Every day, I speak to leaders at organizations large and small about how they are using technology to create and collaborate. Many are excited about the future of work and understand the amazing potential of technology to help them innovate at every level, across every job function. Others worry about the cost of change – both on workers and in dollars – but all of them tell me designing the most productive work environment is a delicate balance of managing productivity tools and personalities.

It is undeniable that today’s workforce is undergoing a rapid transformation, and every organization of every size is striving to keep up. Those of us who have been in the workforce for a decade or even half that time, have noticed huge shifts in how we work every day. Flexible work days, mobile work, teams spread across countries and continents, and physical spaces that have become more open and team-centric. All of this change means organizations must reimagine how they empower their employees.

While new collaboration and productivity tools make it possible to equip employees for success, it’s important to recognize that managing this change is not just about time zones and mobile offices. Every employee has different needs and preferences and the tools for success are not one-size-fits-all.

New research conducted for Microsoft revealed four distinct workplace personas that crossed all demographics and job positions. While much has been written about multiple generations in the workforce, this research found that these personas don’t align to specific age groups, but rather how people like to get work done. These personas each have distinct working preferences and require specific tools to be their best. Business decision-makers should understand these distinctions to help their workforce be its most productive, regardless of individual workstyle.

  • The Connected Builder (30 per cent of those surveyed): Ambitious, hard-working, passionate about their jobs, they routinely take work home and chip away at projects at night and on the weekends. They like to work in the office, but also from home, or in clients’ offices and often in collaboration with teams across the country or abroad. They find that they’re more productive when working alone.
  • The Autonomous Problem Solver (30 per cent of respondents): They love the teamwork thing, but they also know full well what works for them. They’re comfortable in the office, or working from home, or in a client’s space. They like getting things done, and done quickly. They appreciate a quiet space and feel productive working at home after hours on projects.
  • The Creative Connector (20 per cent of respondents): The type who loves working with others, and they thrive on the inspiration and creativity that comes from being part of a close-knit team. But at the same time, as much as they love the buzz of togetherness, they also admit to being more focused and productive when working alone or in a quieter space. They work mainly in the office, and mainly in shared space. They’re less likely to work from home, and tend not to take work home to deal with at night or on the weekend.
  • The Independent Ally (20 per cent of respondents): They’re in the office every day, but they like their space and separation from the din. They need their own environment in order to properly focus, yet they like having it within the broader office context. They are right there if needed – and they like being close at hand – but they need that extra bit of space to really fire on all cylinders.

It’s no surprise that I was identified as an Autonomous Problem Solver as my role requires me to empower my team through the skills I have built around organization, multi-tasking and working remotely. While teamwork and face-to-face interactions are an integral part of my job, I also value independence and time alone when I need to get my work done on a deadline.

Whether it’s technology that’s needed to facilitate mobility, drive creativity or simply get the job done, Microsoft’s collaboration and productivity tools including Surface, Office 365 and Teams, make it possible for leaders to empower their employees to manage their work around outcomes, engage their customers and optimize their operations.

We’ve compiled our research and results into a straight-forward six-question quiz. I encourage you to take the quiz and see which workstyle you embody. I also encourage you to share the quiz with your colleagues to help you better understand each other and to help your organization keep up in a constantly evolving workplace.