There’s been a seismic shift in remote work opportunities in the past decade. Now 70% of hiring managers’ companies offer some sort of work-from-home option, according to LinkedIn. And the industries that allow remote work are varied. Brie Reynolds, career development manager and coach at FlexJobs, points out that those that had 50% growth in the number of positions available ranged from insurance to nonprofit and philanthropy, marketing, legal, pharmaceutical, and engineering.
That’s a good thing because a majority (82%) of the 2,000 working professionals and 1,000 hiring managers LinkedIn polled said they’d like to work from home one day a week or more, with 57% wanting to work from home three or more days each week.
The benefits of this arrangement for those who can swing it can be great. FlexJobs’s 2019 survey of over 7,000 professionals found that only 8% of respondents said the office during work hours is where they’re most productive. That’s partly due to the time savings of not having to commute, a factor that research has shown to have a negative impact not just on the workers, but their families, employers, and the economy.
But while many say they’d prefer to work remotely, there may be ways that are more or less effective for you, based on your personality. As Harvard Business School behavioral scientist Francesca Gino told Fast Company, “by increasing our awareness of where we stand in terms of introversion and extroversion, we can develop a better sense of our tendencies, manage our weak spots, and play to our strengths.”
With that in mind, we asked three professionals who work remotely (introvert, extrovert, and ambivert) how they design their days to leverage their strengths for maximum productivity. Here’s what they told us:
Annmarie Neal has worked remotely for most of her career. Now as the chief human resources officer at Ultimate Software, she’s based in Colorado while the company’s headquarters is located in Florida.
Neal says that her Myers-Briggs Type Indicator suggests she’s an introvert, and she agrees as she tends to gain energy from solo or very small group activities. Her work, though, requires near-constant engagement with colleagues, managers, candidates, investors, etc., and she does travel. Neal says it’s 24/7, and by the look of her schedule, she’s serious.
“I reserve Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for as much in-person engagement as I can—whether that interaction is live or via video,” Neal explains. She uses Friday as an office day, where she does most of her catch-up calls. “Saturday tends to be my thinking day, where I save all of the projects that need my full attention versus ‘burst attention’ in between meetings,” Neal says, adding, “When I am at my best and my calendar is under my control, I tend to leave large amounts of open space when I am in the office.”
Neal also makes a dedicated effort to get out of her home office. “You will often find me at my local coffee roaster, ironically, when I need quiet time to write an article, digest a large analysis, or work on something that requires innovation and creativity,” she says. Neal finds the background stimulation pleasing and enjoys people watching while she works.
What Neal’s learned that works best for her isn’t just for introverts—it’s basically what it takes to be successful as a remote worker. “I believe that because you are not in the office all the time, you need to be ever-more present in conversations,” she says.
But she’s very strategic about how she shows up. “I plan ahead to be certain that I attend meetings where my observations and opinions really matter,” she says. When there are conference calls that go on for hours but she’s not required to engage, Neal will listen while taking a long walk or using a Nordic ski machine. “There’s something about being in motion that has me listening with greater focus and retention,” she says.
Reynolds, the FlexJobs career development manager—who is a self-reported introvert—observes, “Introverts also tend to find it easier to communicate remotely because they can do it in a more comfortable space.” Reynolds notes that phone meetings conserve an introvert’s energy because there is no requirement to use body language or try to read other people’s body language. “They can focus their energy on speech and tone of voice instead,” she says.
“Equally, I am very strategic about stepping away from those meetings where my presence isn’t material to the outcomes of the agenda,” Neal says. “I may actively delegate, or chose to do video or phone.” And Neal also makes it a point to manage FOMO. “Otherwise, you’ll never shut off and recharge.”
Mike Yin considers himself somewhere between extrovert and introvert. He’s the lead mobile engineer at Betterment and has been working remotely from Jackson, Wyoming, for four years. For Yin, it’s easy to work remotely because every part of his job can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.
His biggest challenge is maintaining engagement with the team, so he has had to make sure that he’s in the loop when things happen and that he reaches out when he needs help. Daily video calls to hold stand-up meetings ensure they’re all on the right track. Yin says he also uses Slack chats throughout the day. And although he doesn’t do it often, he will travel to make connections in person.
“Spending a few weeks with coworkers to build working relationships in person during onboarding really helps to ensure those relationships exist once you’re remote,” he says.
To suit his ambivert personality, Yin says he’ll head to coffee shops in the neighborhood occasionally or the library. “Sometimes it’s just to be around people, and other times it’s just to reduce distractions that exist at home,” he says, taking care of the need to energize as well as focus all in one.
Leyla Tonak describes herself as an extrovert. She’s an artist who works part-time as an independent paralegal with defense attorneys on Criminal Justice Act (CJA) appointed cases in New York, which means she’s often working remotely for months at a time until a case gets close to trial.
Then, Tonak says, there’s a lot more in-person interaction, and once the trial starts, she sees the attorney and the client on a daily basis.
For the stretches of time between trials, Tonak says remote work requires a lot of self-motivation and independent goal setting. “It can be hard not to have the structure of a 9-5 day in an office setting, to do without the social aspect of working with a team, and to prioritize and schedule for yourself when there isn’t a manager present to set expectations for you,” she explains.
Tonak says one of the most important skills I’ve developed while working remotely is creating structure. She works during traditional office hours and a regular workweek with weekends off.
“I rely heavily on lists,” she explains. “It’s really a lifesaver for keeping me on track.” Before she signs off each day, Tonak makes sure to update her list of action items to have a clear picture of what she needs to accomplish.
For the necessary social interaction, Tonak leans on phone calls rather than emails. “Establishing a rapport is very important when you don’t get that much face time,” she says, and it also helps the attorney know she’s present and attentive, and to maintain a dialogue about the progression of the case. “I also try to make myself really available for in-person check-ins, even if it’s just a quick coffee meetup,” she adds, which can be good for brainstorming and strategizing as well as any technical troubleshooting, because that can be difficult to execute over the phone.
Reynolds of FlexJobs says that extroverts like Tonak may prefer in-person interaction, but it might not always be possible in a remote work situation. Dialing in can substitute for the people interaction they crave, she says, but it’s also an opportunity to use extroversion for good. “Perhaps you could lead the opening conversation by asking everyone about their days or fun weekend plans they might have,” Reynolds suggests. “Introverts on the call will thank you for getting the conversation started.”
Like Neal and Yin, Tonak tends to go to coffee shops to get work done. But for her it’s usually when she’s feeling isolated or unmotivated. “Coffee shops are a great way for me to energize my work environment,” Tonak says. “There are usually a lot of young people working remotely in these spaces so it feels kind of communal.”