When Does Virtuality Really “Work”? Examining the Role of Work–Family and Virtuality in Social Loafing
We sought to clarify the relationship between virtuality and social loafing by exploring two work–family moderators—family responsibility and dissimilarity in terms of family responsibility—and two mediators—cohesion and psychological obligation—in two studies. We expected that “busy teams” (i.e., comprising similar individuals with many family responsibilities) would exhibit the strongest positive virtuality–social loafing relationship, and teams comprising similar individuals with few family responsibilities would experience a weaker virtuality–social loafing relationship. We expected that individuals working with dissimilar others would report consistently high levels of social loafing regardless of virtuality. Furthermore, we expected cohesion and psychological obligation to one’s teammates would mediate these effects. Similar individuals in teams indeed exhibited different virtuality–social loafing relationships in both studies, suggesting that the flexibility provided by virtuality might be more effective in teams comprising similar people with few family responsibilities. Study 2 further revealed that cohesion and obligation may mediate these effects, such that high levels of these mediators were associated with low levels of social loafing in similar teams comprising people with few family responsibilities. We discuss contributions to the virtual work and social loafing literatures, as well as the work–family and team literatures. We also suggest several specific actions managers can take on the basis of these findings, including for employees with few versus many family responsibilities.