Blog entries

The coronavirus is pushing our working lives at AU in a new direction

In my last blog post, I encouraged you to share what lessons you think we should learn from the shutdown. Several of you did so – and this is valuable input to the senior management team that we’ll draw on in the ongoing process of developing AU as a workplace.

I’m pleased that several employees took the time to send me their thoughts on what experiences from the coronavirus shutdown we should continue to build on going forward. It’s been fruitful reading, and I’m particularly struck by four themes that pop up in a lot of the written feedback I’ve gotten, and in what I’ve been hearing from around the organisation: Working from home, virtual meetings, leadership and the climate.

It’s evident that a lot of you have benefited from the flexibility that working from home gives you. More time for family, better work-life balance and greater productivity because you avoid interruptions and time spent on transportation – those are some of the arguments on the plus side. Others prefer to come to work physically at AU. I myself prefer to come to the office. But I’ve also become a fan of having virtual meetings at home, for example. It seems clear to me that it’s different from person to person what we prefer – and what’s more, whether working at home is an option depends on what tasks you perform. I encourage managers and employees to evaluate your experiences with working from home at the local level – and to work together to figure out the best way to organise your work going forward.

The experiences we’ve gained in holding virtual meetings are also – not surprisingly – a major theme for many of us. Employees stress that this is a way to make meetings more efficient, and to reduce transportation times. I’ve also heard it said that the virtual meetings function best when all participants are online. Without a doubt, we all got a massive and much-needed digital skills upgrade during the shutdown. And now that we’ve had our baptism by fire, this is our chance to seize what we’ve learned together and build on it, so we can do things even better. Because when we hold virtual meetings, we also have an obligation to organise our work in the best possible way – and really understand the relevant technologies and their possibilities.

A number of the employees who’ve submitted input encourage AU’s managers to draw on the experiences we gained from the shutdown in organising our work and workplace. We’re already in full swing, and we will continue discussing these issues in LEA after the summer holiday. We need to be really clear about what we want to carry over from the shutdown in our efforts to create the workplace of the future.

And so I’d like to encourage managers and employees to discuss what you’ve learned from the shutdown at the local level as well – and how you think it should influence the planning of work and your working lives in your units.

The climate benefits of the coronavirus shutdown

One final theme mentioned by a number of employees is the climate. And I’m glad they did, because it’s an important issue that we will all be doing a lot more work on after the summer holiday – and in the future.

AU’s climate footprint shrank significantly during the coronavirus shutdown. For one thing, there was no air travel, and very few people commuted by car, and we also used very little electricity and internet on campus. This was an unexpected helping hand for our new climate strategy – including our goal of reducing our carbon emissions.

After the summer holiday, we’ll start reviewing the experiences during the shutdown that could potentially have a positive effect on our greenhouse gas emissions. This will take place in the form of a ‘climate relay race’: AU managers and employees will be invited to share their ideas about how what we learned during the coronavirus shutdown can contribute to making AU a greener university. You’ll hear more about this initiative in August.

Have a nice summer!

But summer is just around the corner, and soon the university will be empty and quiet again. This time, fortunately, AU will be deserted because of a well-deserved summer holiday instead of a global pandemic.

Once again, I’d like to express my appreciation and gratitude for all of the hard work and flexibility you demonstrated during the shutdown – as well as the gradual reopening that still requires our time and energy. I’m very pleased and impressed by how well the administration has handled the many sudden changes at the university and in society in general. Thank you so much. And have a lovely summer holiday.