‘My room felt like a cage sometimes’

| 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? Fardad Maghsoudi Moud, a PhD candidate at ITC, talks about his situation.

How do you like the 'new' work situation? 

‘I never used to be productive at home. I already had that back in Iran. I'm easily distracted by my phone or the people around me. However, things are much better now. You get used to this situation, too. Now, I can concentrate in my room. In the beginning I really had to adapt. Sometimes the walls were closing in on me. Especially when I made long days. Your room feels a bit like a cage. Let me put it this way: I now understand how the animals in a zoo feel.'

Where do you work?

‘I work in my room in the ITC hotel. It's a room with a toilet and a balcony. I share the kitchen with other people. There is a study room in the hotel lounge, but I'm not going to work there. That's too busy for me. I just work alone in my room. That's where I can concentrate.'

Do you have regular routines?

‘I try to stick to the ITC rules. We start at nine o'clock in the morning and work until five in the afternoon, but I usually start at half past nine and work until half past seven. I also regularly go outside for some fresh air. That's really important. After a long working day I sometimes feel pain in my back or in my legs. Usually, I make a round in the Volkspark and in the weekend I bike to the Rutbeek with friends to refresh my soul. On Fridays I usually listen to a podcast about Iranian politics during my walk. It's a satirical programme that is recorded in the US. Also, me and my best friend, a PhD in Delft, organize game nights to recharge our batteries. Spending time on reading novel books, learning Dutch, and listening to music are other regular daily routines of mine. And I must say that working from home has elevated my culinary talents to the highest level.’

How’s the situation in Iran?

‘Iran has been hit pretty hard by the virus. Fortunately, my family and my friends are fine. My mother is a hairdresser. I told her how hairdressers in the Netherlands take precautions. By now, in my mother's hairdressing salon, customers have to make reservations and keep their distance. Moreover, she protects her face with a mask. The rest of my family is mostly at home. My father is a professor at a university and my sister is still studying. They do all their work online, just like here in the Netherlands.’

‘Currently, Iran is facing a second wave of the virus outbreak. For economic reasons the country has been 'reopened' again. I also understood that many people don't play by the rules. For instance, I see people organizing parties with more than 20 people, and going on unnecessary trips just for fun. In some respects that's no different in the Netherlands. When I walk to the Albert Heijn, I see many people who don't care much about the rules. In the street I even see people hugging each other. I find that hard to understand.’  

Do you miss the campus (and the ITC Faculty)? 

‘Yeah, absolutely. I was back on campus on Monday for the first time for a course. The floor of the lecture room was taped to keep to keep a distance of 1.5 meters. It felt pretty strange when I cycled across campus. It was completely deserted like a ‘zombieland’. Still, the course was very good for my mental health. I finally had the chance to chat and laugh again. I try to speak to my colleagues as much as possible through the digital channels. We have daily chats, weekly coffee meetings and game nights via social media in our department, but it just feels different. I definitely miss the physical contact with friends, colleagues, teachers and supervisors.’

Working from home may take a while, fun or annoying?

'By now I can live with it. I think it's going to be very strange when we return to our physical workplace. I've probably lost all my social skills. Much more than: ''Hey, how's it going'', won't come out of me. That's going to be a challenge. But let's hope that we can return to our workplaces in good health soon, and that we continue to appreciate the things that we used to take for granted, like hugging, shaking hands and drinking a cup of coffee together.’