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Vice-Chancellor’s blog: An irregular, regular day

Thursday morning. The alarm goes off the same time as usual. Squinting towards the phone, I put on the morning news. An entirely regular day. And yet it’s not. For over a week I have been stationed at home, referred to the command post also known as ”Wolf” (an homage to the family pet). Not because I am ill, but because the vice-chancellor has decided that we must not be in the same place. If we are to be infected – and I guess we are – then at least not in the same way, at the same time.

Anna-Karin AndershedI have seen very few people in the flesh recently. My working days have been filled with writing and re-writing decisions, coordinating opinions and formulating various communication measures. At times, we have just about made a decision only for circumstances to change, forcing us to take a step back and communicate something different than what was disseminated just a few hours previously. It is frustrating for us. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for those at the receiving end.

More than anything else, I have been in meetings. Digital ones. Never before has the computer camera been in such frequent use. And for once, I am able to teleport myself between meetings. On a regular day, I’m adding 15 minutes between my commitments – enough time for me to high-heel my way to another building. Now, I am quick as a flash! One minute I am on screen in the management meeting room. The next, I can be seen in an office in the Prisma building. And then, I find myself in Louise Pålsson’s office and in my kitchen at the same time. What’s more, I can ditch the heels. Homeworking permits slippers. That’s habitude.

With the exception of footwear, I am trying to follow as regular a routine as possible. I even pretend to go to work and home again by going for short walks before and after my time at “the home office”. The latter had to be given a good tidy-up so I don’t spread out, allowing me to actually separate work and home life. I get up at the usual time, put on mascara as carefully as always, match the eye shadow with my trousers even though no one will see them. I have coffee when it’s time for coffee (which is basically all the time), have lunch when it is time for lunch. Write texts, send emails and “go to meetings”. In the current situation, my days are longer than normal, but they would have been anyway, working from home or not.

These adjustments for me are minor, however, in comparison to the changes now awaiting teachers and students. Management staff at all levels are working hard to reorganise and reschedule. Teachers spend all their waking hours on rethinking teaching and examinations. In addition, many have to learn entirely new systems. Support functions are muscled up, not least at the Centre for Academic Development and IT Services. Matters with far-reaching implications mount on the desks of analysts and legal officers at the Office for Academic Policy, as well as at Student Services and the International Office. From where I’m sitting, everyone is really doing all they can to make this work. Chipping in. Solving problems. Taking responsibility. It’s amazing to see. Or as one of the heads of school just wrote to me: “Our members of staff are truly incredible.” Humbled and impressed, I can only agree. You all have my most heartfelt thanks for the work you are doing.

These irregular, regular days are set to continue for a while. I expect I’ll be taken ill, and so I should, hoping for symptoms as mild as possible. I expect to continue working indefinitely from my home office. It’s the not knowing that is a challenge. Research shows that unpredictability and a lack of influence over ones situation is one of the things we find the most difficult to handle. There is a good reason our university’s motto is Knowledge is sweet, even if, on a regular day, it refers to something entirely different. But today is an irregular, regular day. So I open the window and play Dulce est Sapere with Örebro University Choir for neighbours and the birds at the nature reserve to hear, and hope that normalcy will soon return with all its predictability.

Anna-Karin Andershed
Deputy Vice-Chancellor