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Working through Corona

May 11, 2020

In the past weeks we talked about some of the challenges you face while working in different European countries. That way, we thought, everyone would be ready for their adventurous new career move in 2020. Then, life threw us a curveball and now, a few government speeches later we are all working from home. While technically, your home is not a separate country, you need a guide for that as much as anything. Whether you have a litter of children throwing their toys at you or a friendly neighbour who thinks this is a great time to do some noisy home improvement, without our expert advice you will probably go insane. That’s why we asked some of our employees to share their strategies in navigating their new life as a home office worker. 

Michiel Deinema, Space Recruitment Consultant, ATG Europe HQ 

A good general leads from the front. At least, that’s what the ancient Romans thought and they seemed to have done quite well for give or take a thousand years. So I, your humble blog writer, will go first. A big influence on your ability to work from home is your familial situation. For me, it’s one girlfriend, one 10 month old son and a few stuffed animals. As my girlfriend works in an industry deemed vital, she is out of the house for most of the week, leaving me with the stuffed animals and a 10 month old boy constantly screaming for attention and sustenance. 

Having established the situation, I have gradually implemented some strategies for not going completely insane. One of them, is to try and keep things organized, so I will organize these strategies in a comprehensive list with bullet points: 

  • Get out of bed. Seriously, sending e-mails in your pyjamas is totally possible (I tried, it’s true), but keeping the routine of setting an alarm, waking up slightly too early, dragging your tired body into the shower and revitalize will help your mind start up. At least, it does for me. 
  • Create some office space. Personally, I can’t really lock myself in room where my son cannot find me. He’s only zero years old after all and I have to gently remind him to not drink any of our shoe polish or eat the wall socket. Still, sitting at a desk, with your necessities neatly organized around you is better than sitting on your couch, surrounded by toys in front of the TV. 
  • Plan in some downtime. When you’re home, it’s easy to fall into a routine of doing a little work, then do some dishes for a few minutes, do a bit more work, then do another chore around the house. At least, it’s easy to fall into this routine if you’re me. A much more efficient schedule is to have clearly defined blocks of work and non-work periods. For instance, I still have lunch at 12:30, just as I do, when I’m in the office. It helps me clear my mind and recharge for another session in the afternoon.

Samo Simonian, Manager ATG EngineeringLab 

Let’s start with the home situation. Samo lives with his girlfriend, but luckily for them, there are no children around to drive them insane. Samo’s girlfriend still goes to the office, so he is alone in the house. Known around the office as a healthy guy, it comes as no surprise that his tips are focused on trying to not integrate fully with your couch or chair, but actually moving around a bit: 

  • Get out of bed. Wait a minute, that’s two out of two, this must be a good tip. Take a shower, do some exercises and dress as if going to work. Then, go outside for a ten minute walk as if you’re walking to work. But if I would walk to work, it would take hours I hear you say. Not the point, it’s to help you have a healthy start. 
  • During the day, take short breaks to get in some exercises. This helps keep your metabolism up and prevents stiffness from “office work”. I’m not saying you should bench 300 pounds after every other phone call, just do a few sit-ups, squats, run a lap around your lavish garden if you’re the type of person who owns a lavish garden. Doesn’t matter what you pick, just keep moving. 
  • At the end of the day, do the opposite of your morning ritual. Take of your work clothes. Put on some sweat pants, turn off your phone and stop. It’s easy to get stuck into work when your down time and work time are all in the same place, but it’s important to unwind and try and separate the two.

 

 

Arturo Gonzales Llana, Thermal Engineer OHB 

Of course, not everyone at ATG is lucky enough to have duties that can be done from home. While we pride ourselves on our good benefits, sadly, our employees can usually not afford to build a thermal vacuum test chamber in their homes. This means guys like Arturo don’t really qualify for the office part of “home office”. Still, this doesn’t mean that he just sits on the couch all day. We are ATG Brightest Minds and you don’t attaint one of those without putting in some work: 

  • Starting off, I get up at the same time I usually do when I go to work. Now, as I am a test engineer and work in shifts, these times vary a bit, so I’ve chosen not to pretend I’m working the night shift every day, but get up at a sort of normal office hour instead. 
  • After I have breakfast it’s time to meet up with the colleagues I usually bike to work with (we’re very proud to our integrated consultants who use our native commuting tool, the bicycle) and go and explore the city. This keeps team spirit up and gives us something to do. After I get home, I take a shower, check my work e-mail for updates, then work on my thesis, which, if you look on the bright side, I have quite a lot of time for now. 
  • Lastly, nutrition is exceedingly important to me during this outbreak, so I make sure to eat healthy. I take my time to look for healthy recipes online that I can make with the ingredient in my house and experiment a bit. 

 

Bertilla Sinka, Quality, Process and Data Security Officer 

Last, but most certainly not least, we have Bertilla. As you can see from her long job title, she is very important to our company and of course it’s nice to also get a female perspective on home office. Bertilla’s home situation is the most challenging out of the four, since she has two children one of which has the ability to walk around and cause all sorts of chaos. Luckily Bertilla’s husband works from home as well and, being the modern household (I would’ve said family, but copyright infringement sounds expensive) they are, he helps out with the children just as much as she does. Nonetheless, her quest to remain in possession of her sanity comes with quite a few measures.

  • My kids don’t sleep in, so our day starts around 5:30 with feeding the youngest one (10 months) and doing exercises with the older one (4.5 years). Between 5:30 and 7:00 we have 3 espresso’s (not all of us of course) to create the illusion of being semi well rested or remotely awake, whichever you prefer. At 7:00 our youngest takes a 30 minute nap, which we use to grab a quick shower to further the feeling of being awake. 
  • Our workday starts. I try to work as much as I can, but between the older child running into a wall or the younger one eating the contents of the vacuum cleaner there’s only so much I can do. To counter this, I let him attend most of the meetings and, as such, most big decisions at ESA and NASA now have to be approved by him through a quick shout or grunt. 
  • At 12:00 we make some time for lunch and at 16:00 we all go out for a relaxing walk. Even though we are working from home together, me and my husband can’t really take shifts in caring for the children, since we both have busy schedules with plenty of meetings with people from all over the world. Worst case scenario we use earphones to drown out the shouting, but most of the time we manage to stay awake and sane for most of the day. 

As you can see, we are all working hard to keep our productivity, health and sanity at acceptable levels. It’s a challenge, but luckily, there seems to be a bit of light emerging at the end of this reclusive tunnel. In Spain, people are allowed to go outside and play with their children. In Italy, people can finally enjoy a morning espresso at their favourite place (while keeping with the social distancing measures of course) and our Prime Minister Rutte brought us the news that schools will open again soon, sporting activities can be resumed and, most importantly, we are finally allowed to get our hair cut. So go out there, have something done about that COVID-Caveman look and stay strong. We will get through this and when we do, we will be there to help your career take off into space.