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Is there a flexible working personality type?

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Is there a flexible working personality type?

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I wrote recently about data revealing how flexible working is still not really crossing the chasm into mainstream work life, despite there being plenty of evidence showing that it makes employees more productive, more engaged and saves organizations money.  That’s not to say the trend isn’t growing, with data suggesting teleworking has grown by 63% since 2006 in the US, but it still represents quite a small proportion of the overall number.

It may help therefore to understand the circumstances where flexible working pays off.  After all, it might not be right for everyone, and it’s wrong to assume that the same productivity gains will be realised by all employees.  Whilst the office environment may be awash with potential distractions, it would be naive to assume that the home (or other) place of work may be free from distractions as well.

A recent study set out to explore whether there was any connection between our personality type and whether we slacked off at work, with the clear implication that if we’re left unsupervised at home, that temptation may be too great.  I’m not sure that’s the case, but lets hear the research out.

The study gauged employees from two organizations for traits such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, honesty, and procrastination, before asking them to administer employee surveys designed to test both their perception of their own performance and their satisfaction levels with flexible working.  They were also asked about the level of distraction they experience when working from home.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the employees that scored highly for traits such as conscientiousness and honesty were less likely to slack off at work.  All of which should come as no real surprise, as these same traits have been shown to be excellent for things such as collaboration and team work too.

“Procrastination was the most important trait, suggesting that a motive of cyberslacking may be to put off work and explore other interests (e.g., read the news) rather than take a needed break that restores and energy and focus,” the scientists report in the journal Computers and Human Behavior.

Of course, there has been a great deal of research that has linked our ability to delay gratification to our life success.  From the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment in the 1960′s there have been numerous studies highlighting the importance of focusing on the right things rather than the instant hit we might get by slacking off.

Whilst it might be tricky to test for this particular trait during the recruitment process, there are things one can do to help you beat the craving to slacken off.  A Dutch study from last year highlighted the important role nature plays in the process.  The researchers discovered that the team that was exposed to nature was more likely to choose delayed gratification.  Indeed, they were around 15% less likely to select instant gratification than their urban peers.

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