“There’s undoubtedly some differences, but a lot remains pretty much the same” – My experience returning to the Loughborough campus
Following the launch of the University’s Back to Campus campaign, the Health and Wellbeing blog is continuing to share the experiences of staff members at the University who have already returned to work on campus.
Here Professor Lorraine Cale, Associate Dean (Teaching) in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences writes about her time spent on campus over the last few months and the different health and safety measures put in place.
Since activity has slowly resumed on the Loughborough campus, I’ve typically been coming into work on average two days a week. Initially, it did feel odd and eerily quiet, but at the same time very organised and safe from the start.
In my current role, I’ve been involved in just some of the numerous University-wide and School COVID-19 planning and contingency meetings over recent months, which have given me an insight into the huge amount of work and care that has gone into managing and responding to the pandemic, including the health and safety measures put in place to ensure the safest possible working environment for everyone.
Despite this, it was still very useful and reassuring to see the health and safety measures actually in operation on my return – this includes the one-way systems, floor markings, signage, anti-bacterial wipes, hand sanitiser dispensers and restricted access areas. The attention to detail was obvious and I soon adjusted to the changes and new practices and routines. That said, whilst there are undoubtedly some differences and this will likely be the case for some time, a lot remains pretty much the same.
Over the past few weeks, there has certainly been more staff and students on campus and my time in the office has started to feel almost ‘business as usual’ again. On being asked to write this blog, I reflected on what I’d missed while working remotely – overall, it was the simple things such as catching up informally with colleagues, impromptu interactions with staff and students, walking to meetings or sessions, and the general buzz from the various sports and other activities on the East Park. It’s been nice to be able to enjoy many of these again.
In addition, I’d missed some of the events which traditionally mark the end of an academic year, such as the summer graduation, the Loughborough Academic Awards and the School end-of-year social barbecue. I look forward to these and similar events taking place in the near future as and when circumstances allow.
Whilst being back on campus, I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings (as per usual), many of which have still been via Teams and others which have been in person and socially distanced. In dividing my time between the office and home, I’ve managed to establish a new and productive pattern of blended working; I find some aspects of my work can be done just as easily at home, whereas others are more easily done at the office where I have more resources and support to hand. Plus, as I came to realise very early on into lockdown, a more reliable internet connection! I therefore plan my week and tasks accordingly now and am enjoying the variety and flexibility this approach affords.
What I feel our response to the pandemic in the last five months has shown is just how adaptable and resourceful Loughborough University staff and students can be. There’s no doubt it’s been a challenging time, particularly for some, and each one of us has been impacted differently.
Regardless of our differing roles or circumstances, we’ve been required to review and modify all aspects of our day-to-day work and practices. For example, from mid-March academic staff had to quickly shift to online delivery of teaching, preparing remote assessments and exams, and undertaking all marking online, as well as adapting and continuing to deliver their research and enterprise activities and plans. Similarly, Professional Services staff had many new – albeit different – challenges and changes to contend with.
I’ve been so impressed and heartened by the ‘can do’ attitude and understanding shown by colleagues and how everyone across job families has pulled together to deliver in all areas. From my own experience, this has led to a number of new and at times equally – if not more effective and efficient – ways of working, many of which will have longevity beyond COVID-19 I’m sure.
I think it’s fair to say we’ve all learned and achieved a lot and I’m confident we’ll continue to do so over the next few months. Whilst further challenges lie ahead as we prepare for and will soon start the new academic year, it’s reassuring that we have many measures, processes, systems and support in place to enable us to work safely and effectively on (and off) campus, which will allow us to respond swiftly and appropriately according to how the situation and government guidance evolves. For the time being though, I’m really looking forward to seeing and working with many more staff and students ‘in person’ again very soon.
Health and Wellbeing
Wellbeing means being in a positive physical, social and mental state. Wellbeing is important to us as happy, healthy people who achieve harmony in their work / life mix are more creative, productive and help to create a great place to work.