There are two types of people: those who love working from home and those who hate it. Or not? Of course it’s not that simple. Although the categorization of personalities helps to get an overview of characteristics and needs, it always has its weaknesses. There is still a lot of room in the spectrum between home office lovers and home office haters.
The extent to which personality influences productivity in the home office is illustrated, for example an IZA research paper by Nicolas Gavoille and Mihails Hazans, August 2022. The authors measure the “Big Five” personality traits of more than 1,700 respondents in Latvia who worked exclusively or mostly from home during the pandemic. In an EU comparison, Latvia has always had a particularly high level of mobile work.
The Big Five categories relate to openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The five personality types have been proven by a large number of studies and are now internationally regarded as the universal standard model in personality research. They have been used in thousands of scientific studies over the past 20 years – including the home office survey from Latvia.
Anyone who has a high degree of openness is therefore considered imaginative, curious and imaginative. Those who have conscientiousness are considered controlled, precise and goal-oriented. Extraverts are sociable, active, and talkative. Agreeable means that people are compassionate, helpful, and understanding. Researchers associate neuroticism with personalities who are fearful, vulnerable, and self-doubting.
In order to find out how strong or weak the various personality traits are in the respondents, they had to agree or disagree with some statements. On a scale of one to seven, they were asked to categorize themselves for statements such as “I consider myself reliable”, “I consider myself carefree” or “I consider myself open-minded”.
According to the study, the respondents who are particularly highly ascribed conscientiousness are particularly productive. Those who score in the top quarter in this category are around 25 percent more likely to report positive experiences in the home office. However, according to the researchers, even people who have been shown to be open are extremely productive when working in their own four walls.
On the other hand, people with a high level of agreeableness and extraversion are considered less productive – at least if there is no regular exchange in the team. According to the researchers, companies that increasingly offer mobile working should therefore provide sufficient opportunities for social contacts among employees, for example through feedback discussions, in order to do justice to these team members as well.
If you are interested in testing yourself for the respective characteristics, you will find various contact points on the Internet. So did the University of Leipzig a free and anonymous Big Five personality test published with “scientifically based, individual feedback”. The test lasts a maximum of 15 minutes and does not require registration. It includes not only the five personality dimensions, but also other more specific facets of them.
For managers, this results in concrete recommendations for action: On the one hand, it becomes clear that different people have different needs and bosses are well advised not only to know them, but also to ask them about them again in regular discussions. Personalities are highly complex and even the Big Five are not always able to capture a person’s character 100% adequately at all times.
On the other hand, the study results also clearly show how little sense rigid office or home office rules really are for a team. The best way is to design remote work flexibly so that employees can decide for themselves on which days people prefer to get together in the office and on which days they prefer to concentrate in the home office.
For example, while the conscientious should divide up the work themselves, since they would never opt for a solution in which they are less productive, extroverts are only likely to be enthusiastic about the home office in exceptional cases. For managers, however, the question of where to work is not just about getting the best out of their team. It’s also about not losing your best employees.
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