Expert Pitch

Experts available to comment on telecommuting's impact on business, shareholders, and protections for employees who can't work remotely

Indiana University
16-Mar-2020 5:05 PM EDT, by Indiana University

Companies may be closing their doors, but their employees are still working. What happens to productivity and performance when employees trade face-to-face interactions with instant messages and virtual meetings? How can employers continue engaging with employees and protect those who can't work from home? Experts from Indiana University are available to comment on these issues.

Having employees working at home can boost productivity, but it also can increase feelings of isolation

Recognizable companies including Google, Twitter and Eli Lilly all are encouraging their employees to work at home to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Research on the benefits and drawbacks of “working from home is still in its infancy, but researchers have generally found that telecommuting can function as a double-edged sword, said Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

"On the one hand, telecommuting can increase productivity because it enhances employees’ feelings of control and autonomy," Gonzalez-Mulé said. "On the other hand, recent studies show that telecommuting can increase feelings of isolation. This is because telecommuting workers have significantly less face-to-face contact with their manager and colleagues, which can lead telecommuters to feel alone and socially disconnected."

Holding meetings online may reduce costs for investors, but it could also allow corporations to avoid scrutiny

Amid decisions to cancel or postpone large gatherings and events due to COVID-19, some corporations – including Starbucks and Qualcomm -- are choosing to move their annual shareholder meetings online. Many public interest advocates fear that this trend could become permanent at companies hoping to avoid scrutiny. Matthew Josefy, an assistant professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship who has studied the issue, said it’s unclear whether virtual meetings should be classified as an emerging habit of well-governed or poorly governed firms.

“On the one hand, moving meetings online technically reduces the cost for investors to monitor the company, as they no longer need to travel to attend. “On the other hand, going online severely limits the opportunity for shareholders’ to gain unfiltered access to management.

Matthew Josefy can be reached by contacting George Vlahakis at [email protected] or 812-855-0846.

Businesses can protect employees don't have paid sick leave or can't work remotely

 About 25 percent of working people in the United States don’t have paid sick leave. So how do you handle an employee who is not feeling well, especially if you run a business where people can’t work from home? Elizabeth Malatestinic, Indiana University Kelley School of Business senior lecturer in human resources, can discuss how you can protect those employees. Malatestinic can also discuss keeping people engaged when they work at home. It can be hard for some – Some love it, and others don’t. They may feel distanced or isolated. How do you work to combat that?

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