Directors’ Crossover: Bartel Van de Walle and Edeltraud Guenther on UNU-MERIT’s Podcast

  • 2022/05/17     Dresden, Germany

    Image: Will Francis/Unsplash

    What did the pandemic mean for two research institutes forced into remote working conditions? UNU Directors, Professor Edeltraud Guenther and Professor Bartel van de Walle discuss in a new podcast episode.

    It has been two years since much of the world moved online to mitigate the pandemic, and, as we navigate a return to office, we have several new aspects of the future of work to consider. Do we have to physically be in the office to work productively? What are the environmental outcomes of events and conferences being held in online or hybrid formats? How has working from home impacted the balance between our private and work lives?

    The Directors of two United Nations University Institutes – Prof. Edeltraud Guenther of UNU-FLORES in Dresden, and Prof. Bartel van de Walle of Maastricht’s UNU-MERIT – discussed these topics in the April edition of the Director’s Corner Podcast, produced by the Communications Team of UNU-MERIT.

    For Prof. Guenther, the change to an entirely home-based office was not such a challenging leap, as the Institute had introduced flexible working arrangements prior to the pandemic. In fact, the lack of physical presence at the Dresden office meant that researchers and doctoral candidates alike could be recruited and commence work from all over the world. Likewise, the decision to continue to host the Institute’s flagship event, the Dresden Nexus Conference (DNC), albeit in an online format, meant that the Conference enjoyed unprecedented participation from many researchers in the Global South who would not have otherwise been able to attend. Likewise, the lack of flights associated with the Conference helped allow the Institute to significantly decrease carbon emission. So well-received was this flexible approach to institutional operations, that UNU-FLORES has begun implementing a flexible office concept which will allow for the optimisation of space, energy, and cost.

    At the other end of the Director experience is that of Prof. van de Walle, who assumed the position just in time for UNU-MERIT to head into lockdown. Establishing his leadership of a fully remote workplace required a change in the Director’s perspective, but also brought significant opportunities to adapt the team’s vision of the Institute and how to achieve their goals.

    The pandemic resulted in a clear disruption to our way of working, but has also brought about innovative solutions to these obstacles. Fortunately for the UNU teams, steady and supportive leadership helped to guide them resiliently toward the new normal.

    You can listen to the podcast here.