A talk of interest to the COR community…
“Physical Collocation, Formal Work Relationships, and Work Related Interactions in Organizations”
SPEAKER: Jonathon Cummings, Professor of Management and Organizations
UNIVERSITY: Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business
DATE: May 3, 2019
TIME: 10:00 am – 11:30 am
WHERE: SB1 5100
This presentation focuses on how work-related interactions (‘who interacts with whom about work’) are shaped by two key elements of organizations: physical collocation and formal work relationships. Whereas physical collocation captures the extent to which employees are proximate to one another in physical space (e.g., sit next to each other), formal work relationships capture the extent to which employees depend on one another within the organizational structure (e.g., boss-subordinate or members of the same functional unit). Prior research has shown how physical collocation and formal work relationships each positively impact work-related interactions, but less is known about their joint impact. For example, compared to collocated employees who have a formal work relationship, non-collocated employees may experience a relative boost in work-related interactions because of increased awareness, socialization, and opportunity. In addition, prior research has focused on collocation within a dyad, but less is known about the role of third-parties who are also collocated with employees. For example, compared to an employee who is not collocated with her boss, an employee who is collocated with her boss may experience a relative decline in work-related interactions because of concerns about monitoring by her boss. Given that physical collocation is often confounded with formal work relationships in organizations, the research design took advantage of quasi-random variation in the office seating of employees after the relocation of a corporate headquarters to a new building. Survey data on work-related interactions were collected from 143 employees three months prior to the move (when members of the same functional unit sat next to each other) and three months after the move (when employees were randomly assigned to seats within zones of the office, thus members of different functional units sat next to each other). The findings suggest that collocation among employees was generally good for work-related interactions, especially for those employees who did not have formal work relationships. However, the collocation of a boss with an employee was generally bad for work-related interactions with other employees, especially when they did not have a formal work relationship. Implications for the intersection of organization design, social networks, and collaborative technology are discussed.