Communication is integral to organisations and yet ﬁeld evidence on the relation between communication and worker productivity remains scarce. We argue that a core role of communication is to transmit information that helps co-workers do their job better. We build a simple model in which workers choose the amount of communication by trading oﬀ this beneﬁt against the time cost incurred by the sender, and use it to derive a set of empirical predictions. We then exploit a natural experiment in an organisation where problems arrive and must be sequentially dealt with by two workers. For exogenous reasons, the ﬁrst worker can sometimes communicate face-to-face with their colleague. Consistently with the predictions of our model we ﬁnd that: (a) the second worker works faster (at the cost of the ﬁrst worker having less time to deal with incoming problems) when face-to-face communication is possible,(b) this eﬀect is stronger when the second worker is busier and for homogenous and closely-located teams, and (c) the (career) incentives of workers determine how much they communicate with their colleagues. We also ﬁnd that workers partially internalise social outcomes in their communication decisions. Our ﬁndings illustrate how workers in teams adjust the amount of mutual communication to its costs and beneﬁts.
Bibliographical notePublished online 13 October 2020.
- Face-to-face communication
- Help in organisations
- Queueing theory