It’s been a strange week, even by lockdown standards. Last Sunday we saw a government advisor justify breaking his own government guidelines,visiting family 260 miles away, I don’t have words for the tale he spun, the way he manipulated the narrative to put himself in the role of victim; and then justify a 60 mile round trip with his wife and child in his car because “I wanted to test my eyesight”. One government minister went on to say later in the week something like “we’ve all had to take a drive to test our eyesight at some point”.
When I was in the Navy, I was involved in a “damage control” exercise, these are often “live” exercises where simulated damage is repaired. This one involved live power. One of my colleagues in engineering during this exercise looked at me and the chief engineer and said “is that cable live?” at the same time he reached out and touched it. Ned was thrown back a good 10 ft I reckon. He was lucky. A little wild eyed and jittery for a while, but not dead.
The Govt has started saying they are going to ease lockdown. I don’t know if that was to divert attention from their precious advisor or because they also wanted to reach out and touch the wire to see if they got a shock. Because most of the scientists are saying it is too damn early to ease lockdown. And quite frankly I know who I trust.
And guess what. People have looked at what the advisor did and said what’s good for him is good for us. The beaches and beauty spots have been busy. Time will tell what that means to the health of the nation.
Donna Lanclos and I have been looking at UK Higher Education Staff behaviours for a while now about their practice under lockdown. We’ve also been doing interviews and looking at information in the public domain. One of the things that is striking is the way that Leaders in institutions have been embracing technology, changing their own behaviours around digital to keep things running.
Leaders model the behaviours they want to see. It is a basic tenet of leadership. For good, or bad.
In UK higher education we seem to be more cautious about “easing lockdown”. In my own organisation the Chief Exec stated we are putting people first. That is leadership, and more than that it is modelling behaviour, it warns us to remain careful.
But I also want to give a shout out to some of leaders that I have seen on Twitter modelling other behaviours – people like Shan Waring, Helen O’Sullivan and Jim Nottingham – I know all of them model digital behaviours, but these have also been modelling well-being – tweeting images on their walks, exercising or taking time to “not work,” and putting it out on their social media. These are all people in senior roles that are modelling to their staff that it is important to take well-being time – even though they are probably some of the busiest people I know right now.
As higher education will eventually come out of lockdown it will be important to continue the “good” or “useful” behaviours that all staff have developed. That is part of the work that Donna and I are doing at the moment, along with colleagues in Jisc R&D – what is working in the Pandemic, what do we need to keep, what do we need to enhance?
This week I also sat in a Crematorium, just four of us, socially distanced for the funeral of my Mother. I’d spoken to the vicar earlier in the week, he sounded exhausted, and the funeral director was also working at six times the rate they normally worked at. The vicar told me he is only doing funerals at the moment, no weddings, no christenings, no services. I am not a person of faith and I can only relate in an abstract way to his work. But it got me thinking – all of this man’s work for the last 12 weeks or so has been about death, and funerals – and I know that they try to “celebrate” the life of the deceased, but the reality is that he is dealing with people at a very low time. I wondered how his mental health was?
A lot of the lecturers that we have spoken to are also working with students in a pastoral capacity, I can’t quantify what the load is, but I know that is a lot more than it would be under “normal” circumstances. We need to start thinking about supporting the enhanced pastoral load, and the needs of our staff who are doing that pastoral care, and we need to do it quickly.
What can I tell you – it’s been a strange week in the UK, even under lockdown.