Leaders & Teams Are You Ready? Social Loafing Is Inevitable As We Practice Social Distancing

Written by Dr. Kelly Whelan

Dr. Whelan is the Founder and CEO of Belem LLC. She specializes in partnering, empowering, and positioning executive leaders and teams for success by helping them design strategies that create stakeholder impact.

March 24, 2020

It’s maddening.

Grocery store shelves are bare, schools and businesses are closing, community events canceled, and the happiest place on earth can hear the cries of Minnie and Mickey as Disney Land in California, Paris, and Disney World in Florida close their doors as a measure of precaution and protection.

For workers around the globe, working from a remote location may be a fresh, exciting opportunity…until it isn’t. As this new-found freedom becomes the norm, social loafing will rear its ugly head if you and your team fail to proactively prepare.

Social loafing is not social distancing, but both have a significant impact on your organization.

The CDC defines social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.” While practicing social distancing is important during this time of uncertainty, social loafing, if not proactively treated, maybe the next plague your organization faces.


Social loafing is detrimental to leaders and teams just as Covid-19 is to our world when preparation is lacking.


Social Loafing

Since 2002, I’ve had numerous remote and virtual experiences to include classroom attendance and more recently in my career, helping executive leaders and teams create an impact in their workplaces.

The early days of navigating a virtual space were hard. Teamwork was non-existent and all that seemed to be constant was palpable frustration. Let’s face it, no-one wants to work on a team where 10% of the people are doing 90% of the work. This statistic may seem alarming, but it is the norm when teams lack guidance and collaboration. Thinking back, the level of frustration I experienced may be the reason why I am so passionate about building unified, high impact teams.


Social loafing, also known as coasting, is when a team member or members continually fail to follow procedures or meet deadlines.


Social loafing is a consistent unacceptable behavior that virtual and remote teams contend with. This behavior is counterproductive and more times than not, drives people away from raising their hands to teaming

As leaders and teams begin to formulate the “how” to assemble a team outside of the workplace, they must understand the implications of their decisions.

During the initial phase of assembling your team, it is up to leaders to strategically implement solid approaches and precautions. Team leaders must deface the “out of sight out of mind syndrome” [social loafing] many teams experience.

The best teams are those who have established trust, communicate, collaborate, and celebrate together.

Re-thinking Team Operations

In order to become a high impact team, there must be established rules of engagement. This includes standard operating procedures to include a peer review. By initiating a peer review, accountability is heightened and the likelihood of a positive team experience increases.


When accountability increases, social loafing decreases.


A peer review is a useful tool to identify individual and virtual group activity performance. The window the team assesses captures internal work processes that may not be readily apparent to the team leader. What would it mean to your team if one small implementation could increase attitudes and accomplishments? A starting point when considering the development of an evaluation can include work quality, team contributions, cooperation, conceptual contribution, and work ethic

Research suggests when peer feedback is used to evaluate the actions and performance of group members, motivation, interaction, cooperation, and satisfaction increase.

Peer evaluations in the workplace should be a well-accepted practice that promotes learning and growth. If you are looking to grow your leaders, providing development opportunities is crucial. Why not start today with a peer review to keep everyone on track?

Is Covid-19 affecting your workplace? Leave a comment below and let’s start a conversation to raise awareness for leaders and teams.

Be safe and until next time, keep doing great things!

Be sure to tune in to our podcast CONVERSATIONS For Leaders & Teams, or on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform!

Click here to purchase your copy of Leadership Excellence By Design: Strategies For Sustainability & Strength on Amazon!


Leadership By Design. Book by Dr. Kelly Whelan.

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