Understanding the Impact of Communication Delays on Distributed Team Interaction

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Communication delay in distributed teams is salient problem, especially in operational setting where communication is critical to team safety and success. The present study investigated the impact of communication delays affect distributed team performance and processes, and if being able to see one's team member would lessen the effects of delays. In addition, team gender composition was investigated, to see how delays affected the interactions of same and mixed-gender teams, as well as teams with familiar and unfamiliar members. Lastly, a supplemental was performed on a subset of the experimental data to determine if teams with familiar members' communicated more efficiently than unfamiliar teams when coordination complexity was high.

Thirty distributed dyads, were assigned the role of intelligence analysts, and performed a collaborative problem solving task, using audioconferencing and videoconferencing technologies. During the task, participants verbally shared and discussed information in order to solve a fictitious terror plot. Communication between team members was delayed by 0 ms, 800, or 1600 ms. Linear mixed models showed that participants took longer to solve the task at the 800 ms delay. Task accuracy was not affected by delays. At the 1600 ms delay, participants shared less information with each other, and rated their frustration higher compared to the 0 ms delay. Audiovisual technology affected overall workload scores, with lower scores at the 0 ms delay compared to the 800 ms delay. Although delays did not have the anticipated effect on familiar and same-gender teams, there were some interactive effects of interest. Specifically, in gender-diverse teams task accuracy was higher with audiovisual technology than audio-alone, but this effect was independent of delays. Also, familiar teams exhibited higher levels of cognitive trust across all levels of delay and technology. Results of the supplemental analysis showed no differences in communication efficiency between familiar and unfamiliar teams when coordination complexity was high. Based on the results of this work, recommendations were proposed for strategies to lessen the effects of communication delays and future research directions were outlined.



communication delay, distributed teams, trust, team collaboration