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Not Everyone is Cut Out for Remote Work

Great people do great remotely. But what does greatness mean when it comes to remote work? Well, these are your A players again that you can count on:-)

As I am discussing designing flexible work arrangements for a company, I have included this in their brief. The reaction? "Oh, I never thought about this, and wouldn't it be unfair?"

There are many debates around remote work, but one thing nobody talks about is the characteristics of those who do great in remote settings.

It is not only a matter of what the employee wants but whether or not the employee can perform under such conditions.

Of course, most of us want to work from home, but it would be naive to think everyone is cut out to work independently. Unfortunately, this topic is entirely ignored by most of the studies, and because a great chunk of the workforce doesn't have what it takes to be fully remote, companies are bringing people back to the offices. This is unfair and not the differentiation of those employees.

Once again, part of the workforce is being punished instead of establishing characteristics and allowing those with what it takes to work remotely.

So, who are these guys, and what do they have?


- Are intrinsically motivated & driven

- Have the drive to achieve and work towards a goal with very little supervision

- Are disciplined & organised

- Are industrious & orderly - high on the personality trait of conscientiousness

- Have the ability to figure things out by themselves and to gain and demonstrate skills independently. When they need to do something new, they teach themselves

- Need to be given the task or a clear goal and need little to no supervision to get them down

- They need leaders, not managers

- When you delegate to them, you are confident it will get done

- When they are blocked, they ask for help

When discussing remote work, we must recognise these characteristics as they are key to deciding whether a company should go for remote, hybrid or full-office time arrangements and who should be allocated which arrangement.

Some need close supervision and external motivation to get things done; nothing is wrong with it. What is wrong is ignoring these facts and treating everyone the same while individuals are clearly different in their motivation, drive, performance, decision-making, and level of independence they require to perform.

Recruitment processes must consider these areas when recruiting for remote jobs, and Learning & Development can identify these characteristics for specific roles and design assessments to test for them.

PS: Great managers and leaders treat people differently based on their abilities, needs, and potential. AND, their external circumstances as in this case some homes are not suitable for remote work even if the person is. So be careful how you treat your people. Consider them as individuals and stop painting them with the same brush.

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