Back in March, during the first lockdown, we asked a few WUR colleagues to take a snap of their home office and tell us how they were liking working from the kitchen table or the attic. Now, after months of the pandemic and online classes, we phoned the same colleagues again. How are they doing, and how do they feel about working from home now?
‘In the attic’
Carl Timler, Farming Systems Ecology teacher
‘A lot has changed for me. My former study is now my little boy’s bedroom and I work in the attic. My seven-year-old son couldn’t cope with lessons online so he carried on going to school during the lockdown.
There is a silver lining to working at home: I would have made several trips to Ethiopia this year for a project, but they were all cancelled. That left me with more spare time and I managed to finish my PhD in October.
I have also found I have more contact with colleagues overseas because they more often take part in meetings online. Before the second lockdown I worked at the office for a few weeks, and that made such a difference! I can’t wait till we can see each other face-to-face again. Even if it’s only for one or two days a week.’
‘A small world’
Inge Ruisch, Communication, Philosophy and Technology secretary
‘I haven’t worked from home since June. I couldn’t cope with it; I got depressed. I’m not married and don’t have children, and my world became so small. Literally even, because I don’t have a separate study and my house is dark. The reason I took this job was because I so enjoy contact with students, and that disappeared. Instead, I was staring at a computer screen for 36 hours a week…
When my car had to go into the garage, I worked at the office for a morning and it made me so happy that I asked if I could come into the office more often. Eventually I started to enjoy life again, but it’s different now with the second lockdown and the time of year. And my job is busier than ever because I’m standing in for a colleague. But I try to count my blessings – imagine getting Covid if you live in a poor neighbourhood in Kenya.’
‘I miss the chats’
Klaas Metselaar, Soil Physics and Land Management teacher
‘I’ve been working from home since March because I am a carer and I don’t want to take any risks of getting infected. My attic is still my office, except in the summer months when it got too hot. That’s when you realize what a luxury a workplace with a constant temperature is. I have noticed that work and private life are more intertwined, and that freedom is nice but it’s tiring too, because you never switch off work. There are more signs of strain now and we could do with a holiday since we couldn’t go away in the summer because of our carer role.
I miss the informal chats with students, and video calling takes a lot of my energy. I’m now working on making a podcast for a field trip by bike – it’s nice to get some experience of new ways of teaching. When period 5 starts, soon, we will have been teaching online for a whole year, and we won’t have the extra work of making videos anymore. That will be less hectic.’
Irene Koomen, Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation
‘The world has shrunk considerably. I used to travel a lot to our projects abroad and that’s gone completely. I am curious to see what the new normal will be like – with less travel. In the past year I’ve had more consultation with our Ethiopian partners than I did before, thanks to Zoom and Skype, and our relationship has been strengthened. But that’s only possible if you know each other from the start.
The endless Zoom and Skype meetings take a lot of energy, but I’m learning to deal with them better, making shorter appointments and planning in breaks. I take more walks around the block than I used to. I dislike sitting still even more than sitting at the computer.
And I miss the interaction with students – you don’t get to know students and their world as well online. On the other hand, I worked in the vegetable garden a lot this summer. When I can travel again, I’ll go to Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya to discuss follow-up projects.’ AS
‘Into the lab’
Wim van der Poel, research leader at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research
‘I found the first lockdown heavy going. Working online wasn’t easy, and sometimes I was in meetings all day. They are more tiring online, and I missed the contact with people. Various things have changed now at home. My eldest son lived with us for a while because he had lost his job. But he’s moved out again now and has even found a new job in times of Covid. The past few months have been very hectic in the lab: we were busy with coronavirus testing and then with the avian flu. So I’ve been into the lab every day. I much prefer that, because I have more of a sense of what we are working towards.’