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Remote but Not Forgotten: Ameliorating the Negative Effects of Professional Isolation Through Family Supportive Supervisor Behaviors and Schedule Flexibility

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A trend toward telecommuting, started because of the COVID-19 pandemic, provides an opportunity to understand the role of professional isolation and organizational factors in telecommuters’ job engagement. We examine the relationship between professional isolation and job engagement, represented as a bifactor model, via depletion. Using ego depletion theory, we hypothesize this mediated relationship is stronger for cognitive than global job engagement. We then consider whether the second-stage of this effect is moderated by both family supportive supervisor behaviors and schedule flexibility. We investigate these relationships using two-stage latent moderated mediation and bifactor modeling with field data at two points in time on 445 telecommuters in a US corporation that shifted all employees to telecommuting. We found employees who experience higher levels of professional isolation feel more depletion and less global and cognitive job engagement with the results not differing between the two. Further, employees who have a misalignment of resources (low family supportive supervisor behaviors paired with high schedule flexibility; high family supportive supervisor behaviors paired with low schedule flexibility) feel the depleting effects of professional isolation on cognitive engagement (and not global job engagement) more strongly than when both resources are high and when both resources are low. Our research extends the literature on telecommuting and professional isolation and provides insights for organizations on job engagement among telecommuters who feel professionally isolated.

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Correspondence to Tiffany M. Trzebiatowski.

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Supplemental Analyses Path Model Results

Fig. A1
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Alternative bifactor path model showing indirect and three-way interaction effects on all engagement outcomes with paths modeled simultaneously

Fig. A2
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Alternative bifactor path model on cognitive engagement with an additional path from FSSB to professional isolation

Fig. A3
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Alternative bifactor path model on cognitive engagement with both moderators at the first stage

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Trzebiatowski, T.M., Henle, C.A. Remote but Not Forgotten: Ameliorating the Negative Effects of Professional Isolation Through Family Supportive Supervisor Behaviors and Schedule Flexibility. J Bus Psychol 38, 1267–1286 (2023).

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