An insider’s view from the Vice-Chancellor’s virtual office

office equipment set out smartlySo here we are… just as we come out of the wettest winter on record, we head straight in to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not the strongest of starts to 2020.

It’s probably the start of every headline, article and blog right now, but undeniably this last week has been tough. For everyone.

My initial idea for writing this blog was ultimately to share how grateful I am to be working for a university like Marjon. I’ve seen and heard so many inspirational stories this week from staff and students and have watched our Senior Management Team (SMT) work tirelessly to make rapid decisions based on snap Government announcements.

From my own personal perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely anxiety inducing as I am five months pregnant and have now been put in the ‘at risk’ category along with the over 70’s and those with weakened immune systems.

So, my first week working from home. Monday involved grappling with setting up quick virtual meetings on Microsoft Teams for the SMT and writing up minutes as quickly as possible to turnaround actions that are required by SMT that day (usually we set fortnightly actions which are reported back but that doesn’t work in this climate).

Tuesday was the day after the Government announced that pregnant women should be working from home and I suddenly felt quite terrified in thinking how much this was now going to affect me personally. I had such a caring response from Rob and my colleagues, checking that I was OK and advising that I should now work from home rather than come on to campus.

Wednesday, I spent most of the day checking emails constantly to make sure I didn’t miss anything vital and working out what to do with outstanding projects.

Thursday I was liaising with the Board of Governors (even just deciding where I was going to work from at home and setting up a sort of desk/office space is a challenge when it’s not something I’ve really done before!).

Friday was a round up of the week so far, collating paperwork for the Board meeting that should have taken place on 27 March and trying to work out how I might deliver an online induction to our new Governance Officer…

The hardest things have been adapting to new ways of communicating with colleagues, not speaking to people daily in a face to face way is something that I personally already really miss. Equally, working out what to do with the various questions people have about outstanding events and projects over the coming months and working out the right timing for this.

The reason I wanted to write this was not necessarily to share my day to day administrative tasks but instead to highlight how cared for and supported I feel as a Marjon employee. There have been some negative stories this week about employers and some scary ones about staff not being paid and it makes me feel so privileged to work for Marjon.

Our IT team have made working from home actually feel achievable, Microsoft Teams was there and ready to go, we were pretty much all able to access it straight away and the virtual training for accessing documents offsite has been fantastic. Our staff are truly acting and living by our values every day at the moment, demonstrating true humanity on a daily basis and coming up with incredible ways of supporting each other and our students.

The humbling stories of community, kindness, care for one another and support are a daily occurrence across the Marjon social network, virtual team meetings and anywhere else people are choosing to communicate. As we carry on trying to navigate through this unknown territory, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has made me feel such a strong sense of togetherness even from within the four walls of my self-isolation.

Thank you to Alex De Tisi, Executive Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor, for writing this.

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