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Internal corporate social responsibility in times of uncertainty: does working from home harm the creativity link?

Zita K. Lucius (Department of Management Sciences and Technology, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg, Germany)
Svenja Damberg (Department of Management Sciences and Technology, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg, Germany)
Martin Meinel (School of Business, Economics and Society, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Nuremberg, Germany)
Christian M. Ringle (Department of Management Sciences and Technology, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg, Germany)

The Bottom Line

ISSN: 0888-045X

Article publication date: 20 June 2023

Issue publication date: 21 July 2023

486

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to investigate how working from home (WFH) affects the relationship between internal corporate social responsibility (ICSR) and employee creativity in times of uncertainty when employees’ occupational stress increases and their identification with their company decreases.

Design/methodology/approach

Applying social identity theory, the authors derive and test the hypotheses presented in this study regarding ICSR’s direct effects on employee creativity, given the amount of time they spent on WFH and the role of threat in this relationship. The authors use partial least squares structural equation modeling to analyze the various effects. Via an online questionnaire and using the snowball technique, the authors collected data from 158 participants in different industries in Germany.

Findings

The empirical results of this study show that ICSR activities increase employee creativity, partly by reducing one harmful aspect of stress, namely, threat. In addition, the authors find that WFH moderates this effect, such that the higher the degree of WFH, the weaker the ICSR activities’ effects are.

Research limitations/implications

This study focused on the respondents’ WFH situation during the global COVID-19 pandemic. As such, this research contributes to understanding the roles that modern work practices, human resource management (HRM) and ICSR actions play in respect of employee creativity. The authors expand the theoretical understanding, which is based on social identity theory, by showing that the greater the amount of time spent on WFH, the more it reduces ICSR’s positive effect on employee creativity. The findings of this study open avenues for future research and longitudinal studies that compare the ICSR effects during and after the pandemic, as well as for those that compare WFH and its effects on organizational creativity.

Practical implications

This study shows that managers should encourage appropriate ICSR measures in their organizations and should specifically consider the work setting (i.e. WFH or at the office) as a boundary factor for these measures’ effectiveness. However, ICSR actions, such as anti-discrimination measures, are less effective in respect of building the employee–employer relationship and supporting employees’ identification with and commitment to the company when they work from home. Given the economic benefit of decreased turnover rates and the societal benefit of a company output with higher creativity levels, this study has an impact from both an economic and a societal perspective.

Originality/value

This study sheds light on employee creativity and ICSR’s roles in current HRM practice, which is still underexplored. More importantly, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study provides the first empirical evidence of a hitherto overlooked mechanism explaining ICSR activities’ effects on, or their perceived threat to, employee creativity.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research uses the statistical software SmartPLS 4 (www.smartpls.com/). Christian M. Ringle acknowledges a financial interest in SmartPLS.

Citation

Lucius, Z.K., Damberg, S., Meinel, M. and Ringle, C.M. (2023), "Internal corporate social responsibility in times of uncertainty: does working from home harm the creativity link?", The Bottom Line, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 112-134. https://doi.org/10.1108/BL-01-2022-0014

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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