What will it take for you to feel safe at work again? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Ethan Bernstein, a professor at Harvard Business School. They talk through what to do when your essential employees are staying home despite increased safety measures, you want to redesign your open office to make it work for the new normal, or you’re seeing a growing divide between workers who have to come in and those who can work from home.
Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Email your questions about your workplace dilemmas to Dan and Alison at [email protected]
From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:
HBR: How to Make Sure People Won’t Hate Your New Open Office Plan by Brandi Pearce and Pamela Hinds — “Despite optimistic assertions about the benefits of open office space, outcomes are mixed. In some cases, open-plan office designs are reported to increase collaboration, employee satisfaction, and communication, but in others these new spaces are criticized for creating distractions, reducing privacy and autonomy, and undermining employee motivation and satisfaction.”
The New Yorker: The Open-Office Trap by Maria Konnikova — “An open environment may even have a negative impact on our health. In a recent study of more than twenty-four hundred employees in Denmark, Jan Pejtersen and his colleagues found that as the number of people working in a single room went up, the number of employees who took sick leave increased apace. Workers in two-person offices took an average of fifty per cent more sick leave than those in single offices, while those who worked in fully open offices were out an average of sixty-two per cent more.”
HBR: 7 Factors of Great Office Design by Peter Bacevice, Liz Burow, and Mat Triebner — “The design and outfitting of workspace is a major capital investment for any organization that can affect a number of business outcomes, including productivity, employee satisfaction, engagement, talent recruitment, and brand impact. Given the myriad ways to design and plan a space, leaders should approach workplace design in a strategic way. Imitating the latest fads start-ups are adopting won’t necessarily get you the results your company desires; asking the right questions — and, above all, listening to employees’ answers — will.”
HBR: Why You Should Rotate Office Seating Assignments — “Interestingly, the change to employees’ physical space seemed to boost performance even more than did another switch the company made (which Lee also studied), from individual incentives to fixed wages. In addition, the effect generated by the relocation was quick—the rise in cross-category deals occurred within a month—and it increased throughout the 80 days postmove.”
DAN MCGINN: Welcome to Dear HBR: from Harvard Business Review. I’m Dan McGinn.
ALISON BEARD: And I’m Alison Beard. Work can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be. We don’t need to let the conflicts get us down.
DAN MCGINN: That’s where Dear HBR: comes in. We take your questions, look at the research, talk to the experts, and help you move forward.
ALISON BEARD: Today we’re answering questions about safe workplaces during the pandemic with Ethan Bernstein. He’s a professor at Harvard Business School. Ethan, thanks so much for coming on the show.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Alison. It’s a pleasure to be here.
ALISON BEARD: No, you’re known for your research on workspaces and workplace culture, and now COVID-19 is with us. So, how have things changed?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: Organizations have thought deeply, in my experience about how to try to keep people safe and productive. And they’ve done that for those who are essential workers in the workplaces, in the manufacturing plants, in the hospitals, as they have done for people who they don’t have to bring into the office. But many things have actually not changed so much. In fact, we’re actually quite capable of working without an office, at least those of us in white-collar jobs.
DAN MCGINN: Ethan, the open office concept was hotly debated even before COVID. Are people who went to open offices now regretting it?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: In some respects. If we want to go back to them and use them the way we did before, then the openness is going to be a challenge. On the other hand, if we reconceive the office as an add on to the remote work which many of us are finding quite productive, then it might be those open spaces turn out to be the best thing we ever planned for because we’re not trying to stuff a lot of people in their desks, into them. We’re trying to create convening spaces where we can agilely move things around to be safe. Places for people to do things they can’t do adequately at home.
DAN MCGINN: Dear HBR: My family has a pharmaceutical business in India. The local government declared pharma as an essential service. So, our operations never shut down during the pandemic. But as I’m writing this, there’s a surge in COVID-19 cases in India. Workers are apprehensive and only a few are coming in. Since it’s a manufacturing unit, remote work is impossible. We’ve taken all the safety measures recommended by the local government. We’re providing masks and sanitizer to all employees. This hasn’t been enough. Many workers want to come during less crowded times. In fact, if someone’s shift is during busy transit hours, it’s very likely they won’t show up at all. We tried asking employees to work in shifts, but that didn’t work either. The manufacturing unit is in a remote place, so transportation is inconvenient outside normal working hours. Our employee’s safety is important to us. At the same time, we would like to ensure continued operations because our customers need our product to keep making their medicines. How can we reduce employee’s fears so they feel safe at work and are able to keep our operations running?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: The first thing I’ll say, we’re just so grateful to the essential workers out there who are doing the work that we all need them to do in this pandemic. And certainly, this is the case here. It sounds like they tried a number of the first line of attempts. So, tried to reduce the number of people in a shift and tried to cohort people in such a way that you can do contact tracing if you need to, but at the very least you’re minimizing the risks into what we call either cohorts or pods these days. But the second is: start to really ask yourself, how many of the people that you have coming to work in these shifts that you actually need? Maybe the answer is all of them, but there may be managerial aspects of the work being done. There may actually be ways to re-engineer the process for a pandemic world that may not be quite as efficient perhaps but could optimize for safety while still keeping productivity.
ALISON BEARD: Ethan, I totally agree that flexibility is really key. Hubert Joly, the former CEO of Best Buy, wrote a piece for us just talking about how important it is to focus on each employee’s human needs at this time of crisis. So, while one employee might feel perfectly comfortable coming in, others might not. The question I have is you can focus on these processes, but how do you make them feel comfortable and safe in this really high anxiety environment?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: In part, comfort doesn’t typically come from the top. It typically comes from the peer group. And so there’s a degree to which you are trusting somebody’s behavior, trusting somebody’s spouse’s behavior, trusting someone’s child’s behavior when you go to work with them. And that’s not a conversation that’s easily executed by leaders, but it can be. It can actually be enabled by leaders. That’s depending on, for example, in this gentleman’s case, how large the factory and the shift is that we’re talking about. If the shift is a dozen or a couple dozen people, there’s a degree to which you can try to build community that you actually as an employee feel safer.
DAN MCGINN: One of the things that struck me about the problem, it doesn’t seem like it’s so much what’s happening in the factory, it seems like it’s the transit and commuting problem, and of course the employer has limited ability to change what public transportation is like. Something that big companies in New York City where people take the subway are dealing with. Could they instead of working say five normal days a week, go to four days with longer hours, or three days with very long hours? I also thought about the way oil rigs work where they sort of fly people in for these sorts of very extended shifts and then fly them out. It seems to me like the fear here is focused on the commute. And so, attacking the work schedule in a way that minimizes the number of commutes people have might be useful.
ALISON BEARD: I wonder if even a company bus that picks people up at certain locations or basically keeps the cohort together even as they’re traveling could work.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: Well all are interesting options. It’s hard to know without knowing the exactly through the context here, what would work and what wouldn’t. My own research would suggest that those kinds of solutions would best come from the employees. And that perhaps the way to take this forward is to ask if we were to invest in safety precautions, which could stem from PPE, all the way to setting up a tent outside that was comfortable enough for people to sleep in and do their shifts Monday to Tuesday and then go home. So, they only commute once for their weekly shifts or something of that nature. Let those ideas then bubble up from the employees who are feeling unsafe and involve them in the challenge of solving this for them. We really can’t see those risks without living in their shoes and the easiest way to get at that is to ask them to be a part of this process.
ALISON BEARD: Yeah, and it seems like they did do that to some extent by modifying the shifts to make employees more comfortable which didn’t do as much as they expected. I wonder when you’re asking employees to do something that’s more hazardous, you can incentivize them either monetarily, with hazard pay, or by emphasizing this really important mission that the company has. They are producing something that helps people continue to stay medicated through this pandemic. I’d love to see our manager her and the organization do both, bonuses and let’s talk about why we’re all here and what an amazing and important job every single person on this factory floor is doing. Even getting testimonials from customers or the end-users about how they really need this medication in order to survive.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: I certainly think sense of purpose is carrying many of us through this pandemic. On the incentive pay, if this organization is going to benefit tremendously from the pandemic, and the workers who are taking the risk to provide that benefit are not getting their share. That is certainly a call to action for the organization. It is not a time when you cannot– when you can completely disengage or disconnect risk from benefit. My only concern is that the abandonment we hear about here, the job abandonment of people not showing up, is probably not going to be solved by adding some money to the table. It is probably going to be solved by directly addressing the concerns and risks that these employees have and they’re facing, not just for themselves, but for their families.
DAN MCGINN: One other thing I thought about in this situation whether stockpiling product might be useful. We don’t know a lot about COVID. It’s still fairly new, but at least in the United States, we saw a pretty big dip in infection rates in the summer. Now we’re seeing it go back up in the fall and winter. I wonder as, if rates go down, whether they can work longer hours and try to get ahead with the idea that they might be able to just shut the factory down for a few weeks during those periods when infection rates become really acute. Is that something companies have talked about or you would advise this listener to think about?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: It’s an interesting idea. Most of the business I’m aware of find the level of uncertainty right now so high that it’s awfully difficult for them to stockpile without taking on unacceptable risks for the company, for the business, for the organization. And of course, again we know a little bit, but only a little bit about this pharmaceutical business in India, but the gentleman’s writing about. My guess would be that in order to stockpile they would also have to ramp up their purchasing from various other organizations. They’ve got an entire supply chain to think about and that might not be possible and actually might cause more harm than good. But it would be certainly something worth entertaining.
ALISON BEARD: Yeah. The only other thing I would add is that our letter writer really seems to be prioritizing employee’s safety and I wonder if he is communicating that well enough. At this time employees need to hear loudly and frequently that this is our number one priority, so even if we are asking you to come to work, we are endeavoring to do it in absolute the safest way possible and the moment that there’s a hint that there’s danger, we will change. Because I do think that that will help employees in addition to reminding them of why they’re coming in and the purpose and mission they’re serving.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: I agree that communication is important. This is one of those times when it should be redundancy, redundancy, redundancy. We really should be trying to ensure that we get the message over and over again. And I would add, as is so cliché to say, actions speak louder than words. So, one of the things that leaders really can do right now is have zero tolerance for people who decide that six feet of social distancing is really three. Those kinds of small interventions to show that we really mean business, when we mean keep your masks on. Cover both the nose and the mouth. Each one of those visible, active precautions demonstrated by a leader will make people feel that there will be higher levels of compliance as there probably will be. And that can help a lot in convincing those individuals to go home and tell their spouses and tell their children, tell their families who might be immunocompromised, what the company cares about and that will help quite frankly, the employees feel better about coming back into work to fulfill the purpose that this pharmaceutical company is trying to fill that’s really quite frankly, keeping us all healthy at this time.
ALISON BEARD: Good. So, Dan what are we telling him?
DAN MCGINN: Oh first we think it’s great that he’s showing as much concern about this. We think what he’s experiencing is somewhat common. In the long term, there may be some opportunity to re-engineer the processes inside the plant, to maybe automate, to try to reduce the need for workers to go into that environment. But we realize none of that’s going to help him necessarily tomorrow. In terms of the psychological challenge of making employees feel safe, ask employees for ideas. Maybe there’s some kind of a bussing solution. Maybe there’s some kind of a situation where there can be temporary local housing by the plant. Maybe they can take longer, fewer shifts to minimize that commuting time. The important part is to let the ideas bubble up from people rather than imposing them from the top down. Some of the things like hazardous pay and stockpiling product, those have some downsides and they may not work as well as you think they will. And continue to show concern about this. This is not just about getting employees to show up. Try to over-communicate and demonstrate with actions rather than just words that you care about them and you’re doing everything you possibly can to make them feel safe.
ALISON BEARD: Dear HBR: My job focuses on workplace design in a public sector environment where unions are very strong. My clients are several government departments and most move to open floorplans and workspaces in recent years to increase collaboration. Instead of a classic seven by eight cubicle, employees get a common coat room, bench seating, less personal space, sometimes even shared desks. Now of course in our new social distancing reality, my clients feel that kind of office layout will make their workers feel unsafe. How can we help them create an environment that promotes wellbeing in a pandemic and post-pandemic world? Even when the risk is gone will people ever want to sit so close together again? How should we address this? Ethan, this seems like it’s right up your ally.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: I think the answer to her question, at least when we’ve asked people out in the world, would you like to go back to your office? The majority of them will say yes. If you ask them, do you want to go back to your office wearing a mask, wearing a face shield in a Plexiglas environment without a pantry, without elevators that you don’t have to queue for with half as many bathrooms, and so forth, the answer is huh? No. I don’t think I want to do that.
ALISON BEARD: Right. I’m in that camp.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: And so, a lot of people whether they’re leaders or organizations, or employees, have decided to opt out of those changes and continue figuring out how to make working-from-home work really well. And our research suggests actually that by and large, now that we’re six months in, people have figured out how to make it work really well and wouldn’t want to go into that context. But still miss certain functions of the office. That the office might be able to deliver if we repurposed it for those functions.
ALISON BEARD: So, what does that look like?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: We found three functions that to date, remote work has been challenged by. One, onboarding new employees, two, fostering relationships, and three, encouraging the kinds of week ties. Communications with people that you might not otherwise communicate with on a regular basis that we know help information flow, knowledge flow, innovation, and et cetera in the future health of the organization. Those are all things that convening helps with. Convening in person. And while an opened office space where everyone has to sit within inches of each other, makes life very unsafe these days. Taking that open space and finding ways in which we might be all able to see each other and convene in a way that remains safe, six feet apart, because it’s flexible space, but nonetheless, gives us a chance to feel like we’re together and maybe even hear each other’s voices, but doing so in a way that puts us at greater risk. There are ways of achieving that. That might be a really good way to use the office spaces these days. In fact, it would be, kind of feel like a backed office party, but in a very different way. And that might give us that sense of community, that sense of weak tie, that since of oh right, I remember that you work for this organization. I should really talk to you about something and you take that conversation offline on team Zoom the next time you have a chance to do so. It might actually be more like, more like seeing someone at a distance in a bar, than going into the traditional office.
DAN MCGINN: Ethan, when I talked to people at different companies, I get the impression that a lot of managers and a lot of the people in charge of these workplaces see the Plexiglas and the directionals on the floor and the limits on the number of people in conference rooms as very much a short term, temporary thing. Oh, we’ll have a vaccine and things will be back to normal before you know it. This listener has to communicate to clients and it sounds like she agrees with you that there’s a permanent change here. How should she try to communicate the message that hey, that Plexiglas barrier, it might not just be a three or four-month thing?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: In my view, and from what I hear from people I talk to about this topic all the time, reversion just feels so demoralizing right now. Oh, we’re going through this and we’re just holding our breath until we can go back to the way things were before. I actually don’t think that message is the message clients or employees want to hear right now. They want to hear all this investment to some extent, all this frustration and pain, but also all this innovation and good work that we’ve been doing are not going to go to waste. And I think we should be telling the opposite story. Let’s plan on a vaccine in X amount of time and X plus one, let’s think about what that world looks like, that really takes advantage of both muscles. The muscle we built up until six or eight months ago and the muscle that we’re building today.
DAN MCGINN: Ethan, our listener points out that her clients are unionized situations and that the unions have a lot of power. How does that change the nature of this conversation?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: In some respects, it changes the nature of the conversation because it changes the parties involved. In some respects, my hope is that it doesn’t change the conversation other than to make it better. There is an all hands on deck feeling that has been around since we all started doing this together, and the more people at the table to talk about how this works now, the more people who will be on board when we talk about how this works in the new normal, in the future. If we think back to the conversation we had earlier about the Indian pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, a union might actually be quite helpful in understanding what could be done differently by management. And management might be very willing to meet those, those asks, as soon as management knows what they are.
ALISON BEARD: Yeah. I don’t think the union environment is necessarily a struggle here because I think what you’re suggesting Ethan is that we need to sort of throw all of our old assumptions out the window and we need to now talk to employees about what they want. Take a very designed thinking approach to all of this. And I think as you said, the unions can help with that. They are employee advocates and we’re saying managers at this point always, but particularly at this point should be employee advocates too. And I agree with you. I used to work from home a lot before the pandemic and I use my days in the office as social days. I would stop and make conversation with people that I hadn’t seen in a while and catch up with them. I would schedule lunches. I had all of my meetings those days and they were important to me and I came away feeling really energized in a way that I wouldn’t have if I did that five days a week. So, I think it’s a great idea to just rethink everything. Start from scratch.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: And by the way, rules that made sense before, I mean I respect union rules that require an employee to have a certain size cubicle. That might, this might be the time actually for us to all reconsider those rules, not because the organization requires it or because the employees require it, but rather because everybody requires it. Maybe this shared coat room should be repurposed for something else and if a union rule is standing in the way of doing that, I think everyone can agree. We just need to be flexible and agile as you point out Alison at this time.
DAN MCGINN: So, Alison, what’s our summary?
ALISON BEARD: So, we think as a designer of workplaces, our letter writer has a couple options. First, she could recommend to her clients that they use their workspaces the same way with modifications. You know, Plexiglas barriers, masks, use and shift requirements, touchless entry. If you were shared spaces, better air filtration. But we don’t think that reversion is what her clients are going to want to hear and it’s certainly not what employees are going to want to hear. So, we’d encourage her to think about what the post COVID world looks like. How can she build on what’s good about remote work, but bring back the best aspects of the office, working in concert with leaders of these organizations and their unions, and employees directly? It’s the perfect time to renegotiate rules and requirements and create the workplace of the future.
DAN MCGINN: Dear HBR: I work in Asia as a manager for a manufacturing company. We do metal fabrication. For the people who work the machines, remote work is obviously not possible. But some managers can work remotely, which is safer for everyone during this COVID-19 crisis. But this is creating a divide in our workforce. How can we engage the metalworkers and keep their morale high? It’s hard to connect with them virtually in part because many of them are not well educated. They’re not used to using video conferencing, and you can only see so much over a screen anyway. We managers should come in more, but that adds to the health risk. What should we do?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: I love this question. Thank you so much to the gentleman for bringing this up. So, his question to me actually is far more common than he probably thinks. The first thing I thought of Dan was research that my colleague Ryan Buell did several years ago now. It was really in a bit of research, looking at chefs and saw that if you took and put a, put basically a camera on in the kitchen and a camera by the person ordering and you put a monitor in each. If you had two-way transparency, if you could see the chef making your food and the chef could see you waiting for it, both people were more productive because they felt more engaged in the process and they felt more appreciated in the process. It would be awfully interesting to think about a world in which we were doing exactly what Ryan did with those chefs and those customers. Providing two-way transparency. Having a camera to watch the worker doing his or her work, and asking the person working from home to be wearing a GoPro or have a camera on so that the person at the machine could see what that person’s doing.
ALISON BEARD: There still seems to be an issue though about connection. Ensuring that you’re checking in on your employees, that they’re feeling safe, that they’re feeling valued. And I wonder if there’s just a really simple solution. So, video conferencing doesn’t work. Going into the factory doesn’t work. What about just being outside to greet them as they go in and say goodbye as they leave for the day? And you could even have something kitschy like handing out cookies or just something to say, the managers are here too, and we care, and we’re with you. I was just interviewing the CEO OF Guardian Life Insurance and after Superstorm Sandy, all of their employees were scattered around. They were delivering generators to people’s houses. They just demonstrated that they really cared about employees even if the managers were people who could easily work from home and work remotely and had no trouble with it. They wanted to ensure that their employees were well cared for too.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: Recognition connection can come from so many, so many different things. Of course as human beings, we’re used to it coming from face-to-face interaction and co-presence. But if we were really invested in finding better ways to do that virtually, I agree with you, Alison. We could. And we should. I’m not sure if I, maybe I’m just not a cookie person myself. [LAUGHTER] Or, maybe I worry about the handing over of those cookies. We’re talking about food now. But any form of recognition and connection delivered digitally can be almost as effective as it is delivered in person.
ALISON BEARD: And I think one of the struggles that our letter writer has is that communicating through technology doesn’t necessarily work with this set of employees. So, that’s why I’m just encouraging thinking a little bit more creatively. Maybe the cookies can be prewrapped.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: And of course I was, as soon as you said that, I thought, I was thinking of the apple for the teacher. We’re still in food land. So we have to find a way out of food. [LAUGHTER] But yes, these symbols of connection, why do and not conceivably people working on large machines, but certainly, people in offices put things on their shelves and on their desks all the time to remind themselves of the connection they have to others. Why wouldn’t we do the same thing with each other in this environment where we can’t necessarily shake hands, or do whatever you might do in the particular Asian country you’re in? Maybe bow, which is by the way much safer in these ages than shaking hands. But we’ve gotten pretty good actually over here at not shaking hands and still feeling connection to people outside as you put it. There are lots and lots of other ways that we could put symbols around our connection that might help with the morale issue that this gentleman mentioned.
DAN MCGINN: Well I can take it away from food. I was watching a war movie on Netflix the other night and the soldiers, the enlisted soldiers had a series of commanders come in –a bunch of different officers– and the primary way they judged each officer was whether or not they were outside with a gun potentially in the line of fire. And it seemed to me this is an analogist situation that the workers don’t feel 100 percent safe in the factory and it’s not just the clunkiness of the digital technology or the fact that the factory workers may not know how to use Zoom. It’s partly about, to be a leader you need to be there present and facing the same kind of risk your workers take. Do you think that’s an important piece of this?
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: The captain goes down with the ship, Dan. There is a piece of that, although in this age I’m not sure how I would feel as a worker if I saw leaders coming in and exposing me as a worker to more risk. It’s not actually that they’re themselves showing their allegiance with us. They’re actually exposing us potentially to the virus. I might just temper that a little bit, perhaps as Alison suggests we get them outside. We can do it in a safe place. But I also think that just because technology, digital is not a solution that would work here. That the divide has to exist because we can’t do the analog. There’s something in between. There are lots of ways to bring, to make people feel like a part of a team. In fact, I don’t know how this particular employer has separated people into teams, but if people feel that their shift is their team, there might be a way without co-presence to make it clear that actually, the team are the three people working on this part of the line. And the two people supporting the line from somewhere distant, something about let them name their team. Let them create a sense of “teamness.” We know how to do that. Maybe we just need to do a little bit more of it in this environment than we had to before.
ALISON BEARD: One other thing I’ll add is that we’re taking this lack of digital savvy on the employees part as a given. But perhaps it’s also an opportunity for upscaling a whole group of workers. And it would seem like oh, we don’t actually have to do this in this situation because these are people who have to come to the factory. They’re not going to be any work from home, but actually connecting with your manager is work that needs to be done. And if it can’t be done in the office or outside of the office, then it should be done virtually. So, this leader, the organization could consider making an investment in giving even iPads to their employees and having short training sessions to explain to them how to use video conference. And that will be an asset that they’ll take going forward. They’ll appreciate it. It will allow them to communicate with family members too, not just their bosses. And so, I think it should be an opportunity.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: I agree. And there’s also an opportunity here that may not have existed before for them to get to know their managers even better than they used to. If managers are truly Zooming in or teaming in, or whatever the video conferencing platform is, from home, how often does a line worker get to actually see the manager’s living environment? Feel like part of his or her family because his or her family might be walking past in the background. It all depends on the context. But if we focus only on the downsides of this environment rather than the upside, then we lose the opportunity to make great use of this as a learning experience. Not just for the workers, who might get a chance to be exposed to technologies they wouldn’t otherwise have felt comfortable being exposed to, but also for the managers who will gain experience in making themselves a more inclusive leader.
ALISON BEARD: So, Dan, what’s our advice?
DAN MCGINN: So, first we think that this manager is perceptive to realize that managers and workers need to find ways to connect, even in these strange times, when density is a problem and when we can’t have everybody there at the same time. Some physical presence by leaders will be important, even if it’s outdoors, greeting people on the way in and out of work. Finding some way to provide some recognition for what they’re doing and finding some way to create that sense of connection. At the same time, we think this listener may be a little bit too quick to dismiss the role that technology can play in this. We think that this could be an opportunity to upskill the workforce, perhaps to equip them with the right kind of technology. We also think that a video conference, even though it feels a little impersonal and can take a little getting used to, it can create a tighter sense of connection. It has to be a mix. We think he’s probably going to find limited and safe ways to have leaders physically present, but that he’s also going to need to try to get the workforce accustomed to digital electronic communication. This could go on for a while and people are going to need to adapt to that.
ALISON BEARD: Terrific. Ethan, thank you so much for coming on the show.
ETHAN BERNSTEIN: Thank you all. This has been a lot of fun. I hope we’ve been helpful to the readers.
ALISON BEARD: That’s Ethan Bernstein. He’s a professor at Harvard Business School.
DAN MCGINN: Thanks to the listeners who wrote us with their questions. Now we want to know your questions. Send us an email with your workplace challenge and how we can help. The email address is [email protected]
ALISON BEARD: On our next episode, we’re talking to Ashley Whillans of HBS about commutes:
ASHLEY WHILLANS: Depending on how you look at it, it’s years of your life lost.
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ALISON BEARD: And if you liked the show, please give us a five-star review.
DAN MCGINN: I’m Dan McGinn.
ALISON BEARD: And I’m Alison Beard. Thanks for listening to Dear HBR:.