Research during the pandemic


Since the middle of March, the waves of COVID-19 have been hitting and suspending various activities including scientific researches. As a result of Dutch government measures and policies against coronavirus, we were obliged to work at home. The severity of this unique situation might have puzzled early stage researchers like me, and prompted several questions, such as “ how should I deal with the current situation?” and “what are the requirements of working at home?”.

My previous experience of the home office was very limited and it was a way to escape the daily grind of office work especially during the time that I had carried out my experiments at the lab. Consequently, my initial thought was that having a separate workspace with a PC, an internet service that meets my need, a workable schedule to stick with, will be quite sufficient to work effectively from home, but the reality appeared to be different. For example, I could not schedule the early days of quarantine precisely and it felt a bit like short holidays as I was enjoying the benefits like flexibility and the lack of daily commute. Therefore, I tried to avoid the most common mistakes during the times of social distancing. By observing low efficiency, I altered my plans quickly. I started to develop useful routines such as writing down precise daily plans by dividing them into more minor tasks with clear short-term milestones. I started working out at home and kept the routine of falling asleep sometime between 10 p.m. and before midnight. More specifically, during my home office, I focused on literature review and writing duties. I performed data analysis and started writing a research article based on the existing data that can be completed after the labs reopen time. Besides, I maintained my social contacts by virtualizing them, or sometimes I dressed, as I would attend my office. I had an active participation at virtual meetings and experienced a three days online workshop of “building bridges in leadership and communication”. I was capable to tackle a tough issue and passed a two hours Dutch language online exam.

Indeed, working from home for an early researcher can be exciting and beneficial, if we are logical about the positive and negative attributes and establish boundaries between work and personal life. Moreover, there are further responsibilities that come with flexibility and freedom such as precis planning, foresight, self-discipline, and focus. Finally, I agree with my website developer friend who is a home-based employee, “it's not easier to work from home; it's just a different location.”












Matin Rostamitabar

ESR4 - Maastricht University