How to Manage Different Virtual Worker Personas
Jolene Nicotina

By: Jolene Nicotina on March 31st, 2020

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How to Manage Different Virtual Worker Personas

Employee Experience

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

The past couple weeks have impacted different businesses in different ways. For those with roles that can be performed from home, many employees and their managers have been thrown into virtual work, with little to no time to prepare. 


Even if you’ve had some experience with virtual work, suddenly managing a full-time remote team under the current conditions presents a whole new challenge—and not everyone will adapt to virtual work with the same ease.


To help you tailor your approach to the different responses on your team, we identified some of the most common virtual worker personas. Based on prior interviews with our own remote employees (who normally comprise 40% of our workforce), here’s what we learned:


The Natural

happy-faceThis employee naturally thrives in a virtual work environment. For the Natural, an increased ability to concentrate and more flexibility over how and when they work instantly results in better productivity, engagement and overall job satisfaction.


The Naturals on your team may include those who had regular experience working from home prior to the COVID-19 crisis, so they likely had a chance to figure out what works (and what doesn’t) for them personally. 


Management tip: The Natural has already mastered a lot of the self management skills that working from home requires, but their success is still dependent on having the right resources. This is where managers can be most helpful. Check in regularly with Naturals to see if they have everything they need, whether that be equipment or the right cadence of one-on-one or team meetings.


Consider tapping Naturals to help champion virtual working best practices or to buddy up with team members who may be struggling to adapt.


The Hybrid

optimistic-faceHybrids don’t have a clear preference for working in-office or working virtually. Under normal circumstances, they opt to work from home a few days a week and have a few days in the office.


Their preference would often depend on external factors (e.g., they may prefer working from home when they have personal matters to handle, like a sick child, or when they need to concentrate on a big project). If pressed, the Hybrid is more likely to choose to work in the office.


Management tip: Even though Hybrids may embrace working from home and perform well doing so, don’t take their adaptability for granted. It’s still a big adjustment to go from occasionally working virtually (and under ideal conditions) to working remotely full time.


Hybrids might appreciate your guidance on structuring their days and weeks. Help them identify which types of tasks they should tackle at which times. For example, morning people may be more motivated to tackle their hardest task as soon as they wake up, while others are better off saving those tasks for the afternoon once they’ve “woken up.” 


The Honeymooner

neutral-faceThis employee is working from home for the first time. They’re enjoying the perks—for now. But as is the case with most things, the novelty may soon wear off and lead to waning productivity and engagement.


You can’t really know what to expect from a Honeymooner. Perhaps they embrace virtual work in a way that complements their personality and skill set. On the other hand, it’s possible that the challenges of virtual work—feeling isolated or constant interruptions—gain a bigger foothold.


Management tip: Open and ongoing communication from the start is critical with all your team members, but especially those who have less experience working virtually. Establish regular check-in calls to address the specific challenges they’re struggling with. If they don’t proactively communicate any stress or anxiety, make it a point to ask, “How is this virtual work situation working for you?” Listen carefully to the response, restate it to ensure you understood correctly, empathize with their concerns and ask how you can help.


The Overachiever


For this employee, working from home allows them to be laser focused on their job. They feel like they can accomplish more now that their daily commute is eliminated along with the usual office distractions (e.g., “water cooler” talk). Their increased output could be due to a natural tendency to get stuff done, but they may be fearful that their team will think they’re not working at all. The risk? Burnout.


Management tip: Reassure Overachievers of their value to the team. This can quell any tendencies to overcompensate for being out of sight. And because separating work-life from home-life can become tough for the Overachiever, encourage them to establish regular working hours and enjoy their evenings like they normally would.


The most important thing here is to model this behavior yourself. People look to their leader’s behavior as a cue for how to act in times of uncertainty, so even if you tell your team to “turn off” at the end of the day, you’ll send mixed messages if you email or Slack them at odd hours. 


People first, productivity second

It’s anything but business as usual right now. The reality is that every employee will have “off” days, especially as they navigate family needs and divert their attention to the news. The best way forward is to reassess your team’s priorities and allow your people maximum flexibility during this time—your trust in them will pay off down the line in spades.


If you're looking for an opportunity to connect with others who may be managing and supporting remote teams, RSVP for our next virtual meetup. It's a chance to chat with your peers about whatever is on your mind right now. 

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About Jolene Nicotina

Jolene Nicotina is the Content Marketing Manager for North America at PeopleDoc, Inc. She works on making sure HR professionals have all the latest information they need related to HR service delivery, HR technology, and PeopleDoc, Inc. Prior to PeopleDoc, Jolene worked in marketing communications for the healthcare technology industry.