Working Around the Clock: Temporal Distance, Intrafirm Communication, and Time Shifting of the Employee Workday

67 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2020 Last revised: 2 May 2024

See all articles by Jasmina Chauvin

Jasmina Chauvin

Georgetown University

Prithwiraj Choudhury

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Tommy Pan Fang

Harvard University

Date Written: April 18, 2024

Abstract

This paper examines the effects of temporal distance generated by time zone separation on communication in geographically distributed organizations. We build on prior research, which highlights time zone separation as a significant challenge, but argue that employees may time shift —move work-related communication to outside of regular business hours—to counteract temporal distance. We propose a theory in which employees’ tendency to time shift depends on the demands of their tasks and collaborative relationships and individuals’ ability to supply work outside of regular business hours. Analyzing communication-level data from 12,038 employees of a large multinational firm and using cities’ shifts to/from daylight saving time for identification, we find that temporal distance leads to sizable but smaller than expected reductions in volumes of rich, synchronous communication between employees. Consistent with our arguments, increased temporal distance significantly increases time shifting of work-related communication, especially among workers whose jobs are nonroutine and interactions in strong collaborative relationships. We further document that female employees and employees based in countries with stricter legal work hour limits engage in significantly less time-shifted communication. Our study improves understanding of a ubiquitous source of collaboration friction. It also sheds light on a potential source of inequities in workplace outcomes stemming from differences in individuals’ ability to work outside of regular business hours.

Keywords: temporal distance, communication, collaboration, geographic frictions, time shifting, routine and nonroutine work

Suggested Citation

Chauvin, Jasmina and Choudhury, Prithwiraj and Fang, Tommy Pan, Working Around the Clock: Temporal Distance, Intrafirm Communication, and Time Shifting of the Employee Workday (April 18, 2024). Organization Science, forthcoming, Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 21-052, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3710778 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3710778

Jasmina Chauvin

Georgetown University ( email )

3700 O Street, NW
Washington, DC 20057
United States

Prithwiraj Choudhury (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Tommy Pan Fang

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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