Organisation - May 14, 2020

Do we even want to be back on campus?

Text:
Tessa Louwerens

Working from home will probably remain the rule until September. So WUR employees will need to keep going at the kitchen table, in the attic or in their study a little longer. Which might be tricky, or it might be nice. Do we even want to go back?

text Tessa Louwerens, Albert Sikkema, Roelof Kleis illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek

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Hilje van der Horst

Assistant professor of Consumption and Healthy Lifestyles

‘I normally work at home two days a week. It is great being able to work in peace and have the house to myself. But now working at home gets disrupted because my partner and kids are there. What I do like is that I’ve developed new routines. In the past I always planned to go on a daily walk but often didn’t get round to it. Now I go jogging at lunchtime. And I don’t have to rush to get food on the table in 20 minutes in the evening because my kid has to get to sports class afterwards. That relaxed pace is nice; I am afraid I will lose these new routines when everything goes back to “normal”. I do miss my co-workers and I find online meetings tiring. I normally don’t have any difficulty seeing a student every half hour all day long, but I can’t manage that on Skype. But I like the fact that our team regularly has online coffee breaks together, with different people turning up each time. I’ve got to know a lot of colleagues much better as a result.’

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Marloes Kraan

Researcher at Wageningen Marine Research

‘Working from home isn’t new for me as I was already doing that one or two days a week. I normally work one day a week in IJmuiden, one day in The Hague and one day in Wageningen. Now that I’m working from home permanently, I have more time as I’m not spending time travelling, which is nice. But it is becoming more difficult than ever to keep my work for the different WUR units separate. My feeling that I’m constantly juggling has only increased, in part because now I’ve got my husband and children “in the workplace” every day. So I’d love to be back to the normal situation. I like alternating going out to work and working from home without my family there. I miss my colleagues and meeting up with fishers, people from the ministry or NGO staff, for example. It is easier to keep up to date when you see and speak to one another. Now you hear less about what’s going on, it is more difficult to coordinate things and you are less likely to intervene or respond to developments.’

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Myrthe Gilbert

Researcher in the Animal Nutrition group

‘Working from home is going better than I expected. I started with my laptop on the kitchen table but that’s changed now. I can do a lot of work online and the chair group keeps in contact via Skype, where we talk about the social aspects too. I always worked on campus before the coronavirus crisis but I think I’ll spend a day working at home more often from now on. However, I still often need to be on campus for my work as I do research with animals. One of my scheduled experiments has been postponed because it was no longer feasible with the coronavirus measures. Fortunately I was able to supervise another experiment online that a PhD candidate was doing. But the basis of my work is still on campus.’

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Fred Albers

Controller in the Plant Sciences Group

‘I have found working from home full-time surprisingly OK. The WUR facilities are fine and as a controller I can easily do all my work at home. But I miss the social contact and the informal meetings. Normally I drop in on colleagues in Radix to discuss issues and how to streamline things. You do that best by chatting to one another, not in a formal email. That is why I used to go to Bleiswijk once every two or three weeks, to show my face and coordinate matters. That was valuable but it isn’t possible now. Even so, I don’t need to go back to campus fulltime; I would be happy to work from home some of the time. I think the Executive Board should change the accommodation plan to have us working from home more. Our financial department already has flexible working practices — a large office with loads of paper is a thing of the past.’

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Clemens Driessen

Assistant professor of Cultural Geography

‘Give me the campus any day. Period six has just started. I have an intensive teaching programme with 40 students who are going to be doing great things. It should be the high point of the year. But it’s different now. You can do a lot online but you don’t get that group feeling, that sense you are creating something together. When you give a lecture, you don’t get the reactions that let you see whether they understand what you just said. It’s tricky. Of course I miss my colleagues too, the chance encounters, meeting new people. I look forward to catching up with people properly. Online is never quite the same. On the other hand, these are fascinating times. We are getting new insights. Students in our Landscape Architecture and Planning studio would always do projects on the Netherlands, but that restriction doesn’t apply online. Now they are doing projects on the thawing permafrost in Siberia, for example. There are a lot of possibilities online that had not been exploited before now, which is interesting.’


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