'We live in splendid isolation’

| Jelle Posthuma

Our daily rhythm is temporarily disrupted. No more walks, bike rides or car rides to the campus. We are working from home. We call in instead of meeting face to face. How do you like your improvised home office and what tips can we share? Heather Willson, English teacher at the UT, gives her view on the situation.

How are you adjusting?

‘Actually, I really like working from home. And that’s not just positive thinking. I love my home office. In the normal situation, the commute to work was always quite exhausting. It takes one and a half hour with all the traffic jams. That’s really a waste of my time, I think. Another reason why I love working from home is my old dog. It's better to be at home for him. However, I do miss the campus. I get energy from my colleagues, from the face-to-face contact. In the end it’s all about variety. A 60-40 percent division between my home office and campus would be a perfect blend for me.’

What does your working space look like now?

‘We recently completed a side extension to our house, where my home office is located. Just in time for the corona crisis, you might say. It’s my own spot, with all my books and other stuff that I need. There’s one rule in the home office: no YouTube or social media. I come here to be productive or creative. If I need a break, or just some junk for the mind, I go somewhere else.’

How do you like online education?

‘Well, there are some tech frustrations. Everything, really everything, takes much longer if you want to convert it to an online environment. I haven’t found the magic yet in that respect. It’s trial and error. The interaction is also completely different. In a big group it feels as if you’re talking to a wall. With small classes two things are different: the timing and the way you can respond to questions. I just don’t feel quick enough in an online environment. I miss the spontaneity. Normally, I will respond to a facial reaction with humor or something else. But hey, I’m not complaining. I try to look at it with detached amusement. If we preserve, something good is going to come from all this. After the lockdown our education will be a blended model of online and physical education. At least, that’s what I expect it to be.’

Have you found a daily routine?

‘Not really. I know I should, but my routines are just very organic. I’m not a linear worker. I let it happen. Some physical routines are important, though. We live near the woods and I regularly take a walk in the area. We also have a crosstrainer and a trampoline that I use – very retro, I know. After my working hours I like to cook. No more screen time for a while. Not that I’m a cook. I do it really slowly with some nice jazz in the background. Maybe it’s a personal thing, but I get really anxious when I turn off my screen after work. My head is still racing. The feeling that you’re alone in your head is really scary. That’s why I want to do something practical with my hands after my working hours. It’s just comforting.’

What about the housemates?

‘Normally it’s my husband and our cat and dog. But during the corona crisis, my kids, both in their twenties and studying in Delft and Amsterdam, are also at home. They should go out and live their lives, but I must say it’s a guilty pleasure for me. I really like having them here. Though I don’t want to sound tone deaf to this world crisis. That’s the thing – we live in splendid isolation here. Everything is ok. My family in Australia is also doing well. We are in contact more often than usual, actually. It’s a strange paradox. The anxiety seems to brings us closer together.’