John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company

#CoronaCrisis - Communicating effectively with a newly remote workforce 

With the recent surge in #RemoteWorking due to COVID-19 there has been a large strain placed on the UK’s mobile networks and internet providers. The upsurge in activity has caused difficulties for networks such as EE and O2, as well as internet providers such as Virgin Media, all of which have suffered outages over the past few days.

The past few days have seen organisations shift their employees from the office to working from home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Twitter recently ordered its entire workforce to move to remote working, since then more and more companies have followed suit.

However, while remote working is familiar for some, many people have never done it for more than a day or two, and may not feel comfortable being suddenly thrust into a longer work-from-home period.

This has put a strain on UK mobile phone networks, who have failed to cope with the upsurge in activity as millions begin to work from home and need the service to keep in contact with colleagues, friend and family.

While this is an ongoing issue, during social distancing lack of connectivity will impact some personalities over others, says John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, a business psychology organisation:

Working from home might sound great, but many people find it quite difficult at the best of times. In the current crisis, and with the relatively sudden imposition of remote working, it will be even more stressful.

It is therefore important for managers to think about how employees with different attitudes and personality preferences may cope with this stress and uncertainty, and with any blurring between work and home life.

While remote working is not a new phenomenon, the move to contain the coronavirus has seen many teams forced to take up remote working suddenly and unexpectedly. Most of these teams, working from home for the first time, may not have had the chance to trial how they can best work together in these types of settings.

Individual team members may enjoy the peace and quiet of home working, or miss the buzz of the workplace. Therefore, employers must consider how their workforce will receive the change, and particularly those with different personality preferences. Individuals will experience a change in different ways – some may immediately feel anxious while others will relish the challenge and even the uncertainty that change can bring.

For instance, some that are suddenly thrust into working alone may find it too quiet or feel isolated. Managers can avoid this by incorporating collaboration tools or by creating virtual spaces for informal communication that would normally be a natural feature of teams that are usually office-based.

One tool that can prove useful to employers is the MBTI® assessment – a framework for understanding an individual’s personality preferences as well as their strengths and blind spots. It is also a valuable foundation for building self-awareness and allows individuals to better understand themselves – something that is particularly important in times of change and crisis. 

Today, digital communication by smartphone, tablet or computer permeates every aspect of our lives. Businesses have encouraged employees to get connected and be able to work remotely to make communication quicker and easier. But when this becomes one’s only or primary means of communication, when face to face contact is suddenly severely restricted, that can be stressful. And when network failures mean that even digital communication falters, this adds to the pressure. However, if individuals know their personality preferences, they will be much better prepared.

For instance, within the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® personality framework, people with a preference for Judging – an inclination for living a planned and organised life – are likely to be particularly irritated by the uncertainty of failing network connections,. Whereas people with a preference for Perceiving – who like to keep their options open and enjoy the buzz of doing things at the last minute – may find themselves in a hole if they are not fully prepared and then the network goes down.

Equally, those with a preference for Extraversion focus their attention on the outside world, while people with a preference for Introversion focus on the inside. Extraverts are energised by interacting with people and things, and they generally prefer to talk things through. As a result, the lack of ability to do so may have a negative impact on their work and well-being. Introverts, meanwhile, prefer to think things through and are refreshed by time spent in reflection and therefore are likely to place fewer calls, so may not be as affected when connectivity goes down.

By better understanding how different people approach and deal with change, employers stand the best chance of success when communicating and executing their plans. By taking the time to understand how employees work, in communal workplaces and at home, and how they relate to others, employers can equip their workforce with the tools required to manage stress, remain engaged, and be productive through these trying times.

John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company

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