We all understand that in these changing times, many more employees are now being asked to work remotely—and facing the challenge of having to make it work for them, and their organisations.
It’s not just COVID-19 that has more people working from home. Teams now often encompass staff from different locations, and organisations are learning that output doesn’t have to suffer if certain positions are filled by people working remotely. A team today might include people working from home and others dotted around the globe. However, this doesn’t have to be the end of teamwork, communication and embedding a company culture!
More than ever, work today is about relationships. Developing and maintaining relationships through social distancing is a significant challenge. In this article, we look to address many of the issues surrounding the forming and maintaining of good working relationships and keeping communication open and productive.
The DISC Model
This is where the DISC model steps in; DISC can help us improve these relationships even when we rarely, or never, meet in person. However, the things we’ve learned about working with a colleague who is usually only a few steps away from us doesn’t necessarily translate once you are only able to interact using technology. Supervisors who are used to walking around the office to check on progress can’t monitor these things so easily or personally once members of the team are working remotely.
At this time, the DISC concept of flexing into behaviours and mindsets not typically associated with our personality styles is essential. Working remotely might mean we have to expend more energy, take more care about what we do or say, and look to the best in each other. Every person can be productive from home, but what works for one person might not work as well for another.
Some people will happily work from a laptop in their kitchen. Some will need significant technical support. You will need to decide when and how to communicate about business. You will also need to make sure that you maintain social ties.
Consider how personalities might respond to a scheduled group chat that has no agenda. Will the D style feel like it will be a waste of time if there’s no plan? Will the I type be excited about the chance to see everyone and their home office setup? Is the S style worrying about how they should prepare? Is the C type wondering why there’s any need for a video chat when everyone has email or Instant Messaging?
Knowing your team members DISC style is highly advantageous as it will allow you to adapt projects and tasks to match their natural behavioural tendencies. For those working remotely, the knowledge gleaned from DISC is even more meaningful. You will appreciate why and how much support and contact each of your remote working colleagues are likely to need. You will also have great insight into which of your coworkers are more likely to manage the isolation of remote working best. Each DISC style will require varying levels and types of support and will embrace different aspects of remote work. So, knowing what to offer them is essential if you want to have a successful remote workforce.
Our communication styles, personalities, and work preferences will undoubtedly have a significant impact on our experiences while we navigate through these changing times. Let’s explore the best practices for each behavioural style to adjust to working remotely, and examine best practices for managing different types during this challenging time.
The Dominance Style
Dominance: direct, strong-willed, and forceful (fast-paced and results-oriented)
D styles are likely to be ready for the challenge of working from home. They probably feel like they’ll get lots done and easily be able to focus their time and energy. However, they might wonder about the practicalities of working with their colleagues from a distance.
People with the Dominance style are motivated by results and success. They can be described as direct or strong-willed and are always looking to challenge themselves and others. Dominance styles enjoy working with people they view as confident and quick to take action. However, they can sometimes come across as intimidating and may cause issues with their seeming lack of empathy for others.
D style workers are driven, so they will stay focussed, deliver finished projects and get things done. Working through their tasks will not be much of a challenge. However, they could suffer from a lack of connection as D styles thrive on competition and being heard. Try to ensure these team members can make their opinions heard as they will want to update everyone on their achievements and progress.
Even though D style individuals may be highly motivated by the thought of overcoming the new challenges of working in a remote environment, they may struggle with the communication problems of working away from the team. D style individuals can be unnecessarily blunt with their colleagues and sometimes even come across as intimidating. The impersonal nature of online communication may exacerbate this.
D styles are used to direct communication and quick decision-making when in the office setting. They may get frustrated with the slower process that comes as a consequence of working remotely, and this could lead them to make impulsive decisions and to take action without having all the necessary information. The D style is also conscious of their image and can be anxious about being perceived as vulnerable. As a consequence, they may be reluctant to voice concerns or any insecurities they have about their project or work environment.
- D’s are results-oriented and driven, so they’ll get done what they need to get done.
- D styles will ask for what they need to be effective from home.
- They are willing to try new collaboration and communication methods.
- D’s are prepared to take risks and like the freedom to make their own choices.
- D styles will speak up about issues, so you don’t have to worry about them sitting on a problem while you can’t see them.
- D styles might be tempted to take shortcuts to complete a task that’s ground to a halt.
- They might move ahead on something too quickly, or in advance of the rest of the team.
- A D’s communication style might feel cold to others and leave colleagues feeling unappreciated or even hurt.
- The D might struggle to have patience during the change and transition period when productivity could dip.
Tips for helping the D style work productively from home:
- Ensure they have new challenges for them to work towards; this will be an excellent time for them to learn and develop new skills.
- Provide clear guidelines and set expectations of what they can and cannot do, and also the results that are expected of them. This way, they have a sense of autonomy, but you both know where the line is drawn and when they need to reach out for advice.
- Make sure that they are clear on the team goals and their importance so that they do not get too drawn into their own tasks and forget the value of collaboration.
- Create a healthy competitive environment and set targets to motivate and drive them.
- Always reward their successes with the recognition of a job well done and provide them with a challenging new task to demonstrate the value you place on them.
Tips for working with the D style:
If you work with a D style, you might be taken aback when they log on to Skype and jump straight into business. Don’t take it personally. The D style is primed for action and taking the next step. It doesn’t mean they do not care about how things are going for you; it just isn’t front of mind for them. Usually, though, if you ask how they’re doing, they’ll reciprocate and often realise that they should lighten up. When it comes to working with the D style, you can also strengthen the relationship with them by sticking to agreed times, being ready to take action, and keeping meetings short and sweet. A D style will struggle with full-day sessions in person, let alone over the internet. Be mindful of this when you’re scheduling a call with them. And it’s OK to communicate with a D firmly. If they’re dominating a meeting, be prepared to step in and ask them to slow down.
Saying something like, Dave, I know you’re ready to get going with this plan, but I think we need to understand the details a little bit better. Do you mind taking more time and explaining it in more detail for the benefit of the team?
D style workers need to be aware of remote communication etiquette. They should be encouraged to take time to chat with colleagues beyond a basic work-related conversation and seek to strengthen connections with their coworkers. Ensure that D styles have an open line of communication to their supervisor. Remember, these people will want to make decisions quickly, and even if you need to step on the breaks now and then, it will be encouraging for them to at least know they are being heard. Even if they are outwardly exuding confidence, D styles will be more likely to share what’s on their mind in a one-on-one setting when they don’t have to worry about their colleagues’ perceptions. Look to catch any signs of problems early, and don’t rely too heavily on face value appearances.
The Influence Style
Influence: friendly, talkative, and outgoing (fast-paced and people-oriented)
I styles are often ready to try something new, so working from home might seem exciting to them at first. However, understand that they’ll need to find new ways of staying connected with their colleagues and friends from work. More than others, I styles will proactively strive to keep their extended work network alive and active.
Individuals with the Influence style are people-oriented and prefer to solve problems and challenges through collaboration. They are motivated to build connections with others and can be described as enthusiastic and trusting. Influence styles enjoy working in partnership with others and feel rewarded by being recognised in their work environment. Because they are people-oriented, they can prioritise keeping people happy and may lack follow through when a task requires close attention to detail or focus for an extended period.
I style individuals are likely to encourage engagement between team members, even under challenging circumstances. However, they are also the most likely to experience a feeling of isolation that may seriously affect their levels of motivation and productivity.
I style individuals thrive on social interaction, so working away from colleagues may cause them to feel they are being ignored. The I style might even go as far as to view a lack of communication as a sign of disapproval. I style individuals can struggle with staying on task and being organised. The distractions of working from home, primarily if they have to work around family members, could become an obstacle for their productivity.
I styles are motivated by social recognition. When working remotely, they may feel unappreciated if their successes are only acknowledged privately through email or phone calls. I style team members are likely to need the most regular contact and support. Not merely for the work itself, but I styles need to feel like they are part of a team. A collaborative tool that can always stay open, like Slack, can help with the feeling of being involved. Just don’t be surprised at the volume of chat that goes on once you open up a channel.
- They are naturally optimistic and enthusiastic and can use that energy to encourage the rest of the team and maintain a feeling of camaraderie.
- They won’t forget that interaction is a human need and will suggest that platforms or events (like Slack or virtual happy hours) are created for bonding. They will also want to use tools like TEAMs for a fun group chat; it isn’t just for work.
- They like to try new things and will probably have plenty of ideas to share with the rest of the team about how to make working from home, better for everyone.
- Working in isolation could be stressful for them, and they could be easily distracted.
- Routines and processes can feel stifling, but they will also be very helpful in supporting the self-discipline required to stay focused and on task.
- They might want to charge ahead when they should be asking for more specific instructions or clarification around a project.
- The I styles need for collaboration, and social interaction will mean that working remotely could be a challenging situation for them.
- The I style does not generally like predictability, so try to position working remotely as a new and positive experience.
Tips for helping the I style work productively from home:
- Set up video calls to enable more interactive conversations and embrace their enthusiasm; the team will appreciate this during uncertain times.
- Always set new goals for I styles to work towards to foster their enthusiasm and build momentum.
- Management should check in regularly to ensure they remain motivated and also as a way to engage socially with their I style colleagues.
- Managers should remember to offer lots of praise for a job well done! The I style typically embraces public recognition so ensure to copy in the rest of the team!
- I styles love socialising, so if appropriate, ask them to engage with clients actively.
- Make sure you set clear guidelines as their enthusiasm may cover up a lack of understanding, and they may lose sight of the ultimate goal.
Tips for working with the I style:
Can you find time to connect with them socially? And be prepared to listen. We know that I styles thrive on talking and sharing, so sometimes the best thing you can do is just let them talk. The energy they’re feeling has probably been bottling up for hours, days, or even weeks, and the isolation they feel is real. Be an outlet and let them share.
Additionally, be mindful of not scheduling your meetings too rigidly. If you have multiple influence styles on a team, you might want to consider some buffer time at the beginning and the end of each session for socialising. Remember that I’s need praise like the rest of us need air. And it’s not about gloating; it’s merely how I styles are motivated. When they don’t hear that they’ve done an excellent job, they can assume that they’ve done a poor job and become demotivated. When an I colleague does something great, tell them. The energy they’ll generate from such praise will lead to even greater efforts.
Ensure to maintain a flow of conversation with your I style colleagues. I styles will also appreciate having conversations outside of work-related topics so that they continue to feel like their relationships are developing. Help I style colleagues stay on task: Depending on the type of work they do, there are numerous alternative ways in which you can support them. Some may benefit from a regular update on priorities, an easy-to-use project management tool or a daily meeting with their team. Celebrate their triumphs and think about ways that you can give them the social recognition they need when they succeed. This may be in the form of an acknowledgement during your next team meeting or an email to the entire group that will allow others to join in with the congratulations.
The Steadiness Style
Steadiness: gentle, accommodating, and warm (moderate-paced and people-oriented)
S styles enjoy a friendly and collaborative workplace and will miss the sense of cooperation that working in the same physical environment allows. Their steady, calm and trustworthy attitude can make them ideally suited for remote working, but they could be resistant to change. The S style will likely need a great deal of support and maybe doubtful at first, but once they settle into their new routine, everything runs smoothly. The good news is, once they are settled in, they will be the most reliable members of the team.
People with the Steadiness style are highly motivated to help others and strive to maintain a stable environment. They are excellent team-players and often display calmness and patience. They enjoy collaborating with colleagues and look for sincere appreciation from others. Because they value stability so much, they can sometimes be slow to adapt, and their pleasant personalities mean they avoid conflict, even when this may be counterproductive. Although the S styles are incredibly disposed to provide the support required to navigate through organisational change, they are also the ones most likely to be challenged during a time when stability and social interaction may be in short supply.
The S style enjoys helping others, and the change to remote working is likely to leave them feeling isolated. They may also find working alone to be less gratifying, resulting in lower levels of engagement and fulfilment. S styles value stability and are likely to feel insecure because of the level of uncertainty in today’s changing workplace. This could quickly lead to regression, even with the completion of tasks they would perform confidently under normal circumstances. S style individuals are used to working in a specific manner and pace. They prefer to use the same tools and processes every time they complete a task, to ensure consistent results. However, working remotely may cause some level of disruption to their familiar ways of working. Some S styles may be slow to adopt new technology such as online messaging platforms and videoconferencing tools, not because they don’t have the competency to use these, it’s merely a reaction to a changing environment.
- They communicate in a clear, concise and friendly style that can be modelled for the group.
- It may be easier for them to present their ideas and share their knowledge when given the additional time that communicating online often provides.
- Working remotely will not distract them from their focus on the team and its goals.
- A lack of regular check-ins with colleagues at a personal and professional level might leave them feeling disengaged from the team.
- Having to adopt new communication methods might unsettle them. They’ll need to practice them first with someone they trust.
- Others in their home, including children and pets, might demand their time during work hours and they’ll have to develop the discipline to say no or shut them out of their room.
Tips for helping the S style work productively from home:
- Schedule regular check-ins and maintain open lines of communication.
- Provide constructive feedback or recognition of their excellent work. Alternatively, if they are having challenges, explore why it is happening and how you will support them turn things around.
- Make sure that they have everything they need to work from home. The sooner they can establish a new routine, the sooner they will feel a sense of stability.
- Provide clear step-by-step instructions and invite questions to make sure they fully understand what is required.
- Avoid rushing them to complete tasks and alternatively set clear, mutually agreed deadlines. However, if they are not getting the job done on time, you should address this and be firm about your expectations.
- Make sure to provide sincere praise for a job well done, but as they don’t usually want to be in the limelight, one-to-one recognition is often more appreciated.
- They will be great at providing a supportive environment during these times of change; similarly, they will appreciate a similar approach from others!
Tips for working with the S style:
Know that your S style colleagues are genuinely concerned about you. Reach out now and then to let them know that you’re doing OK, but you miss interacting with them daily. This act of kindness will not go unnoticed and will help motivate your S style colleague to get through this challenging period. Also, remember that the S style is inspired by consensus and what’s best for the group. So, they may be reluctant to voice their opinion when it comes time to make a decision. The best thing you can do is encourage an S directly for their input. Saying something like, “Dave, I’ve noticed that you’ve been quiet during this meeting, what do you think we should do?”. The S style does not need public praise so much; but a card, handwritten note, or even a personal email that acknowledges when they’ve done something praise-worthy would be very much appreciated. When it comes to the S style, the best thing you can do is connect with them as often as possible.
Numerous online platforms encourage collaboration, even when working remotely. Utilise these and facilitate video and voice conference calls to ensure your S style team members involvement. S styles will need professional and emotional support when working remotely. Though you may not be in a position to answer all of the questions your S style colleague might have about the future, be a sounding board so they can voice their concerns. Reassure them and explore ways to help them through their challenges. Provide learning resources where possible to help them use new tools and adopt new processes. If you are able, take the time to walk them through any new technology or methods they are struggling to master.
The Compliance Style
Compliance: reserved, analytical, and logical (moderate-paced and challenging)
C styles enjoy their independence and the space to think things through thoroughly. They might not understand the frustrations others feel about not seeing each other daily in the workplace. These objective and practical team members can also be effective remote workers. However, don’t be surprised if they steer clear of the video conferencing meetings and Slack channels when possible. Written communication will always trump interaction with others. C style team member will need to know who to go to with any issues, problems or concerns. They will seek detailed, fact-based communication regularly.
Individuals with the Compliance style are detail-oriented and tend to prefer working in a stable environment. They are motivated by opportunities to increase their knowledge and are often described as analytical and cautious. C styles enjoy demonstrating their expertise and delivering quality work. However, they can overanalyse due to their fear of being wrong, and their preference for working alone may lead them to isolate themselves from the group.
C style workers may be quick to embrace working remotely, seizing the opportunity to focus all of their attention on their work without the distractions that come from being in an office. However, their inclination toward stability and perfection may cause them to struggle with the flexibility required to traverse a rapidly changing work environment.
C styles are at risk of diminishing their connections with colleagues due to fully embracing the inherent isolation of remote working. C styles are highly unlikely to want to reach out to their colleagues beyond any communication that is required to enable the completion of their tasks. C styles are content when using tools and methods they consider to be tried and tested. If they no longer have access to these or are forced to adjust their approach due to working remotely, they may lose confidence in their ability to perform specific tasks to the standards they expect of themselves.
C styles may be slow to adjust to an uncertain, constantly changing work environment. They are uncomfortable making decisions without thinking through every possible scenario. If they feel as though they don’t have the time to think through a problem as thoroughly as they wish, it may lead to them procrastinating for fear of making a mistake.
- They likely have the discipline and focus to make working at home easy.
- Their attention to detail and process will help them evaluate and select the most reliable technologies and resources for the team.
- They don’t require much face time or feedback to know they’re doing a good job.
- Their straight-to-the-point communication style may make others feel alienated from them.
- They might be tempted to carry out a task on their own rather than delegate it or collaborate with others.
- Sustaining close personal relationships with colleagues could be a challenge, and they’ll need to find and adopt new strategies for doing so.
Tips for helping the C style work productively from home:
- Make sure they are provided with as much factual information and detail as possible so that they are clear on the tasks and expectations.
- Avoid micromanaging by agreeing scheduled check-ins and adhering to them.
- Establish clear deadlines so that they do not take too much time obsessing over a task, trying to get things perfect. On the flip side, avoid rushing them to complete a task as they will feel pressured and stressed by this approach.
- Encourage them to share their opinions as they may not openly express them. Make sure that there are no underlying issues that may cause them to become disgruntled and reduce productivity.
- Provide specific feedback and praise on a task well done in a private setting. This will be more meaningful than general compliments which may be perceived as lacking insincerity.
- Recognise their contribution and value by asking for their input and provide them with opportunities to manage tasks independently.
- Since they are less likely to check in regularly with colleagues, ensure they are aware of the team’s objectives so that they do not lose sight of the big picture.
Tips for working with the C style:
Your C style colleagues are unlikely to reach out for purely social reasons. They tend to be highly organised and live by their calendars. When a Zoom meeting is scheduled, or a team meeting is called, they will expect to stick to the agenda and finish on time. You can help by being respectful of their time. If you schedule a one-hour meeting, then try to stick to the hour. As they probably have something planned for the next time slot, for every minute that your call runs over, they will grow increasingly frustrated. C styles thrive on accuracy and details. When preparing the agenda for a meeting, be as detailed and specific as possible.
Also, remember that C styles are immensely proud of their work, so when time allows, give them the floor and ask them to describe their approach.
Encourage your C style colleagues to socialise with their team: They may need an extra push to maintain their connections with colleagues under remote working conditions. It may also need to be clearly understood that they are expected to communicate with colleagues about a task. Reassure them of their capabilities. C styles may place a lot of value on the processes and procedures they have perfected over time. If they are required to work without these, it is vitally important to ensure that they maintain confidence in their abilities. You may need to emphasise your trust in their expertise and encourage them to be innovative. When forced to work at pace, C styles will appreciate the opportunity to bounce their ideas off you to make sure that they are heading in the right direction. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions, and if you can lessen some of their fear of failure, particularly early on in a project, it may instil them with the confidence to make difficult decisions.