Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Is Distance Dead? Face-to-Face Communication and Productivity in Teams

Author(s): Diego Battiston, Jordi Blanes I Vidal and Tom Kirchmaier

Publication Date: March 2017


Programme Area(s): Industrial Organization and Labour Economics

Abstract: Has technology made face-to-face communication redundant? We investigate using a natural experiment in an organisation where a worker must communicate complex electronic information to a colleague. Productivity is higher when the teammates are (exogenously) in the same room and, inside the room, when their desks are closer together. We establish face-to-face communication as the main mechanism, and rule out alternative channels such as higher effort by co-located workers. The effect is stronger for urgent and complex tasks, for homogeneous workers, and for high pressure conditions. We highlight the opportunity costs of face-to-face communication and their dependence on organisational slack.

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Bibliographic Reference

Battiston, D, Blanes I Vidal, J and Kirchmaier, T. 2017. 'Is Distance Dead? Face-to-Face Communication and Productivity in Teams'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.