What Personality Type Is Best Suited to Virtual Work?

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SlobVirtual and/or remote work is becoming central to most employers’ resourcing and fulfillment strategies. In fact, many startup companies launch on a bedrock of virtual employees, and virtual employees now deliver a large proportion of the turnover of many larger firms, too.

The debate around virtual work has evolved past making a business case for virtual working, or even discussing how fast it will rise. It’s here in force and here to stay. I think we should be looking at refining the virtual worker hiring process to bring it up to the same standard as the co-located worker hiring process.

One area I feel is worth looking at is whether a certain type of personality is more suited to virtual working. Research prompted by Cisco and performed by Pearn Kandola suggests there is, but you might be surprised at what they found.

Extroverts Are More Suited to Virtual Work Than Introverts

It seems that it isn’t introverts and shy, lone-wolf types who make the ideal virtual working personality, as you might expect. Actually, extroverted, curious, social types thrive more in virtual working situations because they are much more able to form the necessary connections to stave off isolation and collaborate effectively in virtual working scenarios.

Organized People Are More Suited to Virtual Working

The research also found that the shy, disorganized types struggle out of the office, and they perform better in structured, established environments. Extroverted and organized workers have the curiosity and gregariousness to make things happen — even if there aren’t procedures and processes in place.

Virtual Workers Excel in Interdependent Work Relationships

Research from Global Integration  (note: research is behind a paywall) has illustrated that virtual teams are uniquely interdependent in that they share common goals and responsibilities, but team members need to be self-reliant and self-motivated. As a result people, who can operate well in interdependent work relationships will thrive in a virtual working environment. This ties in well with the Pearna Kandola research, which shows that collaborative skills and tendencies are crucial.

Virtual Workers Enjoy Ambiguity

The Global Integration research shows that being comfortable with ambiguity is a key requirement of virtual working. Workers who enjoy receiving firm instructions and working on tight schedules will struggle in the virtual working environment, which draws heavily on personal initiative and independence of thought.

Communication Skills Matter — Especially Written Communication Skills

Global Integration found communication skills to be especially important, because virtual working relies heavily on well-written and easily comprehended communications. Any limitation on a worker’s communication skills will reduce their ability to work effectively in a virtual setting.

Based on this research, recruiters and hiring managers should consider that there is a personality type that is more suited to virtual working. Generally, the best virtual workers are extroverted, highly social, collaborative, organized, self-reliant, self-motivated, and comfortable with ambiguity. Ideally these, traits should be given high priority when assessing and selecting candidates for virtual roles.

By Kazim Ladimeji