How Virtual Reality Can Combat Social Loafing in the Workplace

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By Bryan Barnes and Felicity Doddato

Introduction

Human beings are social creatures with a strong desire to work in groups. This is critical to how work in all areas is conducted, and remains true in the modern and digital workplace. However, while working as a team has its advantages, sometimes individual effort and contribution can get lost along the way.

What is social loafing?

You’re probably already familiar with the idea, at least in theory. Social loafing is when a group of people work less hard than they would individually because they believe others are doing their part—even if they aren’t. Many times, this occurs when group members do not feel their contribution to the task is important within the context of the entire team. Group members diffuse responsibility when they do not believe their effort significantly impacts the final result, or when that effort is not measured individually.

So, what can we do to combat social loafing?

Social loafing doesn’t just hurt productivity: it can also reduce team cohesion and efficiency. If your employees aren’t working at full capacity, then it’s likely your company isn’t either! So, what can we do? Well, there are several ways to reduce social loafing within your work environment:

  • It’s important to establish clear roles within a team so that individuals are not left wondering about what their responsibilities are.
  • Create an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and speaking up about their ideas—this will encourage everyone on the team to contribute.
  • Make sure everyone receives credit for their contributions—a simple thank-you goes a long way toward boosting morale!
  • Ensure there are no unnecessary barriers between departments—this will help eliminate feelings of isolation among team members and encourage collaboration!
  • Have fun! Make sure some levity exists within your workplace culture so that people don’t feel there’s always too much pressure on them.

Virtual Reality: The Secret to Reducing social loafing

Here’s the good news: Virtual Reality (VR) can be used to reduce social loafing in the workplace! When employees put on VR headsets, they feel they’re in a different place entirely—and this can help them get out of their own headspace and focus on what needs to be done instead of thinking about what’s happening around them.

Jenson8’s VR platform provides an excellent avenue for combating social loafing through productive leadership and team development where groups can fail in a psychologically safe environment. Here, teams will collaborate on a task in which every individual contribution not only matters but is critical to the team’s success. We know that when you’re in a virtual environment, your mind isn’t focused on what’s going on outside of your headset. That means it’s easier for you to forget about all of those distractions that might be keeping you from working together as an effective team: phones ringing off the hook, emails flooding in, last-minute meetings… all of that disappears when we put our headsets on and get down to business!

How does Jenson8 fit into reducing social loafing?

One such experience in the Jenson8 VR library, Boomerang, places team members in a simulated post-apocalyptic environment where they must work together to save the world. The experience offers an immersive and engaging way to look at teamwork, ethics, risk-taking decisions, and social inclusion. The task asks them to work together, but individual contributions are still observed. In this setting, people will be more likely to put in the extra effort to get things done because they’re not just working for themselves—they’re working for the team! In this environment, participants will feel comfortable enough to share their ideas with others, increasing collaboration and improving outcomes for everyone involved.

Conclusion

To cut the negative side-effects of social loafing out of otherwise productive teams, and individual contributions must matter, but not at the expense of the group’s overall triumph. Setting clear roles within a team, creating an open and collaborative environment, and providing positive, constructive feedback are all great ways to reduce social loafing and increase productivity. And with the help of Jenson8, social loafing is reduced more than ever by using VR to facilitate leadership and team development in a psychologically safe environment. In addition, Jenson8’s suite of psychometrics applications provides a deeper insight into the personalities, behaviors, strengths, potential challenges, and areas for improvement of each team member. These applications use validated self-report psychometric scales, peer and machine-rated behavioral assessments, and personal development reflections, all tailored to the needs of your organization and team. 

To combat social loafing in the workplace, allow your teams to connect, collaborate, and grow together in a virtual environment where it’s safe to fail, and where all contributions matter.

© Jenson8 2021 All Rights Reserved

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