Category Archives: Change

Covid-er Yourself, At Home

I’m going to skip the preamble, because it’s all been said. Instead, I’m going to dive straight into the list of things I’ve been thinking about over the last week since the world as we knew it stopped and people started inexplicably panic-buying toilet rolls:

  •  The organisational structures and mechanisms of HE institutions are not fit for purpose. The archaic hierarchies of senates, privy councils, self-appointed committees and roles such as ‘Presidents’, ‘Provosts’ and ‘Grand High Master’ aren’t just symbolic: in practice they reflect a working culture which is incompatible with the world featuring in their visions of the future. Never has this been more apparent than within recent weeks when many universities proved as flexible and responsive as an ocean liner trying to turn in quicksand. When confronted with the realties of a global pandemic, instead of being proactive, engaged and efficient, decision-making was slow, opaque and irresponsible – and ultimately rested with a small number of individuals who seem to wield enormous amounts of power and control for no apparent reason other than it’s always been done that way. For the sector to achieve anything in the coming years, universities need to rethink their approaches to governance, staff empowerment and transparency, and those of us fortunate to be sector employees need to play an active role in ensuring this happens.

 

  • The performative nature of social media is unhelpful and damaging. Anyone who claims to have instantly and seamlessly switched to providing curriculums and services online overnight is, at best, being disingenuous. Most of us are making rapid adjustments, transforming our provision and rethinking the way we do things as fast and effectively as possible, and there needs to be honesty about this. Unless you work exclusively in this area/way, most of our roles and services are designed around working on-site, face-to-face and synchronously with colleagues and students alike. Most don’t work from home full-time (if at all) and quite a lot of people are just beginning to take advantage of flexible working (if it’s even available). Personally I found last week quite stressful at times, cocooned away responding to enquiries and preparing materials and battling with Wi-Fi, VPN and the lack of immediate interpersonal activity. The current crisis will undoubtedly impact the way we do things moving forwards, but it’s not a competition to prove our own competency or a platform to show the world how wonderfully creative and super dynamic we are – everyone’s trying their best.

 

  • There are some fantastic people in our sector who are making their voices heard, supporting peers and leading by example. We shouldn’t take these people for granted. There are also some fantastic people doing similar work behind the scenes too, with less of a public profile. We shouldn’t take them for granted either.

 

  • Generally speaking, so far, I don’t like Teams. It’s just another channel overwhelming me with information, it’s more distracting than email, and definitely not intuitive. The only thing I’ve liked so far is discovering the calendar and accessing online meetings/appointments.  It’s also okay for me to say I don’t like Teams. It doesn’t mean I’m inflexible, or out of touch, or not forward thinking. If I’ve got to use it I will, and I’ll try to get the most out of it. But I’m not going to cheerlead or bandwagon for the sake of it, and if anyone tells me email is over and it’s a Teams world from now on, so help me God. Far too many assumptions are made about technology in HE, whether pedagogically, in terms of service delivery or accessibility and certainly when it comes to student engagement.

 

  • Full respect to anyone home-schooling, caring for others, supporting family/friends who are keyworkers, or dealing with any number of personal issues. Oh wait, that’s pretty much all of us?! There needs to be a general acknowledgement and acceptance that everyone working from home is dealing with their own contextual challenges. Life is complicated and difficult, even more so now. There is no right or wrong way of doing things. Some things will work and go well, some things won’t. There’ll be good days, there’ll be bad days. It’s incredibly easy to pile pressure on ourselves, and even more so when in lockdown. And for some people, the act of getting up, getting ready and actually going to work is incredibly important and provides a balance to the day. I was incredibly shocked to read comments which implied some employers were prioritising checking-up on what their staff were doing. If that’s your primary focus as a manager, as opposed to the wellbeing of your staff at a time like this, then you should be rethinking your position. Show some respect to the people you’re responsible for.

 

  • The best thing about working from home so far? For me, it’s the personal reflection time. I’ve quickly realised:
    • I worry too much about things, what might happen, am I doing this right, am I managing my time effectively, am I planning things properly, am I… it’s exhausting and stressful and I need to do it less.
    • I like routine, I fear losing my routine, but I also feel trapped at times by routines. It felt massively liberating to go for a run on Friday afternoon, break my routine, and not feel guilty about doing so. At the same time, despite finding it personally challenging sometimes, I value commuting to and from work, fulfilling rota duties and keeping appointments. And that’s okay.
    • I’m less distracted by the dog than I anticipated.
    • Despite proximity and ease of access, I am monitoring my snack and beverage consumption and displaying incredible amounts of willpower. My vanity continues to outweigh my desire to eat all the cake, even in a crisis.

 

  • I hope journalists and media organisations will remember to challenge the government over the years of austerity, underfunding of public services and their Brexit policy, which have all fundamentally undermined our nation’s ability to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak. And the Opposition, once they sort out a leader. If there was ever a time to hold our elected officials to account it’s now. Solidarity during times of crisis and upholding democratic principles aren’t, and shouldn’t be, mutually exclusive concepts.

 

  • Lastly for now, if there’s anyway we can ask certain celebrities to stop ‘helping’ by posting yet more inane, vacuous content on TwitterTock or FaceTube, that’d be great. Coronavirus is not about you.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

12 Months Later

It’s August 2015 and I find myself exactly one year into my role as Senior Information Assistant: Inter-Library Loans.

On the whole, it’s been a good year. Busy. Challenging. But good.

The main thing I was worried about was breaking it. My predecessor, having been in post for about 12 years and who retired having worked at the Library for more than 40, was ILLs; so much so that, even after 12 months, I sometimes still feel as if I’m filling-in while she’s on leave.

Thankfully, despite several near-misses (and a couple of damn good tries) I haven’t broken it. Substantially. Cough.

The thing I’ve found most challenging has been the decision-making. No, that’s not true actually.

Decision-making is easy; it’s not making bad decisions which is hard.

In fact the most difficult thing I’ve discovered about stepping-up and taking on more responsibility is that you have to set your own agenda much more. Yes, the work ebbs and flows; but suddenly I’ve found myself self-directing and planning and managing my time in a completely new way.

Also, supervising. Whilst I don’t ‘technically’ manage anyone, I do have to operate in a ‘supervisory’ capacity in both departmental and service desk scenarios and, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea how that’s going/gone. I find myself obsessing about the tone of my voice; body language, things I say, things I don’t say, even more than I ever did- and given the fact that I self-reflect to an obsessive nth degree anyway, well, let’s just say I spend far too much time thinking about these things.

I think it was about 8 months before I finally felt a little more comfortable in the role- before I reached a point where I was accepting of the fact that:

  • Not everything is going to go right, and that’s okay
  • Some things will go wrong, and that’s okay
  • You don’t have to stay until 7pm every evening, and that’s okay too

But even today, scouring the country for music scores, I’m still finding certain elements of the job leave me feeling like I’m standing on the edge of disaster. When I say disaster, obviously this is all contextual. Nobody is going to die if I can’t find 100 Carols for Choirs by September 30th (which I hopefully have btw. #win).

The fact that I’m writing this blog post now is also perhaps an indicator of where I am at the moment; for much of the past year I’ve hardly felt motivated to write, despite hankering after an opportunity to be more expressively creative. I’ve just really switched off a lot this year, sort of put my head down, tried to work hard and be organised. I’ve become detached from the things which interest me, and even people who interest me- I stopped loading Twitter each day on my browser, whereas before I’d leave it on in the background all day, dipping in and out, keeping up with the world, commenting pithily.

To a certain extent I think I’ve got the balance wrong though. I’ve found myself mentally fatigued at the end of a day, even more so than when I was studying part-time alongside full-time work. I think without realising it, subconsciously I really have been working quite hard to stay on top of things, to the point where much of my drive, energy and capacity to do activities outside of (or around) work has been diminished somewhat.

So my target for this coming year is, not exactly to take my eye off of the ball- but more to remember that whilst it’s good to have my foot pressed down on the accelerator, it’s also good to shift gears every now and then. Hopefully it’ll make for a smoother ride.

There’s a great mangling of clichéd idioms to end on. I’m sure the blogosphere is delighted I’m back.

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: