What technological and leadership factors contribute to performance of virtual workers?

Dr. Wendy Anson
Fellow since Oct 2016

Leader communication style and coaching behaviors effects on virtual worker’s engagement


The construct of work engagement has received much attention in the literature over the last two decades; however, limited research has been conducted regarding virtual workers and work engagement. Advances in Information Communication Technology (ICT) have provided increased flexibility in working arrangements to employers and workers. Media-rich communications, such as voice/video communications provided by Adobe Connect, are known to be more effective at communicating complex information and ideas while less rich media communications, such as e-mail, have been found to be less effective. Managerial coaching in the virtual work environment has also received limited research. The research problem considered in this study was if e-leaders’ choice of electronic communication media and or managerial coaching behaviors are related to work engagement in individual virtual workers.

The methodology used in the study was a quantitative correlational approach. A non-experimental design using survey data was incorporated. The population of interest was virtual workers who work five days per week without in person interaction with a supervisor. A sample of 203 virtual workers who worked virtually the equivalent of five days without in person interaction with a supervisor was obtained through Qualtrics Panels. Sample data was analyzed with a factorial ANOVA using SPSS. Findings from the study were consistent with prior research in traditional work environments in that there was a significant main effect for e-leaders coaching behaviors upon work engagement in virtual workers. However, with an observed statistical power of 70%, this accounted for only 4% of the variance in scores for virtual workers. There was not a significant main effect or interaction effect for e-leader’s use of electronic communication upon work engagement in virtual workers. An unexpected outcome of the study was e-leaders’ reliance upon text-based communication.