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Managing in a pandemic, part one

Published Apr 16, 2021

When everyday life is turned upside down and you face numerous new challenges, it can be both difficult and instructional to be a manager. In this series of articles, several KTH managers share their thoughts and experiences about the past year.

“Everyone rolled up their sleeves."

Maria Haglund is our University Librarian and Head of the KTH Library, with fifty employees within three operation areas, each headed by a group manager.

Portrait photo: A woman in a black jacket and red necklace.
Maria Haglund, photo: Petter Wallebo

What has the past year been like for you?

“Last spring was sheer crisis management. The stress levels were high, but everyone rolled up their sleeves and helped out.”

Maria Haglund is grateful that KTH Library, before the pandemic, had already come a long way in digitalising library operations and that employees there were already mature users of digital tools. That made things much more manageable.

“We are now in a kind of normal situation, except that many of us work from home.

“I manage via middle managers, and as such, I am furthest from our employees. That situation is being addressed now. We have therefore introduced more frequent departmental meetings. During the pandemic, our group managers have also had a higher workload as most personal contact now has to be done via booked meetings. Here, I try to act as support.”

Maria Haglund feels it is essential to maintain a good workplace culture even remotely. Last autumn, during a digital staff day, the workplace culture was the theme of the day.

“One challenge during the pandemic has been the shortage of cross-talk and the lack of the social dimension of work. Working from home has also made it more difficult to make new contacts within the organisation.”

What lessons will you take with you from the past year?

“A great many things work well remotely, and some activities even become more inclusive. I have also realised the importance of close communication and of being clear. It is much easier to misunderstand each other when you are only able to have a two-dimensional dialogue in Zoom.”

Maria Haglund has spent plenty of time thinking about how the physical work environment can be improved after the pandemic. She views the workplace as a “culture centre” that should promote creativity and cooperation.

“Maybe there will be fewer fixed workspaces in the future and even more fantastic meeting spaces.”

Words: Marianne Norén

"We can do great things when we have to."

Professor Carl-Mikael Zetterling is head of the Division of Electronics and Embedded Systems (EES), at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).

Portrait photo: A man in a black suit and a black tie.
Carl-Mikael Zetterling, photo: private.

What are the challenges and lessons learned from leading during the pandemic?

"It is a great challenge to keep in touch with colleagues and students when you do not meet them regularly. With Zoom alone, it's hard to know if all my staff are well or not. And travelling – will important conferences happen again?"

Carl-Mikael brings with him some lessons from the past year.

"From first and second cycle education, I see that we can do great things when we have to and that we have had a good review and discussion of how and why we teach. I also see that many meetings can be made more efficient in Zoom if we avoid travelling between different campuses."

Have you received the support you needed to lead during the pandemic?

"From E-learning, we got a cohesive force in the great change work with teaching. But I lack support in keeping in touch with everyone on the staff and all the students. Unfortunately, we have lost some students through dropouts."

Words: Moa Hörnquist

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Last changed: Apr 16, 2021