As more businesses are seeing the benefits of remote working, current trends indicate that every year a more significant portion of the international job force is working from home or using flexible working arrangements. The International Workplace Group found that 70 percent of all professionals work remotely at least one day per week.
Many employees believe working from home (or at least away from the office) can bring freedom and stress-free job satisfaction, and with the convenience offered by technologies like Skype and portable Wi-Fi hotspots, many are asking, “Should I start working from home?” If you’re one of them, send us your CV. Looking to hire a superstar? Talk to us.
A recent study conducted by scientists at Baylor University, and published in The European Journal Of Work And Organizational Psychology, indicates that one’s capacity to be a successful remote worker is dependent on their levels of two personality traits: autonomy and emotional stability.
The study examines the impact of remote work on employee well-being and offers several strategies to help managers provide remote-work opportunities that are valuable to both the employee and the company.
As the researchers write in the study, “Any organization, regardless of the extent to which people work remotely, needs to consider the well-being of their employees as they implement more flexible working practices.”
In their research, scientists at Baylor looked at over 400 adults who work remotely, looking both at how stressed or under strain they were and what kinds of personalities they had. The research team utilized each employee’s autonomy (the level of a worker’s independence) and emotional stability (how they respond to challenges) to measure personality.
Explanation of Autonomy and Emotional Stability
Essentially, autonomy describes a worker’s independence, and how well they do without constant supervision. As a general rule, jobs with a high degree of autonomy engender a sense of responsibility and greater job satisfaction in the employee. With independence, an employee bears more responsibility and ownership of their work, which can motivate them to work harder and invest more energy and interest in projects.
The lead researcher in the study, Dr. Sara Perry, explained in a press release that emotional stability determines how an employee responds to problems. She states that “If something stressful happens at work, a person who is high on emotional stability would take it in stride, remain positive and figure out how to address it. A person low on emotional stability might get frustrated and discouraged, expending energy with those emotions instead of on the issue at hand.”
The research found that those who flourish as remote workers also demonstrate high levels of both autonomy and emotional stability. For those familiar with remote work, this should make sense. Remote workers can’t be continuously connected to their bosses and have to make decisions on their own. Without a strong sense of autonomy and the ability to work independently, remote work can be tough.
The study also found, however, that an imbalance of either characteristic could be detrimental to remote work. The researchers noted that while autonomy is critical to protecting remote employees’ well-being and helping them avoid strain, employees reporting high levels of job autonomy with lower levels of emotional stability appear to be more susceptible to strain.
Though it seems as if being in an intense office environment would be harder for people who are less emotionally stable, data from Baylor’s research suggests otherwise. Participants who were extraordinarily independent and scored low on emotional stability were more vulnerable to strain. Having a greater sense of autonomy, as the study determines, doesn’t save you from finding remote work stressful if you don’t cope with problems well.
Recommendations for Managers of Remote Teams
For managers looking to hire remote workers or are looking for advice for managing their existing remote team, be sure to assess employee behaviors continuously. For example, Perry indicates that “if someone does not handle stress well in the office, they are not likely to handle it well at home either. If someone gets overwhelmed easily or reacts in big ways to requests or issues in the office, they are likely less well positioned to work remotely and handle that responsibility and stress.”
Though individuals with high levels of autonomy and emotional stability are ideal remote workers, such candidates are not always available. In this scenario, the research team suggests providing more resources and support to help foster strong relationships with coworkers and avoid strain. Also, managers may want to arrange proper training for remote work, like clear procedural and performance expectations and regular contact (virtual or face-to-face) with their teams.
It’s crucial that employers consider personality traits when deciding how to best support those who choose to take advantage of remote work. When allowing employees the opportunity to work remotely, managers should consider behavioral attributes, especially autonomy and emotional stability. That’s just one of the dimensions that we at DistantJob take into account when finding the optimal candidate to work at your company. Need to hire? Get in touch.