There are 4 types of pandemic remote workers. Which one are you?

It’s likely you’re feeling a little bit different when it comes to work right now. At the start of the pandemic, the push to work-from-home seemed like a blessing; it was something that everyone had long hoped for finally coming into view. A better work-life balance. More time away from the office.

What once seemed like a two-week trial for the future of work turned into a global pandemic, killing more than 440,000 Americans and causing millions to lose jobs. The new normal is working remotely, not from a congested office in midtown Manhattan.

Just as it’s been a challenge to run with a mask on, employees and employers’ ability to adapt has been a learn-as-you-go type mentality. Some workers have thrived during the pandemic. Remote working has allowed those once troubled commuters gain hours back on their days that were once sacrificed in traffic or on the rails. Other workers have found it a struggle; the after-work routines are no more, interaction with colleagues is fleeting and often left with more questions than answers.

It was initially predicted that introverted workers would thrive in the pandemic because it allowed them to work in an environment that is more tailored to their liking, but things like Zoom parties, more conference calls, and other team-bonding activities and events has basically wiped out that hypothesis. Extroverts find themselves in a similar position adjusting to less social interaction. Experts said that the lack of interaction can quickly drain the mood of extroverts, which could explain why performance hasn’t reached in-office levels during the pandemic.

Working from home isn’t for everyone, but it’s important for employers to understand their team and how each individual is different than the next. And while some diamonds in the rough have shined during the pandemic, new research has uncovered that there are few types of employees emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic: Thriving, Hopeful, Discouraged and Trapped.

The Martec Group recently compiled data from more than 1,000 participants on their experience working from home during the pandemic. It’s how the company found these descriptors to describe the working habits and mindset of people during the pandemic. The Martec Group used its “Proprietary Emotional Intelligence” tool which measures emotions associated with any topic. Here, they used four properties of emotion — enjoyment, interest, commitment, and passion — and focused on a series of three questions that honed in on each participants personal response to how their company has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through much analysis, here’s are the categories your employees might fall:

  • 32% of respondents are “Trapped Employees”
  • 27% of respondents are “Discouraged Employees”
  • 25% of respondents are “Hopeful Employees”
  • 16% of respondents are “Thriving Employees”

It’s been documented before that not everyone is finding remote working a walk in the park, but some are loving it. Moving forward, employers have a tight rope to balance on and understanding if one of your employees falls into one of these descriptors, it can help position them for success moving forward.

“You need to understand how do your employees fit into this segmentation scheme,” Jim Durkin, president and founder of the Maytec Group, told Ladders. “Is this representative of your company? If it is, there’s probably not a one size fits all, back-to-work policy that’s going to work for everyone now that [the pandemic] has lasted so long.”

A breakdown of remote work employees

There hasn’t been a secret recipe on how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic from a business perspective. Some employees blossomed out of nowhere — likely introverted type — thanks to the ability to work alone and not feel pressured in social settings. Other workers have felt the wrath of the pandemic where some are being exploited as their office jobs don’t translate well remotely.

The thriving employees (16%) is a female-dominated group (72%) and skews younger in age. These employees tend to be the most introverted from a personality standpoint, while their careers are in finance and insurance at an entry level. These types like not having a commute and they feel more productive.

Thriving employees reported having more job satisfaction, job motivation, and company satisfaction during the pandemic compared to before.

For companies trying to manage moving forward, this might be the type of group that you would consider offering remote working to full-time.

Hopeful employees (25%) typically work in education. It’s a mixed group of introverts and extroverts that feels their company has handled the pandemic well, but they feel isolated and lonely while working remotely. This group misses their colleagues and the social aspects of working at the office. These employees tend to thrive on in-person interaction and find it difficult to communicate via email.

Discouraged employees (27%) is the most extroverted group. They miss social interaction at the office, but they like not having a commute. This group scored high ratings before the pandemic, but has suffered the most by seeing sharp declines especially in mental health, a 40% decline. They are more stressed, less focused, less productive, and feel like their work-life balance has worsened since the start of the pandemic.

This group tends to be manager-level and above. It’s the most senior group that is dealing with new stressors at home, like managing children at home or not having the necessary space to work from at home.

Finally, trapped employees (32%) is the group missing the office the most right now. They crave social interaction and the structure of work. They don’t agree with how their company has handled the pandemic. They reported feeling stressed by uncertainty, whether it comes from the never-ending news cycle or life in general. Trapped employees also need a separation from home; they like to be with their family but they are getting annoyed with them as well.

How to manage your employees moving forward

While some workers are heading into the office while others continue to be holed up in their homes, at some points workers are all going to be welcomed back into the office. That said, not everyone is going to be as eager to get back to the zombie commute or overpriced lattes.

“The ideal is going to be understanding that employees where employees are right now have ultimately adapted, but the work environment is going to change in a number respects in the number of people and how office space is going to be designed,” Durkin said. “There’s an opportunity for employers to listen to their employees and understand what their needs are.”

Durkin said trapped employees are the ones you want to get back into the office as soon as possible. The study said that they could receive counseling and need to have their emotions recognized and addressed head on. Moving forward, they face the most challenges.

With thriving employees, companies can offer a more tailored approach. While production and morale could drop with a return to the office, it’s a wait-and-see approach that will gauge the best response. Providing these employees with the option to continue working remotely might be best.

Hopeful workers should be reached out by management or colleagues frequently. It’s about making up for lost social interaction in the office, while discouraged employees need to have a more tailored approach by understanding each worker is different and their struggles are uniquely their own.