The future of the workplace may not be an office at all. Current trends indicate that every year more of us are working from home or using flexible working arrangements; 3.9 million Americans work from home at least half of the time in 2018, making up 2.9 percent of the entire U.S. workforce, according to data from Flexjobs. And as working remotely becomes easier, with technologies like Skype and portable WiFi hotspots, more of us are asking: should I try working from home? According to a groundbreaking new study published in The European Journal Of Work And Organizational Psychology, the answer depends on these two personality traits.
Scientists from Baylor University looked at over 400 adults who work remotely across two studies, looking both at how stressed or under strain they were, and what kinds of personalities they had. They used two personality measures that have been part of psychology for decades: autonomy, aka how independent a person is and how well they do without constant supervision, and emotional stability, aka how you respond to challenges.
The lead author, Dr. Sara Perry, explained in a press release that emotional stability measures how you respond to problems: "If something stressful happens at work, a person who is high on emotional stability would take it in stride, remain positive and figure out how to address it. A person low on emotional stability might get frustrated and discouraged, expending energy with those emotions instead of on the issue at hand."
It turns out that some of us deal better with remote work than others, and those who flourish score high on both autonomy and emotional stability. This makes sense when you think about it: Remote workers can't be constantly connected to their bosses and have to make decisions on their own and work independently a lot of the time. Without a strong sense of autonomy and the ability to "work on your own," as they say in primary school, working remotely is tough. (Believe me, I've done it since I was 19.)
Remote work could be your chance to really thrive.
Emotional stability is a bit trickier to figure out. It seems as if being in an intense office environment would be harder for people who are emotionally a bit less stable than sitting at home, taking a deep breath, having a cup of tea and then sorting out the issue. Not so, says the data. The people who combined emotional stability and high autonomy were the least stressed out by remote work, even if they did a lot. But those who were extremely independent and scored low on emotional stability were actually more vulnerable to strain. Having a greater sense of autonomy, it seems, doesn't save you from finding remote work stressful if you don't cope with problems well.
This study adds an important bit of information to your arsenal if you're considering going freelance or working from home, or even taking advantage of your office's flextime policy. If you have the right personality traits to make it work, remote work could be your chance to really thrive. If you don't, an office environment is probably where your talents shine.