In the past few years, as we’ve all embraced new ways of working and the technology that enables it, employees have had time and space to decide where, when and how they work best. Just as no two people are the same, how we work varies greatly. “Whether you have five or 5,000 people, every workplace has a unique ecosystem of personalities, skill sets and working styles,” says Christina Janzer, Slack’s SVP of research and analytics. Recognizing, understanding and appreciating these differences enables businesses to offer their employees the most empowering work environment, which includes the right technology to suit their preferences.
To gather some insights, we paired up with market research firm YouGov to survey over 15,000 desk workers around the world to see what kinds of “work personalities” shape different approaches. What emerged were five distinct workplace personas:
- 🔍The Detective (30%)
- 🚗The Road Warrior (22%)
- 🦋The Networker (22%)
- 🤓The Problem Solver (16%)
- 🎨The Expressionist (10%)
We took a look at the driving characteristics of these personas and dug into the details of each one: the ways they work, how they prefer to communicate and what they think of emerging technology.
“This new research shows that regardless of industry or country, no two employees work exactly alike—which makes it even more crucial to enable people to play to their unique strengths with a flexible productivity platform, like Slack.”
The personas behind the people
Across the board, it was clear that everyone has their own ways of working, but people are ever-interested in effortlessly engaging with colleagues, sharing knowledge and accelerating their day-to-day tasks.
Globally, the most prominent workplace persona to emerge from the study was the Detective, an investigative type who is reliably in the know. Detectives search for as much knowledge as possible, and then share their solutions with others.
Naturally curious and outcome-driven, 93% of Detectives describe themselves as organized, and 91% prefer to figure things out on their own. Colleagues say that they’re best at digging up information (38% versus 19% of all workers), and that they know everything going on at the company (54% versus 29%).
- The Detective shows up in greater numbers in France (38%), the U.K. (34%), the U.S. (33%) and Germany (33%); India (16%) and Singapore (21%) have the fewest Detectives
- Workforces skew younger in India and Singapore and Detectives tend to be a bit older
- Fifty-three percent of Detectives are driven by a sense of purpose and job security
- The Detective (21%) and the Networker (21%) are the most likely personas to view working fully from home as a negative as they have the strongest preference for face-to-face communication (68% and 73%)
The Road Warrior
Next up is the Road Warrior, who can be found working from different locations at different times. They’re outgoing and affable, with a need to develop connections remotely. Flexibility is paramount to their success, as is working in whatever way fits their schedule.
Unsurprisingly, 89% of Road Warriors work away from their desk (versus 60% of all workers), and 81% describe themselves as adaptable (versus 64%). Colleagues say that they’re best at creating connections with colleagues virtually/from anywhere (28% versus 15% of all workers), and that they’re most likely to be working from a new location (28% versus 11% of all workers).
- Road Warriors are most frequently found in Japan (28%) and Singapore (26%), with less of a presence in India (18%)
- They are more likely to work on a geographically distributed team, with 17% working solo (in groups with no one in the same space)
- Forty-six percent of Road Warriors are driven by flexibility in how and where they work
Then there’s the Networker: An easy conversationalist, they go all in on communication. Highly collaborative, they are always taking notes and sharing them widely to make sure everyone around them is up to speed and has what they need to succeed.
Sixty-seven percent of Networkers describe themselves as extroverted (versus 44% of all workers), and 78% agree that you can be friends with your colleagues (versus 43%). People they work with say that they’re best at connecting everyone with the information they need (66% versus 36% of all workers), and that they’re most likely to have friends across teams and business units (66% versus 33%).
- Like the Detective, the Networker is more commonly found in the U.K. (27%), the U.S. (26%) and Germany (26%), with fewer in Japan (15%) and South Korea (18%)
- Forty-nine percent of Networkers are driven by relationships with colleagues and prefer to be co-located with their team
- They see working fully remote as more of a negative (21%) and have the highest preference for face-to-face communication (73%)
The Problem Solver
With a strong aversion to repetitive tasks, the Problem Solver is a master of automation. Problem Solvers have tips and tricks for everything, and are drawn to tools that will help them and their colleagues be more efficient. They love artificial intelligence (AI) and sharing shortcuts with the team to fastrack processes.
Obsessed with saving time, 92% of Problem Solvers describe themselves as early tech adopters (versus 60% of all workers), and 77% are excited about AI (versus 42%). Colleagues say that they’re best at streamlining work tasks (61% versus 29% of all workers), and that they’re most likely to be an early adopter of new technology (62% versus 22%).
- The Problem Solver more frequently works in India (23%), South Korea (22%), Japan (20%) and Singapore (20%), with fewer in the U.K. (11%) and the U.S. (10%)
- Forty-three percent of Problem Solvers will seek out opportunities to use AI in the future, with just 24% exhibiting trepidation about any negative technology implications
- The Problem Solver is most likely to seek training for new technology on their own from outside sources (35%)
- The Problem Solver (37%) and the Expressionist (44%) use AI the most.
Finally, the Expressionist has a strong preference for less formal engagement and prefers to rely on emoji, GIFs and memes at work. This visual communication style is critical to how they express their personality and ensure that their messages are received in the right way.
True to their preferences, 72% of Expressionists use emoji and GIFs to communicate in a way that colleagues will better understand, appreciate or enjoy (versus 29% of all workers), and 46% agree that workplace communication should be fun and lighthearted (versus 35%). Colleagues say that Expressionists are best at creating connections virtually (39% versus 15% of all workers), and that they are most likely to use the most fun emoji (21% versus 5%).
- The Expressionist is often found in India (21%), South Korea (15%) and Singapore (12%), and least likely to be in the U.K. (7%), France (7%) and Germany (6%).
Most teams will have a mix of different personas, making it imperative to understand how you can align work communication in a way that suits each one. Where your teams work and how they feel about technology is equally important, and by staying aware of their needs, you can ensure that they’re empowered to deliver their best work from anywhere, in any style.
Excitement, hesitation and anticipation of AI
The way workers view technology varies greatly with age and working style. A majority of desk workers, particularly those who manage others, and those who are younger, have a positive outlook. Forty-eight percent of Problem Solvers and 48% of Expressionists are particularly excited about AI, as they use it to feel more productive (46% and 41%). Overall, when it comes to new technology, workers are:
- 🤩Excited or energized (37%)
- 📈Eager to be more productive (32%)
- ⌛️Overwhelmed because there’s not enough time to learn (17%)
- 😓Anxious (14%)
- 🚫Overwhelmed because it’s perceived as too hard to learn (8%)
- 📉Weary they’ll be less productive (8%)
Training is an important factor to consider, as employees at companies that provide adequate technology training are less inclined to feel anxious and overwhelmed and more likely to feel productive, excited and energized. Of those surveyed, just under half say that their company gives them all the training they need, 41% believe that they provide “some” training, and 13% say that their company provides little or no training.
Few workers consider their company on the cutting edge of AI for automation: 26% say that their company lags behind when it comes to leveraging AI for automation, and 30% simply don’t know because they don’t see much information around its adoption.
About a quarter of workers have already used AI in the workplace, with the highest usage in India (54%) and Singapore (34%). The ways in which workers use AI varies greatly. For example:
- “When I am developing code, and I’m stuck or need to understand a new concept and adapt quickly, I will usually ask AI for a short explanation with an example,” says a Problem Solver in India
- Meanwhile, a Detective in the U.K. uses AI for workflow routing and a German Expressionist uses it to summarize longer texts to save time
- In the U.S., a Problem Solver gets more specific, using ChatGPT as a tie-breaker on decisions, and GitHub Copilot for software engineering.
Looking ahead, 58% of workers expect to use AI in the future:
- A Detective in the U.K. says that they will use it to “write” website pages, social media posts, news articles and similar content
- A Networker in Singapore says that they’ll lean on AI for transcribing conversations and summarizing content
- A Networker in the U.S. is looking forward to using AI to help with routine tasks like balancing accounts, analyzing spending trends and pinpointing anomalies
- A Detective in Australia is excited to use AI to write first drafts of documents and streamline existing processes
On the flip side, 80% of workers are worried, to some extent, about AI. Twenty-nine percent think it’ll cause harmful future developments, 29% are concerned about accuracy and 27% are hesitant about data security. Twenty-seven percent are simply unsure of its capabilities, and 19% are worried about job security.
Tapping into what’s most important to your teams
No matter where people are working, it can be tempting to procrastinate, scroll through social media or simply zone out. That’s why it’s so important to understand what inspires your teams, and how you can tap into these motivations in a way that speaks to your company’s mission and goals. Our research found that workers are primarily motivated through a sense of purpose and job security, with flexibility and relationships being more important for some.
Of those polled, 50% stated that they’re driven by finding a sense of purpose at work, and 47% valued job security. For 40%, a top motivator was a good rapport with colleagues, followed by flexibility in how and where they work (36%), and a good relationship with their managers (27%).
Non-managers are more motivated by job security (53% versus 44%) and relationships with colleagues (42% versus 39%) than managers, who are more motivated by a sense of purpose (52% versus 45%). Workers under 45 years old are more motivated by flexibility (39% versus 34%) and a good relationship with their manager (30% versus 25%) than older workers.
Specifically, the Detective is more driven by a sense of purpose and job security (53%), the Networker by relationships with colleagues (49%), and the Road Warrior by flexibility (46%).
Leveraging Slack to empower your people and their personas
The modern workplace has significantly and irrevocably changed, but it’s the workday itself—whether it’s 9 to 5, 5 to 9 or somewhere in between—that has really gotten into a new groove, powered by the many different personalities that show up every day. Slack’s intelligent productivity platform gives the world’s workers a home where they can easily communicate, collaborate and stay on the cutting edge of innovation and automation to enable both a better working culture and better business results.
“Whether you’re the Detective searching Slack’s repository to find answers more quickly, the Problem Solver spinning up workflows to cut down busywork and free up focus time, or the Expressionist who always delivers that perfect emoji to celebrate a team win, Slack helps you unlock your own productivity and personality,” says Janzer. “Using a tool that encourages employees to optimize their own working styles rather than forcing them to conform will enable managers and individual contributors at every level to thrive.”