It was a global pandemic that first forced many businesses and working professionals around the world to get acclimated to working from home in 2020, but recent trends indicate that remote work is here to stay. A September survey by Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) revealed that the percentage of the global workforce permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021. And while many U.S. firms are exploring hybrid arrangements, where part of the workweek is spent in the physical office, the number of fully remote positions is also on the rise.
As companies look to grow their teams and fill current openings with high-quality talent, this new reality makes it vital for business leaders and recruiters alike to be able to recognize traits that indicate a candidate will be successful in a remote role. When evaluating a potential new hire, evidence of these seven characteristics can serve as promising signs of their future success in a remote work environment:
1. Emotional Stability
This term refers to an individual’s ability to respond positively to challenging circumstances. A recent study from Baylor University examined the relationship between workers’ levels of emotional stability, autonomy (i.e., level of independence), and strain. The researchers found that individuals with both high amounts of emotional stability and autonomy were best able to cope with strain (i.e., exhaustion, disengagement, and dissatisfaction) in a remote work environment.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Similar to emotional stability, emotional intelligence, or EI, is a measure of an individual’s awareness of and ability to manage their own emotions, as well as their ability to discern the emotions of others. Having such awareness allows an individual to effectively build and maintain relationships, which can be crucial to effective communication and collaboration in the remote workspace.
A 2020 study from researchers Ian MacRae and Roberta Sawatzky rated curiosity among the most important traits—and most promising indicators of success—in remote workers. This may be because workers with high levels of curiosity enjoy learning new things and tend to adapt more quickly to frequent changes in their environment, a quality that’s especially vital for those trying to navigate the ever-evolving digital workplace.
Another trait cited by MacRae and Sawatzky as among the most important for remote professionals to possess is conscientiousness. This trait involves an individual’s levels of motivation and discipline, and their ability to make and fulfill long-term plans. With high levels of self-motivation and a tendency to meet goals and deadlines on their own, employees who are high in conscientiousness can work with little oversight, setting them up for boundless success in a virtual work environment.
MacRae and Sawatzky also found adjustment to be one of the top indicators of success in remote workers. The term refers to a trait that is similar to emotional stability and EI in that high levels of it indicate an individual is proficient in managing their emotions. However, this concept also includes the ability to adapt to and manage workplace stressors. A remote team member who is high in adjustment may find it easier to adapt to the changing demands of working from home.
The research found a caveat, however. If an employee finds working in an office environment stressful and they are low in adjustment, they may be more comfortable under a work from home arrangement.
Another study published earlier this year in Applied Psychology examined both challenges associated with remote work and characteristics that may affect how remote employees handle those challenges. Though the study focused largely on job design, researchers revealed in their report two key traits that they found greatly increase remote team members’ chances of success. The first: communication.
Whether based in text, audio, or video calls, a lack of effective communication was found to reduce performance, the study showed. Other research was also cited that indicated poor communication skills can impair coworker relationships and increase work-related stress among remote professionals.
In addition to communication, self-discipline emerged in the aforementioned Applied Psychology study as one of the most important traits in predicting remote workers’ future performance. The researchers found that workers who reported high levels of discipline completed their work efficiently and on time, while participants who said they were less disciplined indicated higher levels of procrastination and cyberloafing, making them less productive in remote working.
A Last Word
As the global shift to remote work continues to make its mark on companies’ hiring processes, recruiters and hiring managers are under pressure to reduce the costs and other risks associated with filling these new remote positions. By recognizing the characteristics that indicate a potential new hire has a high chance of success while working from home, business leaders can streamline the onboarding process while cultivating a company culture that supports a virtual workforce both today and in the future.