Working from home: Socially distanced life in the Netherlands

Being in the lucky position of working from home, the past few weeks has given me the opportunity to do my part in the fight against COVID-19 by staying at home as much as possible to help flatten the curve. However, finding a new ‘normal’ has been challenging, as the fine line between work and home has been blurred. Practice makes perfect, and here is how I have divided my day so far.

Daily schedule

06:35 – Wake up

Keeping to my usual wake up time has been key to ensuring a sense of normality. Without the need to commute, I found myself with additional time in the morning to set goals (e.g. meals, chores, daily challenges) for the day.

07:15 – Check emails

My main aim is to respond to emails and define work and research objectives. I use the triage method to screen emails, so I know which emails and projects require attention on that day and block the time required within ‘work hours’.

08:15 – Exercise and breakfast

To keep my motivation up for a full day of sitting, I go for a quick run or a work out at home to keep myself on my toes. Afterwards, I sit down with my partner for breakfast together – a nice bonus these days. Breakfast consists of a smoothie (finally putting the blender to good use) and the bread we baked. If time allows, I attempt making a French omelette (one of my goals during the quarantine).

0915 – Morning block for work

This varies from day to day (e.g. following up projects, discussions with clients, meetings, reading up on latest research) but the first hour focuses on the main project of the day and allocating the most time to it.


12:30 – Lunch

Lunch is quite Dutch: bread, salad and spreads. We go through our box of hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) faster than normal now, so we keep an extra-careful eye on it to make sure it doesn’t run out. Prior to heading back to the (home) office, I catch up on the news, check Twitter and emails that need to be answered.

14:00 – Afternoon block for work

Jumping straight into work is not as easy as when working in an external office, so I ease myself back in to work. If the main project is done, I work through my to-do list and make sure not too many loose ends are left at the end of the day.

17:30 – Dinner

To ensure that I drop everything after ‘work hours’, I either step out to do some shopping or begin preparing dinner. When shopping, I find myself picking up extra snacks, as they seem to disappear very quickly these days! Maintaining >1.5m distance while shopping is tricky and manoeuvring through people makes the trip longer than normal. After a good handwashing back at home, I unwind and settle down for dinner and Netflix.

20:00 – Winding down

Using Zoom/Google Hangout, we spend time with friends and family members to see how people are doing and play board games online to pass the time. It is nice to see others in relatively good health in these times and board games provide diversion from our socially distanced life. 

Overcoming challenges in the new workplace

At first, working from home was quite refreshing, as the lack of distraction and extended focus provided the opportunity to work through projects and efficiently respond to emails. However, my initial ardour faltered as the novelty of working from home wore off and new challenges emerged.

Coordinating work remotely has been smooth with Microsoft Teams/Google Hangout bridging the gap for discussions. That said, I felt the loss of effective brainstorming and miscommunication increased as responses became more open to interpretation. Additional considerations have been placed on communications to ensure clarity, mitigate neverending email loops and minimise additional loss of productivity.

As there is no physical barrier to stop myself from working (I cannot really leave my ‘office’), it was hard to define a stopping point – I caught myself answering ‘just one more’ email. The extended focus time on work took its toll on me after a couple weeks, especially on the weekends. I found myself beginning the workday routine as the differences between weekday and weekend blurred.

Whether I will keep this routine (even for a couple days a week) after the pandemic remains to be seen but for now, the new ‘normal’ is here to stay.



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Published: 05 Aug 2020

About the author

Taichi Ochi

Taichi is currently undertaking his PhD at the University of Groningen (the Netherlands), investigating drug-drug-gene interactions of pharmacogenes, with a focus on depression and its comorbidities. In conjunction with his PhD, he coordinates Pint of Science in the Netherlands, a global science communication festival.

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