Who’s Winning Remote Working: Introverts or Extroverts?

The future of working…

Much has been written over the past few weeks on the future of working patterns, especially related to fixed locations versus remoting working (or ‘distributed working’, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re reading this).  I’m sure that post Covid-19 not everyone will return to their office, instead choosing to be a fulltime home-worker.  I listened to a fascinating Sam Harris podcast the other week on ‘The New Future of Work’.  In the episode, Sam interviewed Matt Mullenweg, the American entrepreneur who currently heads up Automattic, the people behind WordPress, WooCommerce and Tumblr, to name a few.  Automattic now has just a single boardroom-style office, which is quite something for a company of around 1000 employees. Unsurprisingly he’s a BIG advocate for remote working and all the benefits it provides.

But what about the fact we’re, erm, human?

This approach appears to work well for Matt and his team and I’m sure all organisations will be reassessing how and where they locate their staff in the coming months.  Indeed, last week the CEO of Barclays, Jes Staley, announced that having big, expensive city offices “may be a thing of the past”. Although I’m drawn to the argument for more remote working and the benefits it provides in terms productivity, economic and environmental considerations, I still have a few nagging doubts based on the simple, but critical, human and psychological need for social interaction and physical proximity. While working from home is manna from heaven for introverts (I’m very much in this category) it must be torture for extroverts.  

Thriving, not just surviving

Reflecting on Matt Mullenweg’s story – which I think is truly inspirational – my working assumptions with ‘so what’s’ are:

  1. Not everyone who has been forced to work remotely will stay remote. At the same time, not everyone who worked in an office pre Covid-19 will head back.  A rapid – and perhaps the most rapid in peacetime – workforce redesign exercise across virtually all organisations will start as soon as the first glimmers of hope emerge of the end of lockdown.
  2. Extroverts will have to grow to love (thrive not survive) the concept of not always being close to their colleagues.  This is a challenge not just for individuals, but for leaders who most likely have both introverts and extroverts in their team. Adapting leadership styles to take account of the needs of both personality types will be key to successfully managing a dispersed team.
  3. The success Matt has seen with Automattic is only partly based on changing people’s habits and needs. I suggest that, certainly over the last few years, he simply recruited folk who don’t want to work in an office and deepened the culture that already existed.  There are many lessons for business in what Matt has done, and what he and Automattic represent but… dear leaders, don’t assume this model is right for every organisation in every industry and in every country.
  4. In order to exploit lessons learnt from the past few weeks and not rush headlong into a new one-sized fits all model, leaders of teams that have been forced to work remotely should NOW be: 
  • Taking stock of how their teams are, how they’ve coped with lockdown and their capacity and capability to cope with more change
  • Communicating their, and their organisation’s, plans – however embryonic – on the future working environment
  • Reflecting on what worked well while in lockdown and what didn’t to inform workforce redesign strategizing
  • Pushing their line management, HR teams and Learning & Development teams to help them get their teams ready for the next wave of change that’s about to hit them.  Unlike the rapid reaction to Covid-19, the response to the lifting of lockdown can be planned for to maximise the likelihood of the new world being better that the old.

Chris Milliner, Director of PCS, May 2020

Are your teams thriving or surviving?

If you’re a HR or L&D leader looking for an objective and analytical way to assess how your remote teams and their leaders are performing in the current climate, look no further than our PCS Lite tool. Quick, simple and online, PCS Lite is a survey-based tool which gives you a snap-shot of how your teams and leaders are performing in 6 key areas critical to team performance and wellbeing. The resulting report will highlight areas for attention and give practical advice on how to improve them resulting in happier, healthier and more productive teams. Try PCS Lite here.

Zac's Challenges:

Zac’s tech business is growing rapidly. He’s gone from being a developer with a good idea to now overseeing an ever-expanding team. Zac knows that in order for the business to grow successfully, it needs to stay true to its founding values and his staff need to feel valued and engaged. Zac wants to understand if he and his team are on the same page and he needs to do it quickly and cost effectively.

Zac's PCS Solution

Zac decides to use PCS Lite to get a quick temperature check of how his team are performing and what they think about the business. The PCS Lite report quickly surfaces the fact that his team have lost sight of the organisation’s purpose and goals. Zac realises that he needs to improve his on-boarding processes and help orientate the new team members better in the company culture and vision. 6 months later, Zac uses PCS Lite to check his new onboarding process is working; concludes that the growing team are much better aligned to his vision and are generally operating in a more positive working environment.

Annabel's Challenges:

It’s Annabel’s job to help the Partners in the firm manage their clients and ensure they’re consistently adding value. Recently, Annabel has been asked by one of the Partners to find a tool or framework that the consultants can use to benchmark new clients looking for team and leadership improvement programmes. It needs to be cost-effective, established and reputable and able to be branded with the firm’s own logo.

Annabel's PCS Solution

Annabel recommends PCS Pro to the Senior Partners as it provides an objective measurement of team and leadership climate against which the consultants can build performance improvement programmes. PCS has a good track record, academic validation, excellent training and customer service, so she’s confident that it’s the right tool for the firm’s consultants to use.

Sarah's Challenges:

Sarah has to keep across the multiple training and development needs in the organisation and do it within a tight budget. Recently, Sarah’s been asked to design a L&D programme that improves the staff retention rate and helps staff feel more engaged with the changes happening in the organisation, not least the shift to more flexible working.

Sarah's PCS Solution

Sarah uses PCS to measure how different teams across the organisation are performing and look at any patterns which suggest the need for organisation-wide, leader or team training. Sarah notices that all teams and leaders have a low climate score in the Processes segment. Sarah knows that allocating budget in this area will improve performance. She works with the Senior Management Team to review the organisation’s processes as they transition to more flexible working and designs a training programme to support staff in the transition. She’s helped staff to feel supported, acknowledged and engaged which ultimately drives performance. 

Jim's Challenges:

Jim’s client has a team that’s not performing as well other teams in the organisation. The team has a high staff turnover, sickness and the lack of cohesion is impacting the team’s wellbeing and performance. Jim needs to get to the bottom of why this is happening and design effective coaching interventions which can generate tangible results for his client.

Jim's PCS Solution

Jim uses PCS Pro to measure / benchmark how the team and leader are performing across the 6 segments critical to team performance – Goals, Roles, Processes, Adaptability, Connection and Resilience. He can immediately see the disparity in Goals, Processes and Connection between the leader’s perception and those of her team. He uses this information to build a coaching programme designed align team and leader. After 6 months, the team seems to be more settled and productive. Jim remeasures using PCS Pro – the results show the client the effectiveness of his coaching intervention.