Publication Date

10-2018

Abstract

[Excerpt] Flexible work arrangements (FWAs), especially those offering employees a degree of control over when and where they work, have become increasingly prevalent in recent years.Research has shown that these arrangements generally lead to higher levels of job satisfaction as well as lower levels of stress, work-family conflict, absenteeism, and turnover among employees.At the same time, however, some suggest that FWAs may not be appropriate in all situations, particularly in the context of creative teamwork (i.e., in the prototypical 21st century organization). It is important, in this view, to have all team members face to face in the office to encourage informal interactions that spark insights and innovations. Surprisingly, this supposition has yet to be rigorously tested.

Flexible work arrangements (FWAs), especially those offering employees a degree of control over when and where they work, have become increasingly prevalent in recent years.Research has shown that these arrangements generally lead to higher levels of job satisfaction as well as lower levels of stress, work-family conflict, absenteeism, and turnover among employees.At the same time, however, some suggest that FWAs may not be appropriate in all situations, particularly in the context of creative teamwork (i.e., in the prototypical 21st century organization). It is important, in this view, to have all team members face to face in the office to encourage informal interactions that spark insights and innovations. Surprisingly, this supposition has yet to be rigorously tested. The present study was designed to fill this void, first by examining the effects of remote work (i.e., percent of time team members work outside the office) on the frequency, spontaneity, content, and mode of their communication and, then, by assessing the extent to which variations in team communication patterns influence the level of team creativity (i.e., the degree to which teams generate novel ideas that lead to improvements in work processes and/or to new and innovative products and services). As Figure 1 on page 5 shows, the study primarily distinguished between two types of team communication: (1) formal face-to-face communication (e.g., planned meetings about work-related matters) and (2) informal face-to-face communication. Within informal face-to-face communication, two forms were examined: (2a) spontaneous communication about work-related matters and (2b) non-work-related communication. Further, in examining the efficacy of both forms of informal communication for team idea generation and innovation, the study compared electronic modes (e.g., email, instant message, audio/visual) to face-to-face interactions.

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Recommended Citation
McAlpine, K. (2018, October). 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 (CAHRS ResearchLink No. 2). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, ILR School, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.

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