avoid losing them to a competitor, be cautious about forcing them back into an office setting and make sure you rewarded them for their success.

A Few Takeaways

  1. Assess your team to determine their remote work personas.
  2. Get the first two types of back into an office when you can, and work on reestablishing the culture and structure they need to be successful. Consider implementing a recognition program to recognize their accomplishments if you are not already doing this. These employees will reward you for providing the support they need.
  3. Establish policies and well-defined deliverables to weed out Willing Unproductives. In meetings, assign tasks with firm due dates and clear responsibilities – then follow up and hold them accountable. Make sure your interview and hiring processes are designed to identify these individuals before they get on your team.
  4. Nurture your high-achievers; they have the talent to keep you afloat during hard times and take your team to new heights. If your firm has embraced remote workers as an ongoing strategy, consider searching for more of these types outside your geographic area.

I look forward to hearing your observations about how employees are adapting to remote work. When you are ready to add to your team, contact your BravoTECH sales representative or send me an email at ajackson@bravotech.com.