At the beginning of the month, I wrote in my journal that March would be a month in two halves. And it was. But not at all as I had imagined it would be. To be fair, my months rarely pan out as planned. But, boy, has this month been unexpected?!
The first half of the month was more or less normal, in terms of daily routines. Though, things started to change subtly, as the shadow of Covid19 grew bigger. There were the warnings to wash hands frequently; the news about lockdowns in more and more countries; and the devastating news from Italy.
Then, I started noticing some items selling out in our local stores, like hand wash or UHT milk. Soon, one of the coffee shops stopped accepting cash, and Cook stopped doing tasters. But, other than that, things were more or less normal, and I managed to cross some key items off my list. For instance, I finished work on the paper about digital technology in SMEs, and submitted it. I did a presentation about AI in customer service. A paper that I had been working on for a while was accepted, and production went so smoothly that the paper is now online (it was a super smooth process!). There is a summary of the paper here. I also received a revise and resubmit on another paper regarding the impact of AI on the relationship between employees and their employers.
Teaching wise, I ran a session on the importance of testing in Customer Relationship Management, and another one about budgeting. I also had two very good meetings with one of my PhD students, Daniela, and colleagues in other institutions, about doing experiments.
Other tasks this month included sorting out some expenses claims, supporting colleagues who are working on accreditations, and reviewing colleagues’ applications for promotion. It was a very busy but a very productive start to the month.
On Tuesday, March 10th I was telling my colleagues that “We do not have any indications – formal or informal – from the University about contingency plans for teaching or assessment (…) as a result of Covid-19”, and suggesting some preventive measures, like borrowing a laptop, installing Skype on their machines, and so on. But things started unravelling very quickly, after that. A research grants workshop scheduled for Friday, 13th, was cancelled, as three speakers withdrew. Then, we received the news that face to face teaching would be cancelled from March 16th onwards, and that all teaching and assessment had to move online, though the University buildings would still be open, as usual.
Since then, I have been super busy developing mitigation plans for teaching and assessment, developing online materials, and supporting my team with changes to their own modules and programmes (e.g., developing new exam papers and considering deadline extensions). I know that some students feel short-changed that they no longer have face to face teaching, but, trust me when I say that, this change represents a huge amount of additional work for academics and administrative staff. We are putting in many hours extra, all while working in “corner offices” that are not equipped for our new needs; and, in many cases, while looking after our own children. It’s very challenging!
On Tuesday, 17th I spent 2 hours on a queue for Ocado. Eventually, I managed to get a delivery slot for 2 weeks’ time (April 1st).
On Wednesday, 18th, the Prime Minister announced that schools would close by the end of the week. The kiddo has been doing home school since 20th, and adapting very well. I am really impressed with how he just gets on with his work, and resists the temptation to be on the phone with his friends all the time. However, the lockdown also meant the end to his ice-hockey training, and the cancellation of a tournament scheduled for the Easter break, which was really sad for him (he had worked so hard to be selected for this tournament!)
Then, on Thursday, 19th, I felt ill. I slept poorly, I had high fever, and pains and aches all over. This lasted for about 3 days. Since then, I lost my sense of smell and I developed a very mild cough; but, I am fine, otherwise, and I have managed to run, every day. The kiddo came down with fever and body aches, too, but no coughing. The rest of the household seems fine. So, I don’t think we had Covid19.
The week after that, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would go into lockdown. The University buildings are now closed, though we continue to work remotely. The teen’s Univeristy, too, has closed. She is now back home, and very much mourning the abrupt end to her first year. I would feel the same, I am sure.
By the third week of March it became very tricky to secure most items in the supermarket. Gym and non-essential shops closed. We now need to queue to get into the supermarkets, to keep numbers inside the stores limited. Things started being cancelled left, right and centre (dental appointments, conferences, our girls’ trip to Brussels, our trip to Brazil, and so on).
I was a bit emotional when my friend Marie called to offer us face masks, so we could go to the supermarket, safely. I have been reading The Plague, by Albert Camus, as part of the reading list recommended by John Naughton. My friend Robin has also been checking on us, via e-mail, regularly. We have been calling our parents in Portugal, daily. And I had a couple of virtual coffee breaks with friends, which were really fun.
Another piece of good news this month is that I was invited to join the editorial board of the Journal of Marketing Management, as an Associate Editor.
That was my March. How was yours? What does your new normal look like?