Leslie A. Perlow

Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership

Leslie Perlow is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership in the Organizational Behavior area at the Harvard Business School. She currently teaches Authentic Leadership Development in the MBA program and runs a doctoral seminar on the craft of qualitative inductive research. She recently published a book, Sleeping with your Smartphone: How to Break the 24-7 Habit and Change the Way You Work. 

Professor Perlow’s research focuses on the micro-dynamics of work. She seeks to understand what really happens at work – i.e., what do people do all day, how do they spend their time, with whom do they interact – and with what consequences for organizations and individuals. She documents individuals’ work practices and explores the implications of these practices for organization productivity, individuals’ careers and family life. Through her work, she identifies ways organizations can change their practices to the benefit of both the organization’s productivity and the individuals’ personal lives. She also engages with organizations trying to make these changes and studies the change process itself.

Professor Perlow is trained as an ethnographer, which means she spends long periods of time observing people as they go about their daily work, trying to better understand their world, from their perspectives. Her field studies range from software engineers in high tech companies to entrepreneurial ventures to management consulting teams to project teams in a pharmaceutical company.

Before joining the Harvard faculty, Professor Perlow was on the faculty of the University of Michigan Business School. She received her B.A. in Economics from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in Organization Studies from MIT. Prior to her academic career, she worked as a management consultant.

  1. Sleeping with Your Smartphone

    Does it have to be this way? Can't resist checking your smartphone or mobile device? Sure, all this connectivity keeps you in touch with your team and the office--but at what cost? In "Sleeping with Your Smartphone," Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow reveals how you can disconnect and become more productive in the process. In fact, she shows that you can devote more time to your personal life and accomplish more at work.
  2. TED Institute

    While email and mobile technology have greatly accelerated the way we do business, Leslie Perlow argues that the always “on” mentality can have a long-term detrimental effect on many organizations. In her sociological experiments at BCG and other organizations, Perlow found that if the team – rather than just individuals - collectively rallies around a goal of personal value, it unleashes a process that creates better work and better lives.
  3. The Economist Intelligence Unit report

    Video Interview: EIU Editor Riva Richmond interviews Harvard Business School Professor Leslie Perlow about the risks to organisations from the undirected, always-connected work enabled by mobile devices.
  4. Switching off an "Always on" Culture

  5. Overcome Your Work Addiction

    Consider the following: Works long hours. Carries wireless device everywhere. On the phone at kid's soccer game. Checks in frequently over vacation.

    Does this describe your life? If you're like the hundreds of executive education students I teach each year at the Harvard Business School, you point to the hours you work, the places from which you work (even on vacation), the times at which you work (even when supposed to be spending time with family and friends), the fact that your wireless device is never far from reach, and declare without any hesitation that you're always "on". And, you probably declare yourself an addict.

  6. CBS: Unplugging at Night

    CBS Boston segment about Leslie Perlow's work at Boston Consulting Group.