The Effect of Firms' Information Exposure on Safeguarding Employee Health: Evidence from COVID-19

54 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2021 Last revised: 17 Apr 2023

See all articles by Lisa Yao Liu

Lisa Yao Liu

Columbia Business School

Shirley Lu

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Date Written: January 17, 2023


We show that information exposure through international business networks enables firms to take proactive measures that benefit employees and potentially the local community. Specifically, in the early days of COVID-19, firms that have business networks with China and Italy are more likely to be aware of the severity of the disease, and proactively implement work-from-home ("WFH'") policies that can protect their employees. Using Safegraph foot traffic data, we find a higher stay-at-home ratio before local governments impose lockdowns in zip codes where firms have a larger information exposure. These areas are also associated with a lower spread of COVID-19. Our main findings are more pronounced when local governments face constraints in quickly responding to COVID-19 and when firms have a higher WFH capability or have more investors with socially responsible preferences. Collectively, we present evidence on the role of private corporations in mitigating the negative effects of a public health crisis before government intervention.

Keywords: Information exposure, business networks, COVID-19, health crisis, employee safety, corporate social responsibility.

JEL Classification: D83, G38, I18, M14, M40, M41

Suggested Citation

Liu, Lisa Yao and Lu, Shirley, The Effect of Firms' Information Exposure on Safeguarding Employee Health: Evidence from COVID-19 (January 17, 2023). Columbia Business School Research Paper Forthcoming, Harvard Business School Accounting & Management Unit Working Paper Forthcoming, Journal of Accounting Research (forthcoming), Available at SSRN: or

Lisa Yao Liu (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Shirley Lu

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

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