The rise of distributed work, or telework, in organizations has been linked to benefits, such as productivity, performance, retention, and commitment. Elsewhere, however, it has been noted that distributed work provides an environment ripe for cyberslacking, a phenomenon in which employees are distracted by non-work Internet browsing when they should be accomplishing work tasks. Distributed work also introduces the possibility that employees will feel less engaged with their jobs by virtue of being removed from the physical work environment, office structure, and social atmosphere. Engagement involves physical, cognitive, and emotional energy and connection with work activities, and it is a means through which organizations seek to leverage a competitive advantage. According to the authors of the current study, personality could be an important psychological factor influencing cyberslacking and engagement in distributed work arrangements. Therefore, their study was focused on identifying traits that relate directly and indirectly to indicators of distributed work effectiveness, namely, cyberslacking and engagement.

A sample of 148 US employed adults participating in distributed work for at least one day per week completed the online study survey. Traits were measured with scales for agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, openness, procrastination, and honesty. The study also measured regular upward communication, self-management tactics, conscious socialization efforts, cyberslacking, and engagement.

1) Personality appears to be a factor involved in distributed work effectiveness and behavior. The results advance research by suggesting that non-Big Five traits of honesty and procrastination can be at least as important as the Big Five (agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, openness).

2) Neuroticism emerged as an important predictor of cyberslacking, which suggests that employees prone to feelings involving anger, irritation, and anxiety may need extra support when doing distributed work.

3) Individuals with high scores on honesty and low scores on procrastination exhibited the most favorable levels of cyberslacking and engagement. This indicates that it is worthwhile to identify traits that complement the Big Five in order to maximize the prediction of certain outcomes using personality.

4) Regular upward communication linked conscientiousness to both cyberslacking and engagement, suggesting that employees high in conscientiousness keep their supervisors informed with respect to work issues and progress, which likely further reinforces these individuals’ motivation to avoid cyberslacking and remain engaged. Self-management tactics also connected conscientiousness to both cyberslacking and engagement, suggesting that employees high in conscientiousness are using another productive set of behaviors by planning, structuring, and thinking ahead.

5) Extraversion and agreeableness increased conscious socialization efforts, which in turn predicted engagement.

Implications for Practice
When seeking insights on who to assign to distributed work, organizations should be aware that

1) honesty and procrastination were powerful predictors of cyberslacking and engagement;

2) neuroticism is a predictor of cyberslacking;

3) conscientiousness is essential for regular upward communication and self-management tactics.

Location of Article
This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

O’Neill T. A., Hambley, L. A., & Chatellier, G. S. (2014). Cyberslacking, engagement, and personality in distributed work environments. Computers in Human Behavior, 152-160. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.08.005

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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