Changes that occurred during 2020 cast a completely different light on remote workers.
Suddenly, remote work became a reality for all of us. It was like an experiment for everyone to see how we could function in different environments, yet creating a unique ecosystem. Some of us decided it is great to work in a more familiar environment. Some of us decided to put the pro into ‘’procrastination’’.
But the overall impression from remote workers was more than positive so the remote work is here to stay.
Types of remote workers in a nutshell
Some employers even decided that they will keep the remote work setting they have been working in from now on. It is good for your budget after all and you will be able to explore some new ways to motivate your workers.
So, to help you make your strategy work — we decided to explore the most common types of remote workers. You probably collected them all already, like Pokémon.
Let’s dive into the types of remote workers, the pros and cons of every type, and their personality traits.
Most importantly, we will discover how to motivate each type of remote worker and how you can help them reach their full potential.
Remote work statistics
First, let’s take a look at some interesting statistics that will better paint a more complete picture of the current state of remote work:
Collection of remote work statistics by FlexJobs:
- 86% of remote workers reported a significant decline in stress compared to regular office work
- 4.7 million people were working from their homes even before the COVID-19 crisis hit
- Remote work is also good for your mental health. 54% of remote workers said they have much-needed emotional support
- The number of remote workers increased by a staggering 140% since 2005
Collection of remote work statistics by Review42
- People that are working remotely earned approximately $4,000 more annually compared to their office counterparts
Collection of remote work statistics by SmallBizGenius
- 40% of remote workers claim that the most important benefit of remote work is a flexible schedule, not just financial benefit
It seems like this year just accelerated the transformation of the workspace we once knew.
Even though everyone is following social distancing guidelines doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be social with your remote workers.
Remote worker taxonomy – Most common specimens among the remote workers
When you take a look at your Trello board, Slack, or Skype you just see a bunch of names and tasks. But behind every one of them, there is something unique going on.
Together they form a tapestry of your business where everybody contributes in their own ways. So, it is time to explore what lies beneath the surface.
1. Night owls
Remote workers can be strange animals. Some of them are mostly nocturnal. These superb owls are prime examples of social awkwardness. They simply love working remotely because they can successfully avoid small talk with other colleagues while they are making an enormous, extra-strong cup of coffee.
Caffeine turned into creativity
Night Owls use a unique form of photosynthesis — they turn caffeine into creativity.
They don’t find any connection between their caffeine overload and having insomnia but they keep slamming back java and working into the wee hours of the morning.
As long as they hit the deadline, it is okay.
Give your owl some space
Their occupation is probably a content writer or a programmer. Both write things when the inspiration hits which is often between 1 am and 4 am. They are introverts in most cases.
Pros: They are responsible individuals, very creative and helpful, often with a great sense of humor.
Cons: They can easily get bored, feel trapped, and overwhelmed due to their sensitive nature.
Advice to the employer: If you deal with the night owl, try not to limit them. The more flexibility you give them, the better it will be for you. They will tolerate deadlines but not the Zoom calls at 8 in the morning.
Also, give them feedback about their work — that motivates them to move forward. They are not sensitive to harsh criticism, they are insecure when the feedback is missing.
Worst case scenario? This person has survived them all — inside their head. You know that scene from ‘’Avengers – Infinity War’’ when Doctor Strange is magically seeing every possible outcome of the battle? That’s what overthinkers do.
When new projects come along they will immediately list every single potential issue they will encounter.
Improvise. Adapt. Overthink
This type of remote worker is prepared for every possible situation. They are purebred perfectionists most of the time. Their spreadsheets are regularly updated and tidy so they can keep track of everything.
Overthinkers will send you emails to remind you that the deadline is approaching — even when you are not stressing about it, they will do that for you.
Whether they are more of a “Lord Thinksalot” or “Captain Anxiety,” they have several traits in common. They are both amazing workers who will sacrifice their extra time to get the job done in a timely manner. If they notice that another colleague is struggling, they will gladly help.
Overthinkers are amazing teammates but sometimes others can take advantage of them because they want to make everything perfect — even though it means ruining the balance between their private and work life.
Keeping the right balance
These type of remote workers are mostly project managers and virtual assistants. Their personality is extroverted in most cases and they want others to feel like they are a part of the team.
Pros: With an overthinker in your remote team you can rest assured that everything is under control. They are analytical, well-organized and they will get your back even though they might live miles away.
Cons: They tend to sacrifice too much for the sake of their work.
Advice to the employer: If you notice that you are dealing with an overthinker, assure them that you appreciate what they do. Don’t let them lose their work-life balance, instead teach them to share their tasks with other colleagues. When something bad happens, they are often scapegoats so help them break that cycle. And one last thing — don’t touch their spreadsheets, ever.
3. Ghost reader
Do you know that colleague that is somehow always just… there? Any time of the day or night when you write something into your work chat you can see that they saw your message but they don’t comment or do anything?
Or if you need something from that colleague, they just never answer? They simply just send you the document after some time passes but never write anything back? They are well informed about everything that is happening in the company but never talk to others.
I work alone
These ghost readers or ‘’Watchmen’’ remote workers are often lone rangers. Even in office environments, they will act like that. They tend to do their part methodically and they mostly flourish on solo projects. When it comes to teamwork, they let others do the talking because they find it exhausting.
It is a shame because they are often very innovative people with some great ideas. Programmers and graphic designers are great examples of talented lone rangers.
Time for team building!
They are not lazy and unlike overthinkers, they are often very good at setting boundaries. The reasons for this type of behavior are endless — they could be really shy, they may have gotten used to working on short-term projects, or maybe they simply don’t have time to chat with colleagues because they work on more projects simultaneously.
Pros: They will deliver everything on time, they will do it quickly, and they understand the matter very well. Often very innovative and creative, but ultimately hate the spotlight.
Cons: Bad communication can lead to potential conflicts and misunderstandings. Maybe with that type of behavior, your ghost reader is sending the wrong type of message to the entire team.
Advice for the employer: If you notice that one of your remote workers acts like this, maybe it is time to organize a team-building activity for your remote workers. Encourage more frequent meetings, ask them for some ideas, and be supportive when something is bothering them. Avoid micromanaging at any cost and give them more creative freedom.
Imagine this type of situation. You are almost finished with your project but there is something that you need from your colleague. They are always sending you some fresh and funny memes, you have a nice talk — you assume everything is going smoothly, right? Wrong!
In most cases, you can get explanations like “I’ll do that now’’, or “Sorry I was busy with…’’ (insert the excuse of your choice).
Is it frustrating? Of course. And you know that they actually have a huge potential because you’ve seen it.
Minimal effort – Minimal results
It is hard to maintain control in remote teams sometimes, especially when you are starting to get suspicious. Do they actually work or do they slack until the last minute, resulting in them trying to get the additional time? These people are campaigners who are very well aware of everything but they often choose to give their bare minimum.
They are often good colleagues but sometimes not so invested in the tasks. They want to finish it quickly. They don’t pay much attention to details. In the end, this can create problems for other team members that were doing their part more consistently.
How to help slackers to get more invested?
Slackers are often very charming and crafty but ultimately they need a reminder that they need to do their part in order for everything to work.
Pros: They can always find the easier way to do things. Work smarter, not harder.
Cons: They don’t take things seriously. Their attitude is like they have no care in the world.
Advice to the employer: If you notice that your employee is slacking make sure to install a great time tracker that will show you the real state of things.
Try building a better trust that would lead to better transparency and building a better relationship.
5. Jack of all trades
This guy knows everything. He can make a website, write a blog or make a post for social media. He can fix your problem with emails but you can’t help but ask yourself — what was his primary work? He is always there to help all people solve their problems and everybody is relying on his expertise.
Jacks and Jills of all trades have probably worked on a wide variety of projects before and they learned that the more skills they possess — the more secure they are in their position. They are hardworking problem solvers that can always save the day and help a fellow colleague. They mostly get along with overthinkers because they are overdoers to the core. If they want the job done — they will do it themselves.
Jack of all trades – Master of none
There is one big problem with a Jack of all trades — like the saying goes, they are the masters of none. Because they are most often all over the place with all kinds of projects, they start a new one before finishing something else. In the end, it can be frustrating for everyone. Some statistics have shown that role ambiguity is one of the leading causes of stress at work.
How to help Jack master one craft?
Pros: Jack of all trades is extroverted and very curious. They are hardworking, always going the extra mile on the projects.
Cons: They are not focused on what they know and can stretch themselves too thin — leading to lower quality work.
Advice for the employer: Help them focus. Make sure that their roles and duties are clear and not open to too many interpretations. Tell them what you expect from them clearly and help them to not go all over the place.
6. Little miss sunshine
These people are probably new to the remote worker world. They are often altruistic, idealistic and they want to learn from their older colleagues. Since they are not probably used to the remote workspace, they are trying their best to make it look more life-like.
They try very hard to be a ray of sunlight in the remote work environment. They enjoy a friendly chat with other colleagues, they want to be a much-needed source of support and to help others the best they can. They are the type of person that would bring freshly baked cookies to work to make a harsh day easier. But in the remote workspace, they will try to send you a funny meme to make you laugh.
Don’t let the light fade away
Since they are new to this world, they can easily feel overwhelmed by the different energies of their older colleagues. A remote work environment is different from a traditional job environment and even the slightest changes in communication can seem off-putting to them and convince them that something is wrong and that they are not doing their part correctly.
Be patient and let them learn
This type of remote worker is enthusiastic about learning, they take their tasks seriously and they want to create a pleasant work environment.
Pros: Curiosity, hard work, quick learning, and team spirit.
Cons: Sometimes due to the lack of feedback or communication, they can feel left out or like they are not doing their job properly.
Advice to the employer: Don’t crush their spirit, help them learn, and give them constructive feedback. Let them share their ideas and maybe have them organize the next online team-building activity.
How to keep all types of remote workers’ motivation levels high?
You probably know someone who fits into each one of these remote worker categories. They all need a different approach and a dose of understanding for their specific needs, but by taking some simple steps, you can help ensure a consistent level of motivation in your remote team.
Don’t let the distance create a gap between you and your remote employees — they are one of the most valuable assets in your company. Having so many different yet complementary energies can bring your company immense growth.
1. Right tools for work
If you don’t equip your remote team with the right tools, you can’t expect them to be productive and deliver results. Based on their job, they need to have the correct software to work with, a time tracking tool, a direct messaging tool, their email, and a stable and fast internet connection. Always be there to support or help if they are experiencing technical difficulties.
Assure them that they are just as important as your office workers. Remote workers are often used to relying on themselves when it comes to equipment, so the better you treat them, the better results you can expect.
2. Timely payment and bonuses
Team spirit is always great but money is also one of the greatest motivators, even though people don’t want to admit it. So make sure that payments are on time to avoid frustrating your employees.
Remote workers often send invoices to get paid — yet in most companies, this is still done manually. It takes 26 to 30 days to finish the invoicing process. Improve this with the help of AP Automation (Accounts Payable Automation). Your accounting team will thank you as well because all of their repetitive and redundant tasks will be gone and the entire process can be completed in a fraction of the time.
Your remote employees will be happy with getting paid on time. And don’t forget about bonuses and raises — always reward someone’s hard work.
3. Communication is always the key
You know how, when you are working in an office environment, most of the communication can be nonverbal? When you see your colleagues you know how they are feeling about some important decision. This is also important for the overall atmosphere at work. That is why communication is crucial in remote teams. You can misinterpret someone’s email as passive-aggressive or misinterpret someone’s tone. These issues can easily be set aside with video conferencing. There are so many different tools on the market — Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, and more.
Hold weekly meetings or a 1 on 1 meeting to build trust. A bit of humor also never hurts but make sure that it is appropriate for the working environment. It can be refreshing for the working atmosphere.
Micromanaging doesn’t do any good to any type of employee that we mentioned above. Instead of asking for constant proofs or reassuring that your employees are indeed doing their part, focus on building a culture based on trust. Encourage your employees to take the lead.
4. Let them take a break
All work and no play… you know how that goes. Remote workers can have a harder time trying to differentiate work life from private life. Working from home can turn into living on the work if you go too far. Breaks are completely fine and not counterproductive at all because you want to avoid employees getting burnout syndrome.
One of the most interesting things you can encourage in your remote workspace is playing games together. Also, think about team-building ideas for your remote team and try to find something that everyone would enjoy. You can discover your team’s hobbies, deepen their interpersonal connections, and learn something new!
A remote team can do wonders for your company if you know your team well.
There is a variety of types of remote workers. When you know your weakest link, you will know the real strength of the team. No one likes to be seen as a number or a screen name. Remote workers are unique personalities, transforming the workplace with their ideas and skills.
They don’t see themselves as just a mere part of the machine, so neither should you.
If you treat your worker with respect and show them that you can be flexible, that is a great start to a productive relationship.
If you offer them enough space to grow along with your company, you will have loyal and talented individuals that have your back at all times.
About the Author
Stasha Smiljanic is an SEO manager and a content writer for a Minnesota-based company, WiRe Innovation. She has a passion for writing – both content and fiction. Classic writer, overthinker and perfections, creative person with a genuine love for cats, coffee, and playing ”Heroes of Might and Magic 3”.