Lindsey Walker and Bryan Franz
June 24, 2021
Workplace collaboration depends on communication and is critical in building design. For large, highly diverse teams, such as those found in architecture and engineering (A/E) who work under timebased deadlines, homophily—or the tendency to seek interactions with others of similar backgrounds and values—can play a role in how individuals communicate. Homophily is potentially damaging to teams that must coordinate information from a diverse membership, since communication may become less likely to occur across disciplines. Therefore, this research examines the extent to which a sampled A/E team exhibits homophily in their information exchanges across multiple communication media, when under the moderating effect of two different levels of time pressure. The study uses a social network analysis of the communication patterns in an 18-member studio team working for a national A/E firm located in the southeastern United States. The results show some evidence of homophily as a predictor of information exchanges when controlling for the hierarchical ties within the studio team and the physical distance between its members in the office. In a low time pressure work environment, face-to-face communication was more likely when members were of the same gender. This effect was not present when the team was under high time pressure, where face-to-face interactions were instead more likely between members of the same discipline. Homophily in phone communication was found in the generational similarity of team members, regardless of time pressure. There was little evidence that homophily was a predictor of email communication. These results have implications for the design of studio workplaces that support information-rich interactions, the assignment of individual designers to project teams that are more likely to interact with co-workers from different backgrounds, and organizational policy regarding the use of specific communication media based on the project schedule and time pressure.
Keywords: Social network analysis, SNA, homophily, team communication, time pressure