Christmas message to staff
It goes without saying that the past year has been very challenging for the University, and for our staff, both professionally and personally having to adapt to so many changes to our ways of working and our ways of life.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been writing to you regularly to keep you updated and informed during these ever-changing circumstances, and we hope that this has been useful to you.
Amid the uncertainty and the obstacles that this year has brought, being able to share some of your stories about how our staff have risen to these challenges via these emails has been inspiring.
As Christmas is often a time for reflection, you may recall some of the ways that the University has led the fight against COVID-19 in our University, in our local community and city, for our country and across the world. Here are just a few examples that have made us feel proud this year:
- In March, over 190,000 items of personal protective equipment (PPE) were donated through the University to the NHS, care homes and other essential workers. Our colleagues designed 3D printed face visors and made hand sanitiser in response to the city’s shortage among our social care workers
- Our students were deployed to the frontline of the NHS to help our health service cope under the extreme pressure it faced. In our local community in Selly Oak, students set up the Selly Oak's Community Response to COVID-19 to collect and distribute food, pick up prescriptions and run vital errands for those in self-isolation and for NHS staff at the QE Hospital
- Our academic colleagues helped create the UK's first and biggest Lighthouse Lab, which vastly increased the number of tests the UK could carry out each day. Colleagues also set up a rapid testing lab for local NHS staff in just six days, capable of testing 5,000 healthcare workers per day. These facilities remain ready to tackle any future waves.
- Our experts developed antibody tests to help us understand big unanswered questions, such as whether antibodies will protect us from getting the virus again
- Globally, our experts shared their knowledge to help communities who don’t have access to clean water to develop strategies to combat the pandemic
- We provided support packages to students who have had to self-isolate and launched Lakeside at The Vale student residences, which gave students some semblance of normality by allowing them to socialise in a covid-secure way. Students in University halls who chose to return home during the first lockdown had their rent cancelled, and the University supported international students who were unable to travel and quickly set up online learning.
- Last month, an enormous effort was undertaken by colleagues – porters, technicians, researchers, IT, cleaning staff, security and estates colleagues – to set up the asymptomatic testing centre in the Great Hall so that our students have been able to travel home safely to their families and communities in time for Christmas. Work is already underway to enable us to test students again when they start to return in January, and we are also exploring how we can extend the asymptomatic testing to staff and will provide more information in January.
We also want to recognise and say a special thank you to our support staff, and in particular our cleaning staff, security and estates staff who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the University is a safe space for staff and students to come to campus and do their jobs and studies. Without their significant contribution, our core activities, our research and teaching would not have been able to take place in the ways that they have made possible.
Among the stories that we don’t often share are the untold contributions of our community of staff who’ve experienced extended periods of working from home. Whilst this way of working has some upsides – as anyone who has put washing on and had it dry by lunchtime will testify – for many people blurring of work and home life is difficult, and the isolation and loneliness is real; being confined to the dining room table, spare room or attic can be mentally as well as physically draining. So to everyone who has given anyone a virtual arm around the shoulder, scheduled a Zoom chat, spread some goodwill and humour in the We Are UoB Facebook group or sent something cheerful through the post, thank you.
As today is the last working day of the year for many of us, we hope that you too can take the time today to reflect on all that you have personally achieved, and acknowledge the role that you have played in helping the University. The University is positioned well to navigate through the challenges that lay ahead, and it is only because of your efforts. And we hope that you are proud of your personal achievements, however big or small you might consider them to be; holidays and celebrations may have been put on hold this year, but small acts of friendship and kindness, to friends, neighbours and colleagues will have never had a bigger impact.
We hope that you manage to have well-deserved rest over the next two weeks and that your time off is as special as circumstances allow. We’re looking forward to speaking with you all again in January, but for now all that’s left to say is we wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Enjoy your time off and stay safe.
In the spirit of Christmas, we’re going to leave you with DARO’s countdown to Christmas – festive-themed videos from leading academics, craft activities for all the family and links to festive articles and insights from across the University and alumni community, and a special reading of Twas the night before Christmas led by alumna Tamsin Greig and stars of our UoB community.