Virtual Watercoolers: A Field Experiment on Virtual Synchronous Interactions and Performance of Organizational Newcomers

62 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2021

See all articles by Iavor Bojinov

Iavor Bojinov

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit

Prithwiraj Choudhury

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Jacqueline N. Lane

Harvard Business School

Date Written: May 28, 2021

Abstract

Do virtual, yet informal and synchronous, interactions affect individual performance outcomes of organizational newcomers? We report results from a randomized field experiment conducted at a large global organization that estimates the performance effects of “virtual water coolers” for remote interns participating in the firm’s flagship summer internship program. Findings indicate that interns who had randomized opportunities to interact synchronously and informally with senior managers were significantly more likely to receive offers for full-time employment, achieved higher weekly performance ratings, and had more positive attitudes toward their remote internships. Further, we observed stronger results when the interns and senior managers were demographically similar. Secondary results also hint at a possible abductive explanation of the performance effects: virtual watercoolers between interns and senior managers may have facilitated knowledge and advice sharing. This study demonstrates that hosting brief virtual water cooler sessions with senior managers might have job and career benefits for organizational newcomers working in remote workplaces, an insight with immediate managerial relevance.

Keywords: remote work, virtual water coolers, social interactions, performance, careers, field experiment

Suggested Citation

Bojinov, Iavor and Choudhury, Prithwiraj and N. Lane, Jacqueline, Virtual Watercoolers: A Field Experiment on Virtual Synchronous Interactions and Performance of Organizational Newcomers (May 28, 2021). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 21-125, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3855788 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3855788

Iavor Bojinov

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

Prithwiraj Choudhury (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

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

Jacqueline N. Lane

Harvard Business School ( email )

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

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
468
Abstract Views
2,576
rank
75,662
PlumX Metrics