Two weeks ago Inga Rundquist of workshifting.com shared a very interesting and comprehensive review of the personality and competencies of workshifters (understand “mobile workers”), in which she details the characteristics of the modern mobile worker and the psychological challenges of mobile working itself vs office working.
A must read if something inside you tells you that you should leave your sad little cubicle or noisy and full of juicy gossips open-space…
Is Workshifting In Our DNA?
By Inga Rundquist on October 16, 2009
“I traveled back to Iowa a few weeks ago for some meetings, and ended up workshifting out of my parents’ house in a small town in Eastern Iowa for a couple days. I worked side by side with my dad, who has been running German Sense, an import business for German books, music and games, out of our home for the past 10 years. It got me wondering – is the ability to work remotely something that you can learn or is it inherently part of who we are?
Before I became a Workshifter, I worked for a company that was affected by the floods that ripped through Eastern Iowa in the summer of 2008. The office was literally under water, and as a result, staffers worked remotely from their homes while the space was rebuilt. During this phase it immediately became clear that some were simply not – by temperament, psychology or personality type – wired for this type of arrangement.
Unexpected? Not really. It’s clear that certain personality traits are needed to thrive in a remote workplace. Most people would agree that Workshifters are go-getters who tend to be motivated, organized, highly adaptable, disciplined and independent. But beyond that, are there certain competencies that can be learned?
In 2007, a company called Pearn Kandola was commissioned by Cisco to explore the characteristics of the modern mobile worker and the psychological challenges of mobile working. The study, Understanding and Managing the Mobile Workforce, revealed that unlike personality traits, which are relatively stable over time, an individual’s competencies can develop and improve with experience.
The findings outlined 9 core competencies required of the mobile worker:
- Communication – Workshifters need to “be adaptable in the way they initiate and respond to communications.” They also need to make their messages more explicit than traditional messages and select the appropriate channel to communicate with the intended receiver. This is opposed to an office-based worker, who is surrounded by people and as a result communicates in a more natural way.
- Achievements and result orientation – Workshifters need to be highly self-motivated. Office workers, on the other hand, have people around them who “monitor and ‘push’ them on.”
- Customer focus – While office-based workers don’t tend to spend as much time facing customers, remote workers spend a lot of time “going between clients, seeking clients out and working at client premises.”
- Teamwork – Workshifters take part in less collaborative work than office-based workers, who tend to work predominantly in teams.
- Planning and organizing – Key planning skills for Workshifters include priority setting, multi-tasking and time management. Office workers, on the other hand, need to plan, “but on a more basic level and not so far in advance” because there is less risk and fewer contingencies.
- Commercial and business awareness – Workshifters need to be independent enough to take action when commercial opportunities arise, since there is often no one around to check with. Because of an abundance of support, office workers have more opportunity to check with others before decisions are made.
- Flexibility and adaptability – Office-based workers are much more likely to work in a more routine role, while Workshifters need to be able to cope with changes on a much more frequent basis.
- Problem solving – Workshifters are much more likely to suffer from non-work related problems (such as IT or travel) that they have to solve independently, while office workers tend to have more options for support.
- Building relationships – Workshifters need to make it a priority to build relationships – and trust – with clients and colleagues. For office workers this occurs more naturally due to proximity.
I highly recommend reading the full findings of this report for anyone who is thinking about becoming a Workshifter or is managing a remote workforce.”