Blog entries

The reopening may evoke both excitement and trepidation

At the moment, we are waiting for the government to announce whether there will be further relaxations of restrictions for state employees, so hopefully more of us in the administration will be allowed to return to campus soon. Many are looking forward to returning to the office. For others, the prospect may be anxiety-inducing. It is important that we make room for both reactions in the coming weeks.

The current political framework agreement states that, as part of their deliberations on the 6 May reopening, the health authorities are to consider whether to relax their recommendation to work at home. We’re eagerly anticipating this.

I’m probably not just speaking for myself when I say that I'm really looking forward to returning to campus. I look forward to once again meeting my colleagues in both professional and social settings, I look forward to leaving my home office and I look forward to enjoying our campus in all its spring beauty.

However, the prospect of returning may make others nervous. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, so some people will naturally think about the risk of infection  – and how will I deal with this if I’m part of an at-risk group?

Some people may also be worried about what to expect from a reopening, now that we have become so accustomed to working from home. Many people have expressed how much they’ve appreciated the increased flexibility of working from home and how it has positively affected their work-life balance.

It’s important that, as managers and colleagues, we make room for people’s different perspectives on the reopening. Some will be very enthusiastic about returning to campus, some will feel uneasy, and many will find themselves somewhere in between.

This is a responsibility that we in the management take very seriously. In May, I’ll be holding an after-work meeting for all managers in the administration, during which we can discuss how best to deal with the impending return to campus.

The administration's management team (LEA) will return to this issue regularly. We’ll also discuss howour experiences from the Covid lockdown, including working from home, can help shape our future workplace in the administration.

We’ve learnt to build the road as we travel

We’ve become accustomed to receiving important messages about lockdowns and reopening at press conferences and on the news. Unpredictability has become a matter of course for all of us as we again and again have had to adapt, reorganise and adjust in record time. And we’ve had to do so on the basis of guidelines that have not always been entirely clear.

It’s fair to say that we’re now all world champions at building the road as well travel through unfamiliar territory.

I’d like to express my gratitude for all your efforts over the past year's reopenings and lockdowns. Some have been directly involved in these processes, while others have had to find a way to keep their projects moving forward on completely new terms.

For example, we’ve had to convert teaching and exams to online formats, ensure the safety of our physical environment, restructure tasks and meetings, rethink events and much more. Most recently, supplementary self-testing sites have been established at ten different locations on campus. This feat could only have been achieved with all hands on deck.

I’m impressed by the professionalism, flexibility and patience with which you have solved the many unforeseen challenges and changes. I have equal respect for everyone who’s managed to keep up their enthusiasm for their daily tasks and projects while working from home.  

I’m afraid we’ll still have to rely on your patience for just a bit longer. Because ahead of us lies the monumental task of reopening the university.

I hope and believe that we will see each other on campus before long, and I assure you that our return will take place with the utmost respect for the differences between us as colleagues and people. There must be room for both the excitement and the anxiety that each of us may be feeling.

You will be notified as soon as the government announces the next step in the reopening of public workplaces, and you will be informed with regard to what this means for you.

As always, you are welcome to contact me if you have any comments or questions about this blog post. Send an email  Please remember that if you have any questions regarding Covid-19, the AU coronavirus website is a good place to start. If you do not find the answers you need, contact your immediate supervisor.