Unintended consequences of collocation: using agent-based modeling to untangle effects of communication delay and in-group favor

  • Ning Nan
  • Erik W. Johnston
  • Judith S. Olson


In studies about office arrangements that have individuals working from remote locations, researchers usually hypothesize advantages for collocators and disadvantages for remote workers. However, empirical findings have not shown consistent support for the hypothesis. We suspect that there are unintended consequences of collocation, which can offset well-recognized advantages of being collocated. To explain these unintended consequences, we developed a multi-agent model to complement our laboratory-based experiment. In the lab, collocated subjects did not perform better than the remote even though collocators had faster communication channels and in-group favor towards each other. Results from the multi-agent simulation suggested that in-group favoritism among collocators caused them to ignore some important resource exchange opportunities with remote individuals. Meanwhile, communication delay of remote subjects protected them from some falsely biased perception of resource availability. The two unintended consequences could offset the advantage of being collocated and diminish performance differences between collocators and remote workers. Results of this study help researchers and practitioners recognize the hidden costs of being collocated. They also demonstrate the value of coupling lab experiments with multi-agent simulation.


Computer-mediated communication Collaboration In-group favoritism Communication delay Multi-agent simulation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Price College of BusinessUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.School of Public AffairsArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  3. 3.Ross School of BusinessSchool of Information, University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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