The paradoxical impact of communication visibility on work engagement: A mixed-methods investigation on Hong Kong employees’ uses of social technology platforms

Project: Research project

Project Details


Work engagement has consistently been associated with positive outcomes for both organizations and employees, such as improved productivity and job satisfaction. Despite this, research suggests that work engagement levels are generally low worldwide, and the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened work engagement by disconnecting employees from the workplace. Social technology platforms (STPs) are online services or software supporting communication, coordination, and collaboration among employees. These platforms provide valuable tools for enhancing employees' connectivity. As STPs have become ubiquitous in organizations after the pandemic, it is essential to understand how to promote work engagement by leveraging STPs under the new normal.

Research has found that using social technologies brings both positive (e.g., knowledge sharing and social capital building) and negative (e.g., interruptions and demands of responsiveness beyond work hours) impacts, which could be summarized as a connectivity paradox. However, existing research does not explain what capabilities of STPs cause this paradox. To better understand what STPs enable and constrain, drawing on the paradoxical perspective of communication technologies (Büchler et al., 2020), communication visibility theory (Leonardi, 2014), and the job demands and resources model (JD-R model; Demerouti et al., 2001), we will theorize and validate a boundary-spanning paradox. We focus on the capability of STPs to increase the visibility of activities in the workplace, creating opportunities for employees to learn who knows whom (i.e., message transparency) and who knows what (i.e., network translucence) in organizations. We predict that the enhanced communication visibility would promote employees’ extra-role and demand extra-time behaviors. Subsequently, we hypothesize that an increase in extra-role behaviors may boost work engagement, while an increase in extra-time behaviors could lead to a decrease in work engagement.

A mixed-methods research will be conducted consisting of a quantitative, three-wave panel survey (Study 1) and a subsequent qualitative interview study (Study 2) with full-time office workers who use STPs for work. Study 1 aims to test the longitudinal impact of communication visibility on work engagement. Study 2 is a follow-up study that will contextualize the findings of Study 1 with concrete cases, shed light on unexpected findings in Study 1, and point to future research directions.

This project will extend the existing research by examining opposing effects of communication visibility on work engagement in a longitudinal manner. It will provide opportunities to reflect on the implications of the increasingly digitalized workplace and stimulate discussion on practices of enhancing work engagement in the age of visibility.
StatusNot started
Effective start/end date1/01/2531/10/26


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