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Managing in a pandemic, part two

Published Apr 27, 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.

"The biggest loss has been not being able to meet the students"

Kerstin Forsberg is director of the master’s programme Chemical Engineering for Energy and Environment at the School of Engineering Sciences in Chemistry, Biotechnology and Health (CBH).

Portrait photo: a woman standing in front of a waterfall.
Kerstin Forsberg photo: private

Due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, new guidelines have often come at short notice, which has been one of several challenges in her work.

– As a program director, the challenge has been to convey information and coordinate activities to meet guidelines. The biggest loss has been not being able to meet the students. It may be harder to get the students to ask questions and start group discussions during distance learning, she says.

All students expect a high-quality education. The master's programs also include many international students who in several cases have paid expensive tuition fees for their education. Another challenge is that the program contains many elements that usually require access to lab rooms.

– The teachers have pulled a big load. They have had a very big challenge convert the teaching, including laboratory work, to the digital format - and at the same time ensured to maintain quality.

When distance learning was introduced at KTH, Kerstin Forsberg thought that everything would return to normal sooner. Patiently she had to accept the situation. Once the pandemic is over, there will several things Kerstin Forsberg will take with her.

– For example, how important the personal meeting with the students is, but also all the new tools and methods that are available for distance teaching. And the knowledge of how fantastic teachers we have with their enormous commitment. I am really looking forward to meeting my colleagues at KTH again.

Words: Kenneth Carlsson

“The pandemic has offered a chance to identify processes that we need to clarify".

Anders Blomqvist is the Infrastructure and Purchasing Manager at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE)

Portrait photo: A man wearing a white sweater in front of a brick wall.
Anders Blomqvist, Photo: private

What is it like to lead your work group in the prevailing circumstances?

“I think it works well now, but initially it was of course an adjustment for everyone. In the beginning we needed to solve many urgent things, since then we have been able to focus more on ensuring our work processes etc. For a long time I thought that the crisis would be short-lived, but I wonder how we would have acted if we knew from the beginning that it would go on for over a year? ”

Anders is responsible for the caretakers and technicians at the school among other things. Despite the pandemic and work from home situation, parts of his work group needs to be on site at campus. Based on the function's responsibilities, it has been necessary, as supervision of premises, post handling etc. needs to be sorted even though campus is empty.

 “It has its own challenges, of course. It is important to protect the employees' work environment from these two perspectives; work from home and a workplace with few people on site. We have had a routine of telling each other when getting to the office and when leaving so that we know that everyone is ok. We have also had more regular meetings in Zoom now that we no longer run into each other in the corridor.

The group has been given some new tasks as those who work from home have been able to take advantage of the fact that there are people on site who can print, scan, open incoming mail, check things, etc.

"I think everyone has handled the transition to the current situation very well. We have had a creative approach to situations and taken the opportunity to implement certain room improvements that would have been more difficult to implement with everyone on site such as floor maintenance, installation of new AV technology, etc. ”

Important lessons from the past year?

“The pandemic has offered a chance to identify processes that we need to clarify. It is obviously easier to ask a quick question so you can get on with your work when you can just pop by your colleague’s or manager’s office next door. We have taken the chance to work on working methods, routines and joint problem solving.

When it comes to using the opportunities and technology we have for distance and video conferencing, we previously noticed that many people opted out of it because of concerns that the technology would crash or that it would be difficult. That "fear of technology" feels like it has completely disappeared. I believe in an increased amount of hybrid meetings in the future. It increases the flexibility of the entire organisation. ”

Words: Josefin Backman

Belongs to: Current
Last changed: Apr 27, 2021