From the Editor

Bees have long set the gold standard for “good workers.” It’s helpful that, in addition to flitting endlessly from flower to flower, they buzz as they go, satisfying two of our senses that they’re the epitome of high energy and productivity. “Busy as a bee” is generally a positive simile, acknowledging that someone is putting in the work and setting the expectation for a sweet result.

But the comparison can run into issues in modern corporate workplaces. Prioritizing productivity over any other consideration is a great way to be profitable—until your workers burn out and abandon your hive in droves in search of more amenable workplaces. While bees are endlessly busy, anyone tracking one on a summer afternoon has seen it fly in endless circles or visit flowers long-since already harvested: just because someone looks busy doesn’t mean they’re actually producing anything. And of course, there’s little to no diversity among worker bees; they may have specialized tasks, but they are all born from the same queen and happily participate in the hive mind.

Maybe all that’s required is a shift in how bees inspire us. We could easily take a page from how they plan their day: various bees use body language, eye contact, vocal patterns, or odor to communicate about sources of food, signs of danger, or other hive business. Communication is constant, and no bee is an island. Bees are also a beautiful example of how a group working as a team can accomplish what would be impossible for one individual. According to research conducted at the University of Florida, a typical-size honey bee colony of approximately 20,000 bees collects about 57 kilograms of pollen per year. A single bee can carry a load that weighs approximately 35 percent of its weight, which comes out to about 0.00004 kilograms. Bees make many trips to feed the colony’s future—and together, they do.

Many factors—a pandemic, population changes, evolving workspaces—have converged and demanded that employers reconsider their approach to employment. For some, it may be as simple as finding new inspirations for their workplace culture.

“Communicative as a bee” and “invested in team goals as a bee” don’t have the same ring, perhaps, as the traditional simile, but they certainly convey goals that better align with contemporary expertise. You’ll find that expertise on how to build healthy, productive workplaces throughout this issue in abundance. So get busy!

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Tasha Anderson
Managing Editor, Alaska Business