Working In An Office Could Make You Miserable, Especially If You Have A Remote Personality
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
Some people have the personality to work remotely. These remote personalities are hard-charging go-getters with a self-motivated mindset. They’re fine working with fewer rules and more all-nighters. And they’re not fazed by the isolation, diminished emotional and administrative support, or the reduced collaboration and recognition of remote work.
When these remote personalities work remotely they’re very happy. 43% of them say they love their job. But when remote personalities have to go work inside an office, their happiness drops precipitously; only 24% of them love their job.
This data comes from the 8,117 people that have taken the free online test “Is Your Personality Suited To Working Remotely Or In The Office?” Respondents answer 10 questions and receive results indicating whether their personality is better suited to working remotely or working in an office. We can then see whether their personality matches with their actual working situation.
Here’s a chart with the data…
The data also shows that only a small percentage of remote personalities who work remotely dislike or just tolerate their jobs. This is what we would expect, just as it seems predictable that remote personalities working in an office rank the highest of people who hate, dislike or just tolerate their jobs.
But what about the people who have a personality better suited to working in an office? These office personalities like the collegial work environment, consistency, sane workloads and clearly defined expectations often associated with working in office. But here’s a shocker, when office personalities work remotely, 31% of them say they love their job.
Apparently, it’s better to have an office personality and work remotely than it is to have a remote personality and work in an office. One reason for this may be how the two personality types respond to having rules and clearly defined expectations. The online test actually asked, “Do you like having rules and clearly defined expectations or you prefer not to be constrained by a set of rigid rules?” And what we learned is that office personalities do a much better job adapting to the remote work freedom of fewer rules than do remote employees in adapting to the constraint of in-office rules.
Anecdotally, one office personality I spoke to told me she thought she would hate working from home when her organization downsized its physical office and sent her home to work. “I loved the routine of working in office and I definitely appreciated the unwritten rule that once you leave the office in the evening, work is done for the day,” she said. But this office personality found that acclimating to remote work wasn’t that difficult. “I’ve been working from home for almost a year and my boss remains quite happy with my work quality. I actually don’t mind not being chained to the 8-to-6 grind I was in before. It’s not like I was actually working all those hours anyway. Sometimes now I work days, sometimes I work nights, but I get just as much done as I did in office and I actually have more time for myself.”
This is a big leap from the remote personality who described being forced to work in office as “soul sucking.” As he explained, “No matter how much work you do or don’t have, when you work in office you aren’t the one who sets your schedule. Even the most efficient worker can’t leave before 5 o’clock without getting suspicious looks. I lost all the passion for my work when I was forced to work in office.”
Both stories support the data that tells us that having more freedom than you’d like is tolerable. And it’s a lot better than getting less freedom than you’d like.
Also of surprise in the data were the levels of unhappiness of office personalities who do work in an office. We might expect them to be pretty happy because they actually get to work in an environment that matches their predisposition, but only 19% say they love their jobs, and that’s the lowest number of any of these groups. It does seem that regardless of your personality, working in an office is a recipe for not loving your job.
Of course, working in an office can’t be all bad. There are still people that work in offices and absolutely love their jobs. But this data raises some questions about whether there are aspects of working remotely that are just better for people and whether we could bring some of those elements into the office.
For example, many managers are just bad at managing. They don’t know how to coach, inspire, give feedback, etc. And it’s not necessarily their fault; they were never taught how to actually manage people. So instead of good managing, they often micromanage. They hover over their employees, needling them with questions about the most picayune details, and ultimately suck any autonomy (and thus engagement) out of their employees. Now, if an employee were working remotely, they could avoid a lot of that micromanaging. The boss can’t walk over to their desk and just stand there, because the boss is many miles away. Sure, the boss can still email incessantly, but that’s a lot easier to ignore.
There are dozens of ways we could infuse the office environment with elements of working remotely. Humans probably didn’t evolve to sit for eight hours continuously; it’s more likely we’re suited to work in intense bursts with breaks and the chance to stand or walk. Maybe having some personal items on the desk isn’t so bad. (Yes, there are still many offices than ban or limit personal items on desks.) And maybe we could train managers how to manage, including how to coach, set inspiring goals, give useful feedback and even some positive reinforcement.