15 CEOs Reflect On Their Pandemic Year
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15 CEOs Reflect On Their Pandemic Year

Bosses from Moderna to Chipotle talk about their challenges and share lessons for the times ahead.

By Emily Glazer and Francesca Fontana
Fri, May 21, 2021 1:39pmGrey Clock 7 min

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Chris Nassetta worked from home in Arlington, Va., with his wife, six daughters and two dogs for two weeks before returning to the hotel chain’s nearly empty headquarters for the rest of the past year. Sharmistha Dubey has been leading Match Group Inc. from her dining room table near Dallas. Herman Miller’s Andi Owen has her dog Finn to keep her company while working from her home office in Grand Rapids, Mich. Moderna Inc. MRNA 5.05% CEO Stéphane Bancel relishes twice-daily 30-minute walks between his home in Boston and the vaccine maker’s Cambridge offices, where he resumed working in August, so he can crystallize his priorities and reflect on the day. The Wall Street Journal photographed them and 11 other business leaders in their pandemic office spaces as they discussed the past year and what’s to come.

More than a year after the coronavirus upended the way we work, the business leaders said they have found that more communication, flexibility and transparency have been crucial in staying connected to their employees.

Heads of companies across sectors including finance, hospitality and technology spoke from their current workspaces about what they’ve learned from the largely remote year, what challenges they faced and what changes they plan to leave in place during the next phase of work.

Brad Karp, chairman of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, predicted his schedule will remain less hectic after the pandemic is over: “Personally, I can’t see myself reflexively flying cross-country for an hour-long presentation or meeting.”

Nandita Bakhshi

Bank of the West. Working from her home office in New Jersey.


“[To handle overwhelming Paycheck Protection Program loan demand], we got 600 volunteers signed up overnight that left their day job, learned how to do a PPP loan, and started to work day and night on that. If we were in the physical world, that collaboration would take lots of meetings to set up. But that happened within hours.”

— Nandita Bakhshi


Adena Friedman

Exchange operator Nasdaq Inc. Working from Nasdaq’s New York office.


“I don’t want to make permanent decisions in a temporary situation…. We want to be able to plan for the future, our employees want us to be able to plan for the future, and yet we’re in a temporary situation so we try very hard to avoid making decisions that we’ll later realize were not the right ones for the organization.”

— Adena Friedman


Juan Andrade

Insurer Everest Re Group Ltd. Working from Everest Re’s New Jersey office.


“We’re built for responding to a typhoon or to an earthquake or to a hurricane or winter event or whatever it is. And so, yes, you look inward and then you apply a lot of those lessons to how you run the company.”

— Juan Andrade


Chris Hyams

Job-search site Indeed. Working from his home office in Texas.


“I used to spend a lot of time on aeroplanes, travelling as a means of trying to stay connected to people. I was flying 200,000 miles a year for the last six or seven years. And sitting in this one room and just being on Zoom, I am more connected with everyone in the business than I’ve ever been––because everyone is in the same place. We’re all just squares on a screen.”

— Chris Hyams


Stéphane Bancel

Vaccine maker Moderna Inc. Working from Moderna’s Massachusetts office.


“Because of the intensity required to save every hour, every day we could, we were literally working seven days a week non stop. And I realized that I have to be very disciplined … And so I had to actually make sure I was doing sport in order to stay healthy and to stay mentally sane.”

— Stéphane Bancel


Sharmistha Dubey

Online-dating giant Match Group Inc. Working from her dining room in Texas.


“In the Zoom world, you can get a lot of things done, but you have to ask for it. There are very few serendipitous moments. It’s almost as if there is a scripted narrative that we’re using in every conversation we have; it’s very transactional.”

— Sharmistha Dubey


David McCormick

Hedge fund Bridgewater Associates LP. Working from his kitchen in Colorado.


“We took a lot of steps to try to make sure we reaffirm the culture remotely, but there’s nothing like being together. So I think we’re all going to go back to work, hopefully this fall [autumn], with a sense that work is a real privilege. It’s a real privilege to be able to go to the office and be with your colleagues.”

— David McCormick


Michel A. Khalaf

Life-insurance company Metlife Inc. Working from his converted-closet office in New York.


“We like to think that there will be a better normal, hopefully, coming out of this. We’ve seen incredible levels of collaboration of people working in agile ways of innovation and experimentation during the pandemic. In a way, we had to move much faster than we normally work because that was the only way for us to deliver for our customers during the pandemic.”

— Michel A. Khalaf


Andi Owen

Furniture company Herman Miller Inc. Working from her home office in Michigan.


“If we think about how we’re going to take what we’ve learned from this [year of remote work] and move it into the future, we’ve got to take a hybrid approach that’s good for the employer and for the employee … I think productivity in the future is going to be much more a measure of results, rather than activities.”

— Andi Owen


Julia Hartz

Event-ticketing company Eventbrite Inc. Working from her home office in California.


“The real shadow side to working remotely is that this [work-from-home] shift … has also revealed and greatly exacerbated inequality. We’re starting to talk more about that, in terms of how access to technology or balancing your home and work lives in this reality has been very challenging.”

— Julia Hartz


Chris Nassetta

Hotel chain Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. Working from Hilton’s Virginia office.


“The realisation for me was that I wasn’t really built for this. I’ve dealt with it like everybody else. I really like being with our people and it gives me a huge amount of energy. And I hope that when I’m with them—I can’t be with them all the time, obviously given the scale, breadth and depth of this organization—that I give them some energy…. But when I’m sitting here doing Zoom calls all day, it’s hard to really tap into that.”

— Chris Nassetta


Jean Hynes

Investment firm Wellington Management Co. Working from her home office in Massachusetts.


“Going through the pandemic is such a stressful situation, and what we’ve heard back from our employees is that in increasing transparency we took away a lot of the stress. That was a big lesson learned for me as a leader, that we needed to be stress absorbers for the organization.”

— Jean Hynes


Brad Karp

Law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Working from his home office in New York.


“Remote work, while initially liberating, can be exhausting. Waking up every morning and going to sleep every night in your office quickly becomes old. So does the lack of boundaries in a world without diversions. The workweek has taken on a 24/7 vibe, and, as a leader of my law firm, creating reasonable boundaries and worrying constantly about my colleagues’ mental health and stress have become critical priorities.”

— Brad Karp


Lynn Good

Electricity and gas company Duke Energy Corp. Working from her home office in North Carolina.


“We have remarked over and over about what an extraordinary time it has been. But it truly has. I mean, it has threatened health; it has created loss; people have had issues with how to manage their work, their families, their schooling—just everything. And at the same time social unrest [and a] tough political season all coming together.”

— Lynn Good


Brian Niccol

Restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. Working from Chipotle’s California office.


“There’s just value in every four or five weeks getting everybody on the phone together, do a live Q&A. It’s really important for our kitchen manager all the way up to our executive team, directors, folks that are doing payroll to have the ability to hear first hand what’s going on and then also provide questions on what they’re feeling and how they’re being impacted right now.”

— Brian Niccol

Produced by Meghan Petersen. Designed by Andrew Levinson. Additional reporting by Chip Cutter and Kathryn Dill.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication:  May

Working from home or from deserted headquarters, bosses of companies from Moderna to Chipotle talk about their challenges and share lessons for the times ahead



Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.


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Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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