Don’t abandon the water cooler yet: Flexible work arrangements and the unique effect of face-to-face informal communication on idea generation and innovation

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

While research has established the important role that flexibility plays in attracting, engaging, and retaining a diverse talent pool, it has provided less insight into its impact on team processes and outcomes, particularly on key dimensions of performance. Using data collected from 99 teams in a Fortune 500 organization, I investigate whether informal 'water cooler' communication is a uniquely important predictor of idea generation and, critically, whether teams in which members work more flexibly are at a greater risk of missing out on these types of interactions. I find that teams with greater location flexibility reported engaging less frequently in face-to-face spontaneous work-related communication, and to a lesser extent, face-to-face non-work-related communication. Moreover, I find that the type of communication most affected by team location flexibility'face-to- face spontaneous work-related communication'is also the type that has the greatest impact on team idea generation and, consequently, team innovation. Finally, I find evidence that teams were unable to effectively compensate for the loss of face-to-face informal communication by using electronic media, such as email, instant message, or audio/visual communication tools. Taken together, I shed light on the important question of whether'and how'flexible work arrangements impact team communication and innovation at a time when many organizations have begun to scale back on flexibility out of concerns about possible negative effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
DOIs
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2018 - Chicago, United States
Duration: Aug 10 2018Aug 14 2018

Conference

Conference78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityChicago
Period8/10/188/14/18

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Industrial relations

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