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Department of Geography

It is never just one task: The invisible other tasks behind admin work

As part of the support infrastructure of any organization, administrative staff take on different hats and juggle various responsibilities. To learn more about the myriad of administrative tasks, I met up with Corinne Wyss and discussed her work.

Corinne Wyss

Khaoula: We had to postpone our initial interview as you were involved at short notice in the office move on the L floor. Can I still ask what a typical day at work looks like for you?

Corinne:  That’s a good example of one aspect of my job. No two days are the same. The move was like castling if you’ve ever played chess. Many tasks needed to be done in parallel. The first step was to understand the initial situation. Then we had to define and distribute tasks, fix deadlines, and establish a communication flow. And then it was just ‘GO!’. To meet the tight deadlines, we also lent a hand with moving the furniture. Our other tasks had to be pushed aside for later. Good teamwork was critical during that time!

I was happy that my colleague and I share the same office, so we could easily keep each other up to date. It was also a learning process for us, for example about how the operation service works, the cooperation with the painter, the cleaning staff and the moving personnel. In our day-to-day work, we have different support responsibilities that sometimes have to be completed at the last minute. We are also the interface to the UZH Finance Office, the GIUZ HR,  IT and teaching team, as well as all other UZH organisations such as the Operations Service, etc.

Can you tell me more about the administrative tasks specific to working in a university?

The coordination and organization of exams. Preparations need to start early and you must be proactive. For example having a final check with the module coordinator before printing out the final version of the exam. Or creating and updating a process sheet with all the tasks and documents. Before the exam days, all the admins and the teaching manager discuss any special cases, new conditions, and interfaces. We want to make sure all teams involved are well informed and prepared. With this, we ensure the exams run smoothly for the students. Accordingly, we meet for a debriefing after each exam.

I firmly believe that it is important to make processes more transparent and easier for the team to understand. We use new communication tools like Teams and SharePoint and have regular meetings with all the admins for ongoing learning. We keep each other updated, exchange information, and seek advice and opinions.

Any other everyday tasks that might go hidden under your various administrative tasks?

I’m part of the GIUZ Sustainability Task Force. For example, we do small, sustainable actions with recycling plastic and informing all staff that this exists. I always organize the spring cleaning and see if we can recycle various items and put up bring-and-take boxes. We also make sure that the coffee room looks tidy and organize and ensure that the group members take over their duties with the coffee machine service.

Another example is that my colleague and I water the plants in our coffee room. This took ages because of the old soil they were planted in, so we organized to have them repotted. We checked who was in charge, made sure that there was a budget for it and got a quote. It was quite a thing, but I believe it was worth it! Then I’m also involved in the onboarding process for new staff, and I’m their contact point for various questions.

What aspects of working here do you enjoy?

I particularly appreciate that I can do my job independently. Of course, I've got deadlines and processes to follow, but within that I can choose how I work. I think my job within the human geography unit is very appreciated. And I like working in an area that interests me, like feminism, care work, the housing crisis. As a non-academic I sometimes look at these topics with different eyes. It's a nice area even when I’m doing administrative work, but that’s part of it as well!

Can you tell me more about what you do after the working day?

Probably, what most parents do when they get home: Cooking, helping the kids with homework, hanging up the laundry, etc.

What are your plans for the future?

I'm not someone who thinks too much about the future. There is so much going on right now that keeps me busy. Sports holidays are coming up, and I look forward to exploring nature with my snowshoes.

Khaoula Ettarfi