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

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.

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Golden, T.D., Gajendran, R.S. Unpacking the Role of a Telecommuter’s Job in Their Performance: Examining Job Complexity, Problem Solving, Interdependence, and Social Support. J Bus Psychol 34, 55–69 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-018-9530-4

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Keywords

  • Telecommuting
  • Telework
  • Virtual work
  • Job performance
  • Work design research
  • Job characteristics