08 Apr 2021

Returning to Campus: Bob Breslow


by Shona Simkin

Managing Director of Administrative Services Bob Breslow is responsible for many campus-wide services, including dining, custodial, fitness, operations, operational support, housing, and security and emergency planning. Bob has been working on campus since the onset of the pandemic. We caught up with him to ask about that experience and how he has managed the ups and downs of the past year.

How long have you been back on campus, and has your schedule or role changed during the pandemic?
There was never a break from my regular on-campus hours, and many of my responsibilities are for essential services, which have remained fully operational. Schedules changed in that the workload became nearly a double shift, with days on campus and nights and weekends from home. But coming to campus has not changed. On average, prior to COVID, I was working one day per week from home and this is still my schedule. Over the last month I have been working from home two days a week.

What were some of your concerns about working during the pandemic, and how were those addressed?
I had very few, if any, personal concerns, but many professional concerns when HBS got turned upside down last March. Most of my work concerns were addressed by being part of this amazing group of people who worked together to support each other and continue to operate the school while navigating through this turbulent time. I was more concerned for how others felt than how I felt.

What has it been like to be on campus?
Sad, really, seeing campus activity come to a halt, when this is usually such a vibrant place. The campus never really came to a full halt but it certainly felt that way, by comparison. It is a bit eerie to be on campus during the week with weekend-like activity levels. At the same time, seeing our many dedicated essential staff working on campus throughout this event has been inspiring and has provided me with a sense of pride in our extended service team. Operating campus services during major snowstorms, when most of HBS is at home, has always been inspiring—but those events only last a day or two, not a full year as with this event.

What have been some high points?
The remarkable people at HBS, from leadership to every essential worker who never wavered from their commitment to supporting HBS and who continue to show up to work every day. HBS’s support, in particular for the contracted essential staff in custodial and dining services, has been a true high point. It reinforced my belief that HBS is a special place, regardless of the circumstances in play, which now include operating through a pandemic.

What has been challenging?
Everything seems like it’s been a challenge. I never thought anything would ever impact us like this virus has, so just getting a grasp on the magnitude of the response was a challenge. Even basic things like learning how to use Microsoft Teams and other technologies that would soon envelop the way we work had to be dealt with. As a department we were just beginning to use Teams when the pandemic hit, and the comfortably paced learning process turned into trial by fire. Communication is always a challenge, so that’s near the top of the list. This was especially difficult due to the changing landscape of recommendations and guidelines for what to do and how to do it from the CDC, state, city, Harvard University, and HBS.

What has been particularly helpful during this time?
Regular testing, teamwork, and people. Reduced traffic to and from campus has also helped. My commute used to be an hour plus, now it’s 30 minutes.

What would you like the community to know about working and being on campus?
From my perspective, being on campus is much safer than every other location I find myself in, like grocery, convenience, and retail stores, pharmacies, restaurants, doctors’ offices, hockey rinks, and other public places. The HBS campus as designed and operated is as safe, or safer, than any of these. As with our physical safety, the greatest role in keeping ourselves safe is our own responsibility. Nothing is guaranteed, but if you follow the guidelines you can be as safe on campus, or safer, than anywhere else.

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