Unpacking the Role of a Telecommuter’s Job in Their Performance: Examining Job Complexity, Problem Solving, Interdependence, and Social Support

Original Paper
  • 38 Downloads

Abstract

Despite telecommuting’s growing popularity, its implication for telecommuter job performance is a matter of on-going public debate. Moreover, empirical evidence that could address this issue is scarce and conflicting. This study therefore not only examines whether telecommuting impacts job performance, but also investigates characteristics of the telecommuter’s work that might help or hinder their ability to perform their job. Integrating work design research with theorizing about telecommuting, our theoretical framework proposes that two knowledge characteristics, namely job complexity and problem solving, and two social characteristics, specifically interdependence and social support, moderate the extent of telecommuting–job performance relationship. We test our framework using matched data from telecommuters and their supervisors (N = 273) in an organization with a voluntary telecommuting program. Findings indicate that for telecommuters who held complex jobs, for those in jobs involving low levels of interdependence and for those in jobs with low levels of social support, the extent of telecommuting had a positive association with job performance. Across all moderators considered, the extent of telecommuting’s association with job performance ranged from benign to positive; findings did not support negative associations between the extent of telecommuting and job performance regardless of the level of each moderator examined. These results suggest the need to investigate the extent of telecommuting as well as the nature of the telecommuter’s job when studying work outcomes such as job performance, and that more research is needed.

Keywords

Telecommuting Telework Virtual work Job performance Work design research Job characteristics 

References

  1. Allen, D., Renn, R., & Griffeth, R. (2003). The impact of telecommuting design on social systems, self-regulation, and role boundaries. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 22, 125–163.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, T. D., Golden, T. D., & Shockley, K. M. (2015). How effective is telecommuting? Assessing the status of our scientific findings. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 16(2), 40–68.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Amabile, T. M. (1988). A model of creativity and innovation in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 10, 123–167.Google Scholar
  4. Amabile, T. M. (1996). Creativity in context: Update to “the social psychology of creativity.”. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  5. Amabile, T., & Mueller, J. (2008). Studying creativity, its processes and its antecedents. In J. Zhou & C. E. Shalley (Eds.), Handbook of organizational creativity (pp. 33–64). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  6. Antonakis, J., & Atwater, L. (2002). Leader distance: a review and a proposed theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 13(6), 673–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Arvey, R. D., & Murphy, K. R. (1998). Performance evaluation in work settings. Annual Review of Psychology, 49(1), 141–168.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bailey, D., & Kurland, N. (2002). A review of telework research: findings, new directions, and lessons for the study of modern work. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23, 383–400.  https://doi.org/10.1002/job.144 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baron, R. S. (1986). Distraction-conflict theory: progress and problems. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 19(1986), 1–39.Google Scholar
  10. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Bartel, C. A., Wrzesniewski, A., & Wiesenfeld, B. M. (2012). Knowing where you stand: physical isolation, perceived respect, and organizational identification among virtual employees. Organization Science, 23(3), 743–757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bélanger, F., Watson-Manheim, M. B., & Swan, B. R. (2013). A multi-level socio-technical systems telecommuting framework. Behaviour & Information Technology, 32(12), 1257–1279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blau, P. M. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  14. Block, L. K., & Stokes, G. S. (1989). Performance and satisfaction in private versus nonprofit work settings. Environment and Behavior, 21, 277–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bloom, N. (2014). To raise productivity, let more employees work from home. Harvard Business Review, January–February.Google Scholar
  16. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016). Twenty-four percent of employed people did some or all of their work at home in 2015. U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, July 8.Google Scholar
  17. Burgoon, J. K., Bonito, J. A., Ramirez, A., Dunbar, N. E., Kam, K., & Fischer, J. (2002). Testing the interactivity principle: effects of mediation, propinquity, and verbal and nonverbal modalities in interpersonal interaction. Journal of Communication, 52(3), 657–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carlson, J. R., & Zmud, R. W. (1999). Channel expansion theory and the experiential nature of media richness perceptions. Academy of Management Journal, 42(2), 153–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S., & Aiken, L. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  20. Cooper, C. D., & Kurland, N. B. (2002). Telecommuting, professional isolation, and employee development in public and private organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23(4), 511–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Coraggio, L. (1990). Deleterious effects of intermittent interruptions on the task performance of knowledge workers: A laboratory investigation. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Arizona.Google Scholar
  22. Crossman, G., & Burton, P. F. (1993). Telework stereotypes: a case study. Journal of Information Science, 19, 349–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Czerwinski, M., Horvitz, E., & Wilhite, S. (2004). A diary study of task switching and interruptions. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 175–182). ACM.Google Scholar
  24. Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1986). Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32(5), 554–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Davis, M. C., Leach, D. J., & Clegg, C. W. (2011). The physical environment of the office: Contemporary and emerging issues. International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 26(1), 193–237.Google Scholar
  26. De Croon, E., Sluiter, J., Kuijer, P. P., & Frings-Dresen, M. (2005). The effect of office concepts on worker health and performance: a systematic review of the literature. Ergonomics, 48(2), 119–134.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Demerouti, E., & Bakker, A. B. (2014). Job crafting. An introduction to contemporary work psychology, 414–433.Google Scholar
  28. DuBrin, A. J. (1991). Comparison of the job satisfaction and productivity of telecommuters versus in-house employees: a research note on work in progress. Psychological Reports, 68, 1223–1234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Duffy, M. K., Ganster, D. C., & Pagon, M. (2002). Social undermining in the workplace. Academy of Management Journal, 45(2), 331–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Duxbury, L., & Neufeld, D. (1999). An empirical evaluation of the impacts of telecommuting on intra-organizational communication. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 16(1), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fonner, K. L., & Roloff, M. E. (2010). Why teleworkers are more satisfied with their jobs than are office-based workers: when less contact is beneficial. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 38(4), 336–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fritz, M. B. W., Narasimhan, S., & Rhee, H. S. (1998). Communication and coordination in the virtual office. Journal of Management Information Systems, 14, 7–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gajendran, R. S., & Harrison, D. A. (2007). The good, the bad, and the unknown about telecommuting: meta-analysis of psychological mediators and individual consequences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(6), 1524–1541.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.92.6.1524 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Gajendran, R. S., Harrison, D. A., & Delaney-Klinger, K. (2015). Are telecommuters remotely good citizens? Unpacking telecommuting's effects on performance via i-deals and job resources. Personnel Psychology, 68(2), 353–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gallup (2013). State of the American workplace: employee engagement insights for U.S. business leaders. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/163007/state-american-workplace.aspx
  36. Gillie, T., & Broadbent, D. (1989). What makes interruptions disruptive? A study of length, similarity, and complexity. Psychological Research, 50(4), 243–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com (2016). Latest telecommuting statistics. Retrieved from http://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics
  38. Golden, T. D. (2006a). Avoiding depletion in virtual work: telework and the intervening impact of work exhaustion on commitment and turnover intentions. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 69(1), 176–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Golden, T. D. (2006b). The role of relationships in understanding telecommuter satisfaction. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27(3), 319–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Golden, T. D. (2007). Coworkers who telework and the impact on those in the office: understanding the implications of virtual work for coworker satisfaction and turnover intentions. Human Relations, 60(11), 1641–1667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Golden, T. D., & Fromen, A. (2011). Does it matter where your manager works? Comparing manager work mode (traditional, telework, virtual work) across subordinate work experiences and outcomes. Human Relations, 64, 1451–1475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Golden, T. D., & Raghuram, S. (2010). Teleworker knowledge sharing and the role of altered relational and technological interactions. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(8), 1061–1085.  https://doi.org/10.1002/job.652 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Golden, T. D., & Veiga, J. F. (2005). The impact of extent of telecommuting on job satisfaction: resolving inconsistent findings. Journal of Management, 31(2), 301–318.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206304271768 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Golden, T. D., & Veiga, J. F. (2008). The impact of superior–subordinate relationships on the commitment, job satisfaction, and performance of virtual workers. The Leadership Quarterly, 19(1), 77–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Golden, T. D., Veiga, J. F., & Simsek, Z. (2006). Telecommuting’s differential impact on work-family conflict: is there no place like home? Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(6), 1340–1350.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.91.6.1340 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Golden, T. D., Veiga, J. F., & Dino, R. N. (2008). The impact of professional isolation on teleworker job performance and turnover intentions: does time spent teleworking, interacting face-to-face, or having access to communication-enhancing technology matter? Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(6), 1412–1421.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Grant, A. (2007). Relational job design and the motivation to make a prosocial difference. Academy of Management Review, 32, 393–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Grant, A. (2012). Giving time, time after time: work design and sustained employee participation in corporate volunteering. Academy of Management Review, 37, 589–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Guadagno, R. E., & Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Gender differences in impression management in organizations: a qualitative review. Sex Roles, 56(7–8), 483–494.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9187-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Guimaraes, T., & Dallow, P. (1999). Empirically testing the benefits, problems, and success factors for telecommuting programmes. European Journal of Information Systems, 8(1), 40–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Guynn, J. (2013). Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer causes uproar with telecommuting ban. Los Angeles Times.Google Scholar
  52. Harrison, D. A., & Klein, K. J. (2007). What’s the difference? Diversity constructs as separation, variety, or disparity in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1199–1228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Hill, J. E., Ferris, M., & Martinson, V. (2003). Does it matter where you work? A comparison of how three work venues (traditional office, virtual office and home office) influence aspects of work and personal/family life. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 63, 220–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Humer, C. (2013). In Telecommuting debate, Aetna sticks by big at-home Workforce Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/01/us-yahoo-telecommuting-aetna-idUSBRE92006820130301
  55. Humphrey, S. E., Nahrgang, J. D., & Morgeson, F. P. (2007). Integrating motivational, social, and contextual work design features: a meta-analytic summary and theoretical extension of the work design literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(5), 1332–1356.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Igbaria, M., & Guimaraes, T. (1999). Exploring differences in employee turnover intentions and its determinants among telecommuters and non-telecommuters. Journal of Management Information Systems, 147–164.Google Scholar
  57. Isidore, C. (2017). IBM tells employees working at home to get back to the office. CNN Money. May 19.Google Scholar
  58. Jett, Q. R., & George, J. M. (2003). Work interrupted: a closer look at the role of interruptions in organizational life. Academy of Management Review, 28(3), 494–507.Google Scholar
  59. Johnson, S. K., Bettenhausen, K., & Gibbons, E. (2009). Realities of working in virtual teams: affective and attitudinal outcomes of using computer mediated communication. Small Group Research, 40, 623–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Jones, J. (2015). In U.S., telecommuting for work climbs to 37%. Retrieved September 22, 2017, from http://news.gallup.com/poll/184649/telecommuting-work-climbs.aspx
  61. Kammeyer-Mueller, J., Wanberg, C., Rubenstein, A., & Song, Z. (2012). Support, undermining, and newcomer socialization: fitting in during the first 90 days. Academy of Management Journal.Google Scholar
  62. Kaplan, S., Engelsted, L., Lei, X., & Lockwood, K. (2017). Unpackaging manager mistrust in allowing telework: comparing and integrating theoretical perspectives. Journal of Business and Psychology, 1–18.Google Scholar
  63. Kelloway, E. (1998). Using lisrel for structural equation modeling. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  64. Kiggundu, M. N. (1981). Task interdependence and the theory of job design. Academy of Management Review, 6(3), 499–508.Google Scholar
  65. Kirkman, B. L., Rosen, B., Gibson, C. B., Tesluk, P. E., & McPherson, S. O. (2002). Five challenges to virtual team success: lessons from sabre, inc. The Academy of Management Executive, 16(3), 67–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Kohler, S. S., & Mathieu, J. E. (1993). Individual characteristics, work perceptions, and affective reactions influences on differentiated absence criteria. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14(6), 515–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Kossek, E. E., Lautsch, B. A., & Eaton, S. C. (2006). Telecommuting, control, and boundary management: correlates of policy use and practice, job control, and work-family effectiveness. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68(2), 347–367.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2005.07.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Kurland, N. B., & Cooper, C. D. (2002). Manager control and employee isolation in telecommuting environments. Journal of High Technology Management Research, 13(1), 107–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Laird, D. A., Laird, E. C., & Fruehling, R. T. (1983). Psychology and human relations and work adjustment. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  70. Lautsch, B. A., & Kossek, E. E. (2011). Managing a blended workforce: telecommuters and non-telecommuters. Organizational Dynamics, 40(1), 10–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Leroy, S. (2009). Why is it so hard to do my work? The challenge of attention residue when switching between work tasks. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 109(2), 168–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Leslie, L. M., Manchester, C. F., Park, T. Y., & Mehng, S. A. (2012). Flexible work practices: a source of career premiums or penalties? Academy of Management Journal, 55(6), 1407–1428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Lynch, S. (2013). Richard Branson to Marissa Mayer: Telecommuting ban a ‘backwards step’. Silicon Valley Business Journal.Google Scholar
  74. Madjar, N., Oldham, G. R., & Pratt, M. G. (2002). There’s no place like home? The contributions of work and nonwork creativity support to employees’ creative performance. Academy of Management Journal, 45(4), 757–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Morganson, V. J., Major, D. A., Oborn, K. L., Verive, J. M., & Heelan, M. P. (2010). Comparing telework locations and traditional work arrangements: differences in work-life balance support, job satisfaction, and inclusion. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25(6), 578–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Morgeson, F. P., & Humphrey, S. E. (2006). The work design questionnaire (WDQ): developing and validating a comprehensive measure for assessing job design and the nature of work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(6), 1321–1339.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.91.6.1321 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Nilles, J. M. (1994). Making telecommuting happen: A guide for telemanagers and telecommuters. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.Google Scholar
  78. O’Conaill, B., & Frohlich, D. (1995). Timespace in the workplace: dealing with interruptions. Paper presented at the CHI proceedings, short papers. Available from http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi95/proceedings/shortppr/boc_bdy.htm.
  79. Oldham, G. R., Kulik, C. T., & Stepina, L. P. (1991). Physical environments and employee reactions: effects of stimulus-screening skills and job complexity. Academy of Management Journal, 34(4), 929–938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Parker, S. K., Wall, T. D., & Cordery, J. L. (2001). Future work design research and practice: towards an elaborated model of work design. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 74(4), 413–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Payne, J. W. (1982). Contingent decision behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 92(2), 382–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Perlow, L. A. (1999). The time famine: toward a sociology of work time. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(1), 57–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Perry-Smith, J. E., & Shalley, C. E. (2003). The social side of creativity: a static and dynamic social network perspective. Academy of Management Review, 28(1), 89–106.Google Scholar
  84. Raghuram, S., Garud, R., Wiesenfeld, B., & Gupta, V. (2001). Factors contributing to virtual work adjustment. Journal of Management, 27, 383–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Ramsower, R. M. (1983). Telecommuting: The organizational and behavioral effects of working at home. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International.Google Scholar
  86. Reaney, P. (2012). About 20 percent of global workers telecommute: Poll. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/24/workers-telecommute_n_1228004.html
  87. Riley, F., & McCloskey, D. W. (1997). Telecommuting as a response to helping people balance work and family. In S. Parasuraman & J. H. Greenhaus (Eds.), Integrating work and family: Challenges and choices for a changing world (pp. 133–142). Westport: Quorum Books.Google Scholar
  88. Shalley, C. E., Gilson, L. L., & Blum, T. C. (2009). Interactive effects of growth need strength, work context, and job complexity on self-reported creative performance. Academy of Management Journal, 52(3), 489–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. London: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  90. Simons, J. (2017). IBM, a Pioneer of remote work, calls workers back to the Office. Fox News. Retrieved from http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/05/18/ibm-pioneer-remote-work-calls-workers-back-to-office.html
  91. Speier, C., Valacich, J. S., & Vessey, I. (1999). The influence of task interruption on individual decision making: an information overload perspective. Decision Sciences, 30(2), 337–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Speier, C., Vessey, I., & Valacich, J. S. (2003). The effects of interruptions, task complexity, and information presentation on computer-supported decision-making performance. Decision Sciences, 34(4), 771–797.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5414.2003.02292.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Swisher, K. (2013). “Physically together”: Here’s the internal yahoo no-work-from-home memo for remote workers and maybe more. Retrieved from http://allthingsd.com/20130222/physically-together-heres-the-internal-yahoo-no-work-from-home-memo-which-extends-beyond-remote-workers/
  94. Thompson, J. D. (1967). Organizations in action. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  95. Vega, R. P., Anderson, A. J., & Kaplan, S. A. (2015). A within-person examination of the effects of telework. Journal of Business and Psychology, 30(2), 313–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Virick, M., DaSilva, N., & Arrington, K. (2010). Moderators of the curvilinear relation between extent of telecommuting and job and life satisfaction: the role of performance outcome orientation and worker type. Human Relations, 63(1), 137–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Wajcman, J., & Rose, E. (2011). Constant connectivity: rethinking interruptions at work. Organization Studies, 32(7), 941–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Wayne, S., & Liden, R. (1995). Effects of impression management on performance ratings - a longitudinal-study. Academy of Management Journal, 38(1), 232–260.  https://doi.org/10.2307/256734 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Wiesenfeld, B. M., Raghuram, S., & Garud, R. (2001). Organizational identification among virtual workers: the role of need for affiliation and perceived work-based social support. Journal of Management, 27(2), 213–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Wood, R. E. (1986). Task complexity: definition of the construct. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 37(1), 60–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. WorldatWork (2011). Telework 2011: A WorldatWork special report. Retrieved from http://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=53034
  102. Wright, T. A., & Bonnet, D. G. (2002). The moderating effects of employee tenure on the relation between organizational commitment and job performance: a meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 1183–1190.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  103. Zhong, C. B., & House, J. (2012). Hawthorne revisited: organizational implications of the physical work environment. Research in Organizational Behavior, 32, 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lally School of ManagementRensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Management and International BusinessFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

Personalised recommendations