Letter from the Director - January 2021

Blog Category
WorkLife Office Executive Director Barbara Roberts shares a message to start the new year.


graphic of tree with the word together next to itDear Spartans,

The New Year often finds me sitting by a fire, to reflect and plan. I never complete a holiday letter before the holidays, so friends look forward to my New Year’s Note. A look back at the year helps me both capture it for myself and update far-flung friends and family. (This year’s version was a doozy!) I used to take out my datebook (you know, the paper kind), or now Outlook on my phone, and enter the important dates I already know. Starting with vacations, so I don’t let my family down; work commitments (the October WorkLife Conference!), and gardening plans. Both reflecting and planning gives me a sense of where I’ve been, and where I look forward to being in the coming year.

“In the coming year...” What high hopes we all have for 2021! Hopes for good health and an end to the pandemic. Hopes for good government and progress on important issues with a new administration. Hopes for opening up activities safely, seeing one another again in person, without hesitation. Hopes for returns to work and school - maybe in different ways or different places, maybe with different strategies - but engaging in ways that keep our fires burning, not burning out. Hopes that this recent time of struggle, fear and loss can soon be behind us, and we can come together in an ever-more-caring and compassionate community.

What are some gifts we might anticipate from this time of shut-downs, distance, “pivots” and game-changers? What are some good ideas we can carry forward? This tumultuous time has given us impetus and opportunity to examine what we have assumed or taken for granted, to re-invent ways of being and doing that are better for us. 

  • Flexible work strategies and remote work have moved from marginal to mainstream, opening opportunities to reconsider priorities, the necessity of how and where we work, and what we need most to be successful with work and home.
  • We have highlighted social connection with new, inventive ways to get together while maintaining safe physical distance. My friend in western Canada and I take the same yoga class together, with an instructor in Wales. We would not have put that together before!
  • Practices resisted in the past have become practical resources. Tele-health services enhance prompt, safe provision of medical advice and mental health services. Remote student advising facilitates support to distanced students. Remote teaching and learning have added to our complement of methodologies.
  • We are building hygiene habits that will reduce transmission of colds and flu by enhancing focus on cleanliness, hand washing and physical distance. We are more mindful of how our health and that of others is interconnected. Staying home if you have cold or flu symptoms is respectful, not lazy.
  • Changing expectations for entertainment and artistic expression are inspiring creative venues for music, art, theater, and dance. These new ways of sharing add richness and variety our lives.
  • At home more, we are engaging with our environments through renovations, hobbies and skills that may have been neglected in the pace we were accustomed to. We are baking more bread, exploring our ancestry, playing challenging games with each other - point being “with each other”.

The pandemic has blown open the doors to innovation, creativity, courage and new challenges. We will be more flexible, intentional, healthy and creative going forward. And hopefully all of the challenges illuminated by the pandemic will, like a prism, focus our efforts on creating a more inclusive community as we appreciate the interconnected whole that we are. The wellness of each of us determines the wellness of all of us.

My hope for our community is that we will have learned how important we are to one another, how we need all our voices to overcome obstacles together, and how we can rebuild in ways that embrace our beautiful variety of people. In different work styles and places, from wide-ranging perspectives and experiences, through contributions large and small, we can come back with openness and enthusiasm for what we all bring to this, our Spartan community.  

I hope many more of you will join us in reading and signing the Pledge of Caring as we launch this new year, and that we will all bring our best to one another. May your new year in 2021 be filled with love, good health and wellbeing.


Barbara signature

Barbara Roberts, M.Sc.OT, Ph.D.
Pronouns: she/her/hers  What is this?
Senior Advisor to the Provost
Executive Director, WorkLife Office
Adjunct Assistant Professor, College of Education
Michigan State University
Linton Hall, Suite 116 
479 West Circle
East Lansing, MI
Click here to sign the Pledge to Care