Patrick Hackett: A personal perspective on the current situation

by | Mar 26, 2020 | PSLT, SLT | 5 comments

I’m writing this blog post to you from my desk at home, looking out at the distant Welsh hills, with the twins in the foreground kicking a rugby ball rather than home studying. My daughter Katie is ensconced in her flat in Edinburgh, finishing off her architecture studies with the disappointment of not having a final year show. It feels very discomfiting not to be able to visit and give her a hug and tell her everything will be ok.

I started homeworking slightly earlier than most of you because I and my family had to self-isolate. So I have had a little more time to grow accustomed to a new way of working. Every day seems to be a mix of serious considerations about how to manage the impact of covid-19 alongside working out how to host a Zoom meeting or to put up my hand (electronically) to ask a question.

These last few weeks, particularly the last week or so, have undoubtedly been some of the most unusual and challenging of my entire career, and I am sure many of you feel the same way. These events are truly unprecedented, and moving at an astonishing pace.

Organisations like ours have business continuity plans for when unexpected events happen – but we don’t necessarily think that we will have to use them. Just a few weeks ago our lives were going on as normal, and now most of us are working in entirely different ways, limited to our homes and for many, balancing our work with other responsibilities such as home-schooling our children or caring for family and friends.

Each day brings something different at the moment – it feels like there’s now no such a thing as ‘normal’. We are facing constant shifts and changes to our lives and routines, and that can often cause stress and anxiety. If you feel you are struggling with balancing your work commitments and your caring or other responsibilities, please do speak with your manager to see what arrangements you can agree to help support you during this very difficult time. I read a fascinating article this week that talks about the emotions that are generated by a situation such as this one. It may interest you too: That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief

The weeks to come will test us all. As a team we are all having to continually adapt our approach as the situation develops and changes. Please be assured that we are doing and will continue to do everything that we can for our students, our staff, and the long term future of our University. We will continue to communicate with you often in the weeks to come and share with you advice, resources and support for your wellbeing.

Thank you
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the enormous efforts that have gone on across the entire University to meet the demands of this unique situation. Thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do to keep our University operating through the most trying of circumstances. From the IT teams that have worked solidly to get working from home up and running at scale, the many staff who work directly with our students and have worked tirelessly to support them and their continued learning, to our communications teams who are working hard to share messages, this has been truly a team response.

I would especially like to acknowledge the commitment of those staff who continue to work on campus, to support and care for our students in halls, to keep our buildings and estate secure and to manage our special facilities such as the Biological Services Facility (BSF) and the vivarium in Manchester Museum. I know I speak for all of the Senior Leadership Team when I say that this makes me deeply proud to work here and truly brings our values to life. Thank you all. I’d also encourage you all to take time each day to thank those colleagues who you’re working with and who are all doing their very best amidst the most trying of circumstances.

We will keep communicating with you all as often as we can; whilst you might be working at home you are most definitely not alone. Over the coming days and weeks we’ll also share some ‘good news’ stories too – about how our people have really come together to set up new ways of doing things.

I have absolute trust that each of you will continue to do the best that you can. Please look after yourselves, your families and friends during this really difficult time. I would like to ask each of you to take every opportunity to keep connected with your colleagues as this is so important for wellbeing, and look out for each other.

I very much hope we will all be back soon on our fabulous campus. In the meantime, please stay safe and well.



  1. Christina Siu

    Thanks for your understanding and the appreciation expressed in your blog.
    I have been experiencing a similar situation in HK since late January – holding the fort alone while all staff were working from home; there were so many challenges to tackle (IT, VPN, etc ). I am sure the university is facing similar challenges to those we have in HK and other UMW overseas centres. Thanks to the University for providing various guidance such as Sir Cary Cooper’s 7 rules of home working and guidance also on managing teams working from home, which came through a month later.

    • Patrick Hackett

      Dear Christina, many thanks to you and our other Centre Directors for your leadership of our overseas centres in these challenging times.

  2. Caroline Martin

    It appears that some staff across the University were allowed to take office equipment home with them (e.g. chairs, monitors) while others were told that they could not do this. I now have colleagues, for example, who risk getting back pain through having to use very inappropriate chairs or risk getting RSI through having to work on a tiny laptop keyboard. Will the leadership team make arrangements for such staff to collect items essential for safe home working from their offices?

    • Patrick Hackett

      Let me begin by saying how grateful I am personally to colleagues for making the transition to home working so quickly, and thereby helping to keep the University operating during these unprecedented times. Having also been working from home for almost a fortnight now, I truly appreciate the various challenges this presents – and that, especially in the early stages, not everything about it can be perfect.

      The point you raise about collecting office equipment is one on which we have recently posted guidance under our FAQs on StaffNet. This is at , but in a nutshell – and in accordance with the Government instruction to stay home, unless absolutely necessary – I am afraid that we will not be able to facilitate access to offices during the lockdown.

      It is also particularly important for staff operating from home to build in regular breaks – including changes in posture – when working from home. If you are sitting to work in front of a computer screen, the advice is to take regular micro-breaks (2-3 minutes) every 20 minutes and a slightly longer break (5 minutes) every hour. We know that these are difficult and worrying times for colleagues, and further resources are highlighted on StaffNet – – that you may find helpful in support of your wellbeing.

  3. Kate

    Fantastic contribution Patrick and it has perked me right up!

    Knowing we are in this together and the uncertainty is felt by everyone makes a difference. I also enjoyed the article you shared on grief which helps us to understand the current mood felt by us all.

    I have remained connected to the team with a weekly zoom video meeting set up by the management team, we have also formed a watsap group to keep in touch daily to report any problems and ask advice, a social one and a work one so the team rarely feels alone. We are connected. The team are also contactable daily to help other departments and most importantly our students, to reassure them we are still here for them. The feedback from students is mainly relief that someone is there to talk them through their queries and reassure them it will be ok.

    On a positive note well being is playing a big part for me at the moment, being a champion and being connected to the teams via email and the whole organisation on Yammer has really helped. Its quite fascinating really to see what others are doing to keep themselves going during this uncertain period.

    Equally I would like to thank your good self, Nancy, IT and all senior leaders and people managers for their support transitioning us into our new roles at home. The help, guidance and understanding throughout has been amazing. It has certainly helped us to achieve the results needed to keep us all on track.

    Lastly I would like to say that Staffnet has been invaluable to read updates on the University and we as employees are so lucky to have such a good employer at this difficult time, its certainly worlds apart form other organisations currently in the media for behaving negatively with their staff.

    Many thanks



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