From the perspective of a strap-hanging, cubicle-trapped, micromanaged office worker, working from home may sound heavenly. But if you’re the type of person who needs people, variety, and riffing off the team vibe to get the productivity juices flowing, it’s basically your worst nightmare. That’s the power of personality type: different strokes for different folks.
Thanks to COVID-19 and worldwide social-distancing strategies, working from home is about to become the new normal for hundreds of thousands of workers around the globe. Here’s how to stay healthy, happy and sane whatever your personality type, even if you’re working at home in your pajamas with a toddler strapped to your knee.
The Guardians (ESTJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ISFJ)
Guardians are disciplined ninjas and your organization skills are legendary. You’re also wonderfully self-motivated, which means that you should cope just fine with a short period of home working. The biggest challenge will be coping with less-than-seamless remote-working systems and dealing with people who may not share your incredible work ethic.
Work-from-home survival strategies for Guardians:
I know you'll do this naturally, but spending a few hours setting up your technology, systems, workflows and communication channels will relax and reassure you and make sure you’re set to go from day one. Don’t leave your set up to the last minute – it’s inviting additional stress.
Create a work-dedicated space
You thrive on order, Guardians, so bouncing from the sofa to the bed with a laptop on your knee just won’t cut it. Familiar feels good to you, so choose your ‘spot’ and do whatever you can to set it up with all the convenience of your regular office.
Stick to your usual routine
If you usually start your day with a shower, coffee and some exercise, then carry on with that routine. If you normally take a lunch break at 1pm, take a lunch break at 1pm. Keep those daily rituals; they’ll keep you grounded.
Get tough with family members
It’s hard to control an excitable four year-old who isn’t used to you being home all day, but if you live with older kids and adults (spouses, roommates), make sure they know that you are, in fact, working. Nothing irritates you more than constant interruptions, so get set up to minimize them.
Set the tone
Guardians are a wonderful mix of efficient, organized, loyal and supportive, and they are natural communicators. Why not use these skills to set the tone for how the team is going to work remotely? Flex your leadership skills by scheduling regular check-ins, and support others who may be having trouble figuring out how to stay on task in a distracting environment. This is especially important for the Extraverts among you, who feel energized by interactions that support people.
Force yourself to switch off
You’re a truly loyal servant, SJ, and when there’s no differentiation between work time and home time, there’s a high risk that you’ll never give yourself the chance to disconnect and relax. Move to another room each evening or visually block off your work space so you’re not tempted to let your work bleed into your leisure time.
The Rationals (ENTJ, ENTP, INTJ, INTP)
Rationals have a high tolerance for change and chaos so the prospect of a home-working stretch probably doesn’t scare you. In fact, you may relish the opportunity to set things up your way instead of bending to your organization’s systems. I’m guessing that the Introverts among you (INTJ, INTP) already spend most of their time away from work at home anyway, so it’s not too big a leap for these types to lock down full time. The challenge comes from staying intellectually stimulated and getting a sense of the success of your work efforts.
Work-from-home survival strategies for Rationals:
Keep moving forward
Rationals are a bit like sharks in the sense that they need constant movement or they’ll die. I’m talking here about intellectual movement – if you’re not connected to a meaningful project, you’ll slump. Watch that you’re not dwelling on the small repetitive tasks and instead, seek out some larger, more challenging projects. Even if your manager is paring the work down to its basics, try to grab the most stimulating work you can find so you don’t die of boredom.
Develop a face-time system with your fellow workers
Especially for the Rational Perceivers (INTP, ENTP), checking in with the team keeps you accountable for goals that might drift when you’re not being shoulder bumped by coworkers. Face-time is key to making decisions in the moment, adjusting in real-time, solving problems as they occur and developing a sense of the success of your efforts.
Set goals to feed off and standards to perform against
When you’re working remotely and alone, it’s easy to fall off the rails towards inefficiency – especially when the processes aren’t optimized the way you’d like them to be. Perhaps you’re impatient with a slow-moving task, or you’ve lost those externally imposed deadlines, or you just want to test the limits of what you can get away with (don’t deny it, Rationals, I know you’re doing this!). Be sure to keep performance standards front-of-mind so you don’t drift into intellectual musings at the expense of more pressing tasks.
Stick to a routine...but don’t be too rigid
Yes, you’re ecstatic at the thought of being able to sleep later and work in your pajamas all day. But without routines, there’s a chance you’ll snowball into procrastination and laziness … or is that just me? You don’t have to work a typical 9-to-5 day and actually, relaxing those stifling office protocols should do wonders for your efficiency. Find your own path, but make sure there’s a semblance of structure in your day.
Be conscious of how everyone else is feeling
I know, I know – emotions are not your strong point. But remember, people are not working from home for fun, they’re doing it to protect the health of the nation. Venting frustrations about the useless work-from-home infrastructure, poor leadership, boring work or lack of problem-solving is going to make people more stressed than they already are. Think: empathy before solutions. Tread lightly.
The Artisans (ESTP, ESFP, ISTP, ISFP)
Artisans believe that variety is the spice of life so let’s not sugarcoat: you’re going to have a shocking time working from home in the current climate. Artisans who routinely work remotely get their fun through sports, hobbies and social time with friends, but social distancing has cut off those stimulations. The challenge is managing your need for spontaneity and finding ‘fun’ and structure in your isolation.
Work-from-home survival strategies for Artisans:
Create real deadlines
One thing you’ll notice immediately is the very real performance gap between remote working and being in the office. With a team of warm bodies screaming at each other to get the servers fixed or the document finished, it’s easy to stay on track. When the same team is working remotely, you lose the urgency and the feedback loop. Lists, schedules, time-management apps – these are real lifesavers for keeping you on track. Before you sign off each day, make a list of action items for the next day so you start each day with a sense of purpose and not inertia.
Allow some distractions
Artisans are excitable, impulsive and spontaneous – which is great when you’re holding a motivational meeting or using your irresistible charm to sell ice to an Eskimo, but not so great when you’re trapped behind a laptop screen. Without variety, these days at home are going to be tough. The solution? Have hobbies, lots of hobbies. When you hit a productivity wall, do something else. Walk the dog, load the laundry, irritate the children. Dance around the kitchen or fix the car. Take regular, proper breaks and come back to it.
If you feel lonely, reach out to people
Artisans thrive on relationships so instead of relying on email, make the effort to call or video chat with co-workers. Don’t wait until a problem needs solving – it’s okay to call someone for a chat about their day and to vent about yours. Don’t suffer in silence.
Get an accountabuddy
Be honest: you have a tendency to take shortcuts and use the smallest effort possible to get tasks over the finish line. To stop your standards from slipping, have someone on speed dial to hold you responsible for finishing tasks to your usual standards, and/or finishing what you start.
You thrive on results and like to be recognized for your successes, but it’s not easy for others to show their appreciation or even notice what you're doing when everyone is working from home. So try treating yourself to a little reward whenever you complete a mundane task or troubleshoot a major problem for the team. It doesn’t have to be much: something simple like binge watching your favorite TV show can give you the motivational boost you need.
The Idealists (ENFJ, ENFP, INFJ, INFP)
Idealists work best when they have full autonomy over their work style and schedules, and they feel constrained by structure. For that reason, you will love being left to your own devices as you work from home. The challenge comes from the lack of human contact. Intuitive Feelers are people-people; they like to be supported and to support others while they work. You will miss being able to talk to people informally and losing those in-person connections is going to be difficult for you.
Work-from-home survival strategies for Idealists:
Lean on phone and video calls over email
Establishing a rapport is very important to you and to do that, you need face time. Talking to people, ideally with video, is better than email as it allows you to be present and attentive, and to maintain an open dialogue with others. Be proactive about being available for in-person check-ins, even if it’s just a quick social chat.
Get super organized
This tip is more for the Idealist Perceivers (INFP, ENFP) who enjoy novelty to the point where they quickly lose enthusiasm for routine projects; procrastinating or missing important deadlines while getting sidetracked on every shiny new thing. Working from home means there’s no boss looking over your shoulder – it’s easy to get swept up in a side project when you should be doing your job. Environment is key here: set it up to minimize outside distractions. Separate your work space from where sleeping, relaxing or entertainment is done. Close down social media while you’re working. Put your phone in another room.
Be social while socially distancing
Everyone needs a break, so why not use yours to look after yourself in more ways than simply stretching your legs? Take advantage of technology to ‘go for virtual lunch’ with a coworker or a friend who’s also working from home. Do an online yoga class. Replicate the water-cooler moment by phoning someone after a virtual team meeting, even if it’s just to say "that meeting was insane!"
Ask for help when you need it, and give help freely without being asked
Everything is a lot for people to handle right now, and altruistic Idealists are perfectly placed to support coworkers and friends who need kind words and a sympathetic ear to get them through the changes. Reach out to people. Being there for others with your usual flexibility and kindness will rejuvenate you as you go through your day.
Cut yourself some slack
You’re passionate about supporting people through this difficult situation and doing your very best for your coworkers and organization. People love that about you. But you have a tendency to be hard on yourself about your productivity level, to the point where working for the good of everyone may not be working out so well for you. So Idealist, it’s essential that you cut yourself some slack. Relax, read, meditate, do something creative – whatever you need to take care of yourself. Recognize that there’s only so much you can do.
The final word
It takes more than a decent wi-fi connection and video conferencing tools to work from home effectively – you also need to play to your personality strengths. Hopefully, these tips should help you streamline your routines, organize your environment and get the social interactions you need without hating every minute of the lockdown. The best thing we can do right now is share experiences and learn from each other. Let us know how you’re coping in the comments below!