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Coping with coping strategies: how distributed teams and their members deal with the stress of distance, time zones and culture.

Authors
  • Nurmi, Niina1
  • 1 Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Laboratory of Work Psychology and Leadership, Helsinki University of Technology, Finland. [email protected] , (Finland)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Stress and health : journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2011
Volume
27
Issue
2
Pages
123–143
Identifiers
PMID: 27486615
Source
Medline
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

The changing world of work is increasing demands on workers through greater need for flexibility in global collaboration. This multiple-case study uses a qualitative research approach to study context-specific job stressors and coping in ten geographically distributed work teams. Results demonstrate the complex and dynamic nature of the stress-coping process and how coping strategies, adapted to manage stress-evoking uncertainty and ambiguity in distributed work, created secondary sources of psychological strain to individuals. The main strategies for managing the uncertainty and ambiguity in the studied teams were extensive emailing, travelling to face-to-face meetings and extending workdays to collaborate simultaneously across time zones. Continuously used, these coping strategies created work overload and strain. Experienced workers, who had good self-management skills, succeeded in coping with these secondary sources of strain by prioritizing and setting clear limits for workload. Less-experienced workers were overloaded and needed more social support from their leaders and teammates. The study proposes that distributed team members rely heavily on individual coping resources, because spatial and temporal distance hinders or even precludes the mobilization of social resources related to emotional, instrumental and informational social support.

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