Centre for Vocational Education Research LSE RSS Email Facebook Twitter


CEP discussion paper
Is distance dead? Face-to-face communication and productivity in teams
Diego Battiston, Jordi Blanes i Vidal and Tom Kirchmaier March 2017
Paper No' CEPDP1473:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: D23; M11

Tags: teamwork; face-to-face communication; distance; organisations

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.