Alexa Samaniego, BS, San Diego State University; Savannah Leslie, BA, San Diego State University; Larissa Barber, PhD, San Diego State University
Purpose/Objectives: The purpose of this project was to determine whether workplace telepressure predicts different performance outcomes given past research emphasizes employee well-being. We explored whether workplace telepressure would be positively associated with performance at the expense of well-being. We also explored whether work demands alter the relationship between workplace telepressure and both performance and well-being outcomes.
Background: The urge to respond rapidly to work messages–workplace telepressure–is associated with poor health and wellbeing outcomes, such as low satisfaction with work-life balance, work exhaustion, and sleep problems (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015; Barber & Santuzzi, 2017). However, there is little research investigating performance behaviors to determine if workplace telepressure comes at the expense of well-being, or whether telepressure is detrimental to both. The effort-recovery model (Meijman & Mulder, 1998) would suggest performance decrements due to telepressure in addition to well-being. Telepressure represents a response to work demands that can interfere with work recovery, and meta-analysis research indicates that poor work recovery undermines work performance (Steed et al., 2021). Yet the Personal Resource Allocation (PRA) framework (Grawitch et al., 2010) would suggest telepressure has performance benefits; employees may allocate their resources to attend to work outcomes from work communications at the cost of well-being. Therefore, we examined potential work performance outcomes of telepressure while replicating past well-being findings. We expected that telepressure would predict higher in-role behavior and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), but lower counterproductive work behavior (CWB). We also examined whether the relationships between workplace telepressure and outcomes changes based on employee levels of workload. The PRA framework notes that workload reduction strategies should increase personal resource allocation effectiveness, resulting in better performance and subjective well-being. Therefore, we expected that positive workplace telepressure and performance links would be enhanced among employees with low workloads compared to those with high workloads. Alternatively, negative workplace telepressure and well-being links should be weakened among employees with low compared to high workloads.
Methods: We used completed data from a cross-sectional survey panel study conducted through Qualtrics in summer of 2019. Our sample included 581 employees who were over the age of 18, worked at least 30 hours per week, and interacted with multiple coworkers on a daily basis. Participants responded to questions about general work attitudes, work behaviors, and satisfaction with work. Specifically, this study analyzed participant responses to validated measures of workplace telepressure (six items; Barber & Santuzzi, 2015), work fatigue (three items; Cranford et al., 2006), sleep problems (four items; Jenkins et al., 1988), satisfaction with work-life balance (five items; Valcour, 2007), in-role performance behavior (four items; Williams & Anderson, 1991), OCB (16 items; Lee & Allen, 2002), CWB (10 items; Spector et al., 2010), and workload (five items; Spector & Jex, 1998).
Findings: Bivariate correlations among variables are reported in Table 1. Replicating past findings, workplace telepressure was associated with lower well-being in the form of more work fatigue, more sleep problems, and lower satisfaction with work-life balance. Workplace telepressure was positively associated with one performance outcome: OCB. Telepressure was unrelated to in-role performance and showed a positive relationship with CWB. We also used moderated multiple regression analyses to test whether workload altered the relationship between telepressure and each outcome. There was no evidence that workload moderates the relationship between telepressure and any of the performance or well-being outcomes. However, incremental validity analyses showed that workplace telepressure retained relationships with sleep problems, work fatigue, and OCB when accounting for workload. Telepressure was no longer associated with satisfaction with work-life balance (p = .265) or CWB (p = .054) when including workload in the model.
Discussion: Well-being costs of workplace telepressure do not generally come with perceived performance benefits, contrary to PRA framework expectations. The one exception is that telepressured workers also report higher helping behaviors at work (OCB). However, telepressure was unrelated to in-role performance behaviors and predicted higher reports of CWB. Therefore, telepressure may only redirect employee efforts towards managing communications or assisting others rather than work performance on their own tasks. Another unexpected finding was that workload did not change the effects of workplace telepressure on either performance or well-being outcomes. Reducing work demands may not be an effective intervention affecting employee resource allocation due to telepressure – strategies targeting communication demands or training resources for setting boundaries around work-related messages specifically might be warranted. Although the strengths of this study are a large sample size across many different occupations, a key limitation was the use of self-report data for performance behavior outcomes.
Conclusions: Workplace telepressure comes at a cost to employee well-being with few direct performance benefits (only OCB). Perhaps future research can explore whether other resources such as person-environment fit with messaging communication styles may matter more for understanding these effects (or other individual differences; Lin et al., 2014). Future research can also supplement self-evaluations of performance outcomes with supervisor ratings of performance or objective job performance indicators.