So, a month has passed since I started as the Vice-Chancellor for BTH. I have of course many impressions and a lot to talk about. But I choose to focus on one thing that has stuck on my head right now. It is grounded in the employer’s survey that was performed in May this year.
I am in many ways happy with the result of the survey. The number of responses (81%) is fantastic, and the overall working environmental index (71%) is top class in the higher education sector. The leadership has in general very good numbers and I am especially impressed by the “the boss gives feedback” result (72%). Of course, there are local variations and some issues to address in the further work. But what is especially striking negatively concerns our perceived working situation. Many are stressed by a high workload and have hard to find enough time to recover. This reflects in many ways the situation in the society at large, and most universities face the same problem. What is then the key to success? Also here there are local variations, and we should look further at the environments where things seem to work better. Can we learn from good examples?
I also want to put the problem in a historical perspective. I have just read a short text by the famous Swedish biologist Carl von Linné. It is from 1761, and he complains on his impossible working situation. He finishes with the words (freely translated): “While my colleagues enjoy their days, I spend day and night exploring a research field so wide that thousands of hours are not enough to finish. Not to mention that I must spend time every day corresponding with other scholars. The whole makes me age prematurely.” Alas – nothing new under the sun!
There are obviously other worrying numbers in the employer’s survey. We cannot accept that 78 respondents (21%) do not consider BTH a workplace free of discrimination. Most of the cases (59%) concern discrimination due to gender. There are also some tens of cases of mobbing and harassment. In most cases the violation is performed by a colleague or a superior. This is indeed a challenge for me. What I and other leaders can do is to work with structure; organization, policy and guidelines. We must also be good examples. But what really makes a difference is to get all employees to collaborate on this. We must see each other and report when there are cases of violation. We must have an open environment where possible problems can be lifted without risk for retaliation. For that I need help from all of you!
Next Wednesday – Thursday we have a retreat with the BTH management, including Department Heads. The main agenda item is an education in gender equality integration. I see this as an excellent start for our efforts to make BTH known as a workplace where equality and working climate is highly valued. Another item I look forward to discussing is how we can in the best way use the financial surplus that has been generated over the past few years. It is important that I can reach out and get a broad anchoring. I will come back in this matter!
1 October 2018