Out of Office: The Psychology of Remote Work

For many companies, working from home and working from anywhere are here to stay, creating opportunities to rethink what the future work world looks like. And you might be surprised to know that the psychology behind remote work is about more than just “have laptop, will travel.”

“Research indicates that 82 percent of business leaders plan to maintain a partial work-from-home structure after COVID-19,” says Dr. Laura Hambley, a Calgary-based Registered Psychologist and president and co-founder of Work EvOHlution.      


Understanding the profile of a successful remote worker can help people understand which traits might get in their way, which traits to develop and which will make them better remote workers, says Hambley. It can also help them make decisions about the ideal balance of when and where they work.

 The remote work mindset

Hambley’s research on distributed work teams has revealed several traits and characteristics shared by people who thrive while working from home. Among these traits: good impulse control, enjoyment of independence and self-structured time, and an ability to accomplish the task at hand without procrastinating. Not surprisingly, successful Work from Home and Work from Anywhere workers share similar profiles. “Are you a person with a short attention span?” asks Hambley. “Whether you’re in an airport or a coffee shop, you have to be able to really focus.”

 Mike Swigunski, author, remote work leader and founder of GlobalCareerBook.com,  notes that the ability to work from anywhere also requires a strong sense of adaptability and flexibility. Case in point: the realities of a portable office setup. “Over the years, I’ve condensed everything down to a small 40-litre carry-on backpack,” he says. “The core items are a 13-inch Macbook Pro, Jabra Elite Noise Cancelling Headphones and an iPhone Pro.” If the idea of navigating the working world without your full set-up — standing desk, monitor, keyboard, mouse, monitor riser and chair — feels daunting, working from anywheremight require additional consideration.

 Co-working meets remote workers in the middle

For those who miss the structure and amenities of a shared office environment, a co-working space could be the right fit. “This past year, we’ve seen a surge in interest from those who are suffering from isolation,” says Paula Kennedy, Director, Strategic Growth at Staples Canada, which offers five co-working spaces across the country. “Their current home environment is just not conducive to productivity.”

 Co-working spaces such as Staples Studio offer similar amenities to corporate offices including desks, ergonomic chairs, fast Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, private offices and professional development opportunities, such as workshops and networking. For those that thrive with the presence of coworkers, there’s also an opportunity for interaction. “There’s typically a diverse spectrum of people, expertise and industries represented in co-working spaces,” says Kennedy.

 Balance is key

It’s important to note that not everyone prefers to work exclusively either remotely or from an office. “Our research showed that only about 10 percent of people do well working full-time remotely — the majority work best with a split or hybrid model,” says Hambley. “Employers are wise to understand what their people need and how they work best.”

The future of work

Ultimately, the Work from Anywhere model has proven that employees can thrive in this new way of working. What’s more, according to Swigunski, this realization will result in dramatic shifts in the realm of remote work, post-pandemic. “Governments will continue adapting regulations to attract digital nomads and remote workers; longer-term and slow travel will become a lot more common; and hotel hybrids (a blend of a hotel and co-working space) will continue to expand and attract more workers.”

By Staples Canada

August 03, 2021