EPC Fellow and clinical psychologist Dr Mike Drayton shares some advice to help ease the transition into working from home.

This article is also available as a podcast; listen below or download here.

Personality and remote working

The Government has asked all businesses to encourage their employees to work at home wherever possible. Some of us will find it easier than others - why is this?

We are all different and have different personalities. Some people get energy from interacting with other people; others, prefer being alone and just getting on with the task at hand. This is why a lot of the advice in the media and online offering advice on home working needs clarity and practical solutions. Advice that one person will find helpful will be meaningless to another. To figure out what will help, start giving some thought to your personality.

Our personalities are made up of five factors: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. This is known as the 'Big Five,' model . Knowing roughly where you are on each factor, will help you make the most from working at home.

Openness

People high on openness are intellectually curious who, as soon as they hear one idea, a further ten ideas occur to them. People low on openness are practical people who just like to get on with things.

If you think you are high on Openness,  the great danger of working at home will be becoming easily distracted. When you sit down to do a piece of work, your mind will be saying, "I'll just check the news/ Facebook/ Twitter before I start," and that will be your morning gone.

Try to work in short twenty-five minute blocks of ‘Deep Work’ where you really focus on one piece of work, then have a ten-minute break, before another twenty-five minute block of work. This is called 'the Pomodoro Technique’. Think about ways to minimise distractions - if you can, only check email three times a day and don’t take calls when you are concentrating.

Conscientiousness

People high on Conscientiousness are...well, conscientious. They work hard and are reliable. If you are like this, then working at home will be a doddle. You maybe prone to feeling guilty - maybe you aren't doing enough? Your risk factor is workaholism. If this is you, put down strict boundaries around work with rigid start times, lunch breaks and finish times. Say to yourself, "I will start at 09.00 on the dot, have lunch at 12.30 for 45 minutes and finish a 17.00 on the dot."

If you are not the conscientious type but need to get things done to avoid losing your job, exactly the same advice applies. Your danger is not working too much but working too little.

Extraversion

Extraverted people get energy from social contact. Deprive them of this and they can wither like a plant deprived of water. If you are an extrovert, make an extra effort to 'talk' to your colleagues using your work technology.

Organise team lunchtime social catch up chats. Don't be shy to initiate social contact because one of the dangers for teams forced into remote working is fragmentation. It’s important to reinforce social, as well as business contact. If you aren't particularly extroverted and enjoy your own company, then remote working will probably suit you well. But be aware of becoming too isolated - make an effort to keep in touch.

Agreeableness

This isn't just another word for being friendly, rather it describes your tendency to want to agree with other people. If you are agreeable, one of your goals in life is avoiding conflict. The danger for Agreeable remote workers is that the demands of friends and family can overtake work demands during working hours. If you are like this, then firmly but politely remind those around you that you are at work at home – and not on annual leave. Work in a room where you can close the door and use a ‘do not disturb,’ sign

Neuroticism

This describes your tendency to experience negative emotion such as worry or despondency. It’s normal to worry about the current situation, but not to the extent it disables you. If you are a worrier, try and limit your media consumption to checking national and local news first thing in the morning and at the end of the working day. You may also worry about your performance and whether people think you are doing enough.

If you do, talk to your line manager and explain your need for clear goals and regular feedback.

Remote working is likely to be with us for a while, and the more quickly we can adapt, the easier it will become.

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