Helen Langton, Vice Chancellor at the University of Suffolk talks to us about managing through disruption

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Helen Langton is Vice Chancellor at the University of Suffolk. Paul Aristides, Partner in our Education Practice posed these questions to Helen as part of our The New Normal series. We investigate how leaders across public services are dealing with the challenges the coronavirus pandemic has created and what positives have emerged.

What have been the biggest challenges to date?

Finding the right balance of communication, keeping staff engaged and informed but at the same time not overdoing the volume of communication. You also need to maintain visibility remotely.  There is also a need to ensure consistency of messaging to students from the University and its staff.

Ensuring high levels of listening to students via social media. Being very aware of mental health, isolation and health of students and staff. 

What positives have you drawn from the crisis?

  • The University has rallied and supported the NHS through volunteering from the student base and 3D printing of masks.
  • The academic community have now become fully trained with the virtual learning environment and are delivering all programmes remotely. This is a huge advance which can potentially make a significant difference to delivery of programmes in the future.
  • There has been a reduction in travel and how that positively impacts on the environment but also makes us question the need for future travel with benefits for the environment but also cost.
  • People’s mindsets have shifted, where people viewed presenteeism as an essential to the function working, and now this has been proved otherwise.

What advice would you give to others?

  • You ‘cannot not communicate’ but how, frequency, style and reach are important to balance.
  • Pace yourself – don’t “crash and burn” by week two.  This is a longer haul and don’t over-do the MS Teams face to face meetings.  Manage the work life balance.
  • Make sure you keep an eye on your customers and staff.  Fully aware of all communications, mental health issues and social media.
  • Select the key external stakeholders and ensure you keep them engaged.

Paul Aristides is a Partner in our Education Practice and can be contacted at: paul.aristides@gatenbysanderson.com