About Manchester

Weekly Update - October 22


From: President <President@manchester.edu>
Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2020 3:58 PM
To: All Colleagues <AllColleagues@manchester.edu>
Subject: Weekly update - Oct. 22


Dear Colleagues,

Over the past month, I’ve been meeting virtually with colleagues on both campuses. The meetings are 30 minutes long and there is no agenda. They are a poor replacement for the organic conversations we might otherwise have in a hallway or after a meeting, but they are an important way of staying connected (thanks to Teri Beam and Dave McGrady for encouraging the idea).

One common thread is the stress we all feel. It lands on each of us differently, for many reasons, and we each find different ways to manage it. There is no one-size-fits-all experience or antidote. That said, let me offer some thoughts based on what I’ve been hearing:

Give yourself permission to set boundaries. Email is a real problem for some. Many of us are working different hours than normal, depending in part on our home or work needs. As a result, emails are sent and received at all hours of the day. Some of you have told me that you feel obligated to respond whenever they show up in your inbox.

Not only are you allowed to set boundaries, I encourage you to. Some have told me they stop looking at email at a certain time and leave them for the next day. One colleague with small children told me that they have made a commitment not to work on weekends. It makes for some stressful Mondays, but that’s the choice they’ve made. Another said they don’t look at email after 5 p.m. Yet another colleague works on email between 9 and 11 p.m. so that they can meet family needs during the day.

A colleague of mine at another institution says this at the end of each email: I understand that your work hours may not be the same as mine. Please do not feel obliged to respond to this email outside your normal working hours. Stated or unstated, this is a good mantra for all of us. You have permission to put down your phone or turn off your computer and leave it for another day.

Figure out what doesn’t need to get done. This one is really hard, because some of what we do must be done. We do, however, have some choices. Some committees are meeting less often, and colleagues are covering for each other so that the other can have a break. Some have relaxed or adapted expectations of themselves or others. Because our individual and work needs are so different, deciding what to set aside will happen at a very granular level and depend on coordination with others. I know some things have to give during this time and we need to triage accordingly.

We are all at different places when it comes to what we can or should do. Some are on call at night and weekends. Others start early in the day or late at night so they can finish their work before the rest of us arrive for ours.  As you set boundaries and triage, it will be doubly important to communicate with those you work with or serve. Our success will depend on working well together.

Let me end with this good news: A second, powerful thread in my conversations is the gratitude expressed for the grace, empathy, space and understanding that we are extending to one another. In the midst of this crisis, we are blessed to be a part of this community.

Thank you for all that you are doing for our students and each other.


Dave McFadden
Manchester University