fbpx Stone Inequality & Social Policy Seminar | Harvard Kennedy School
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Date and Location

April 24, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM EST
Allison Dining Room, Taubman 5th Floor, Hks

​Voice and Warehouse Workers' Well-being: An Agenda and Early Evidence

Erin Kelly, Sloan
Distinguished Professor of Work and Organization Studies, MIT Sloan,
and Co-Director of the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research
Abstract: COVID-19,
tight labor markets, and concerted advocacy efforts have drawn
attention to the challenging work experiences facing “essential” and
low-wage workers, including those working in the booming warehousing
industry. But what workplace changes would promote better health and
improved well-being in this context? Building on research linking
specific work conditions to mental health and well-being as well as
research on employee voice, Kelly and collaborators propose that voice
and specifically a supportive voice environment may improve workers’
well-being and also reduce turnover. Kelly will introduce an
group-randomized field experiment, currently being rolled out in
fulfillment centers in a non-union retail firm, to launch new voice
channels in the form of participatory problem-solving committees made up
primarily of hourly workers. Kelly will also share early analysis
investigating the relationship between workers’ perception of the voice
environment and their well-being and turnover intentions. Voice
environment captures workers’ descriptions of the capacity, safety, and
efficacy of sharing their ideas and concerns. Hourly fulfillment center
workers reporting a better voice environment have significantly lower
burnout and psychological distress, significantly higher emotional
vitality, and are significantly less likely to be planning to look for
another job. These initial findings suggest the value of proactively
fostering voice at work as a strategy to support employees’ well-being
and perhaps to address high turnover.Erin L. Kelly is
the Sloan Distinguished Professor of Work and Organization Studies at
the MIT Sloan School of Management and Co-Director of the MIT Institute
for Work and Employment Research. Kelly’s research has been published in
many top sociology, management, and interdisciplinary journals and
twice recognized with the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award. Her book with
Phyllis Moen, Overload: How Good Jobs Went Bad and What We Can Do About It, was published by Princeton University Press in March 2020. Overload
received the 2021 Max Weber Award from the American Sociological
Association's Organizations, Occupations, and Work section, and an
honorable mention for the 2021 Viviana Zelizer Award for best book in
economic sociology. Kelly investigates the implications of workplace
policies and management practices for firms, workers, and families with a
joint focus on equity, wellbeing, and organizational performance.
Previous research has examined scheduling and work-family supports,
family leaves, harassment policies, and diversity initiatives in a
variety of organizations and industries. Kelly is a sociologist and
received her PhD from Princeton University and her BA from Rice
University. She previously taught at the University of Minnesota. 

Speakers and Presenters

​Erin Kelly (Sloan Distinguished Professor of Work and Organization Studies, MIT Sloan, and Co-Director of the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research)