Feb. 17, 2021

Pandemic Reflections: Leslie Reid on how we're finding new ways to connect with colleagues

Recognize a UCalgary team for their exceptional work during the pandemic, by sharing your story through the Pandemic Reflections website
empty campus
Areas on campus that are usually bustling with activity are now empty during the pandemic. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary photo

UCalgary wants to acknowledge and recognize the efforts of the university community during the pandemic.  We reached out to leaders on campus and asked them to reflect on a set of questions.
What we heard through these pandemic reflections is that we have a campus that is resilient, and also a campus that recognizes the work of others during this difficult time.

As part two of a three-part series of the Pandemic Reflections, we talk to UCalgary’s Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning, Dr. Leslie Reid, seeking her reflection on recognition through the pandemic. 

Q: How has work changed for you since COVID-19?

A: Work has changed in so many ways. Probably the most dramatic change for me has been finding new ways to connect with colleagues. Once we started working remotely, I realized the importance of the spaces between meetings when we are face to face, and how much we used that time to connect on a personal level and check in with each other. Walking back to the office after a meeting gave us that time to connect and gave us a sense of community. Now that this opportunity isn’t there, we’ve had to try to find ways of connecting with each other during our meetings.

The intensity of work has also changed for those of us in teaching and learning. There's been so much we've had to rethink and redo and revise to support teaching and learning online. It's a whole new way of doing things, and every day we’re figuring out new ways to support our campus community in this new online learning world. Not only is the work intense, but it's also become time sensitive in ways that I've never experienced before in teaching and learning.

Q: How will you work differently with your colleagues when you return to the workplace?

A: I think there are two things we will do differently. First, as I mentioned earlier, we need to make sure we're building in time to connect with each other in the work we’re doing. When we meet it's not just about jumping into the project and getting things done, it’s also about relationships. The second thing I see us doing differently long past COVID is to continue to work collaboratively across units. Working through a crisis has shown how interconnected our units are across campus and how much stronger we can be when we work out problems and make decisions together. For example, this crisis has shown us how interconnected our teaching and learning work is with IT. We could not have rolled out Zoom so seamlessly campus-wide if we had not all worked together.

Q: Tension can occur when working remotely with everyone at home, which might lead to a sense of disconnection. What have you learned about increasing connections while working remotely?

A: Not having those informal, in-person connection points has removed those opportunities drop by someone’s office and chat about a project, and that can lead to misunderstandings and tensions within a team. I’ve learned how important it is to build time into online meetings to check for stressors or areas of confusion or misunderstanding. It can be as simple as starting a meeting by asking questions like, “What needs clarification to help us move forward?’ or ‘What's getting in the way right now?’

I’ve also realized how important it is to spend time talking about what’s working well. So often we focus on the issues and challenges, but it can help build connections and reduce tension by giving some space to think about what’s going well and what we’re grateful for. It’s a reminder of how much we all care about doing a good job and supporting our colleagues and students.

Q: What is one thing you have learned about working from home that will help you in the workplace?

A: I've learned how important it is to build in time during meetings to connect with each other. As I mentioned, when you no longer have those opportunities you used to rely on, like bumping into someone in the hallway or walking by their workstation, building in some time for connecting and checking in with each other during meetings is not wasted time, it's actually really important and necessary. I’ve realized how much these connections keep relationships strong and healthy, and in fact keep our work moving forward. Working from home has been such a great reminder of the importance of relationships.

Q: In one word, tell us what has helped you most while working remotely?

A: Kindness. There is no such thing as too much kindness, especially now. Kindness for yourself, and kindness for others. A small gesture of kindness can go such a long way while working remotely.

Recognition can be simple and fun while its impact is meaningful and lasting

When you see great work happen, give thanks, and show people you’ve noticed.  Being recognized and recognizing others builds a supportive and positive workplace.

It has been nearly a year since the pandemic and we want to hear from you.  When reflecting on 2020, challenge yourself to consider what lessons you have learned during this time and how this discovery can impact your recognition of yourself and others.

If you want to recognize any teams who did exceptional work during the COVID-19 pandemic, please submit your stories through the HR Pandemic Reflections website.