Experiences of working from home during the Covid-19 lockdown

Shortly after the third annual network meeting of the IMforFUTURE network, an unimaginable scenario happened: uncontrollable spreading of the new virus led to the complete lockdown of the majority of European countries. At the moment of the lockdown, our ESRs found themselves in different places. Some stayed locked inside their apartment although others managed to return to their home countries while still possible. In either case, they all had to adjust to the new reality. One of the biggest changes in their daily lives was working from home. This was especially hard for ESRs from the wet lab since their experiments were stopped.

Here we share the experiences from four of our ESRs. While all of them have a unique perspective, we are proud to share their success in overcoming this difficult situation and staying productive despite it. Moreover, some even managed to create beautiful memories during the period.

Samira Smajlović

“Ever since the University closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed that home-based working will be a new normal. At the same time, in the heads of wet lab researchers there was a question about what are we going to do and how to switch from ‘wet lab’ to ‘web lab now’? Very soon we realized that things do not have to be that bad and, as in everything else, there are pros and cons which we were all about to face and deal with.

Although being an extrovert and sure that I will suffer from lack of socialization, I was never bored and the whole thing made me even busier than I thought. It allowed me to spend more time with my loved ones which I am especially grateful for, if I can say it like that, since I got married during the outbreak of the pandemic.

Twitter postWhat I found very important in these challenging times when there were almost only COVID-19  related news on all media was to take a good rest to be able to stay happy and motivated.

A good sleep, a cup of coffee in the morning and a good breakfast were enough to successfully start my day and lead me all the way to my homework station: a spacious table and a comfy chair which my new family got me to make the things easiest possible. While mentioning food, cooking and baking are not that different from following a new lab protocol which is why I have never weighted more than I do now.

Although missing pipetting, cell culture and Western blots, flexible schedule and no office distractions enabled me to take some more time for things which I am usually lacking time for, such as: polishing my CV, reading the literature, updating my lab notebook and creating a plan for action once back in the lab.

As sudden and challenging as it can be, if COVID-19 pandemic taught me one thing it is that I realized that we should all sometimes slow down and let our minds wander for Eureka moments which actually do happen like that.”

Iva Budimir

“Even though a laptop with a good internet connection is the only piece of equipment I need for my daily work, the COVID-19 pandemic had a great impact on me. On 9 March when the government of Italy imposed a quarantine, I was in my apartment in Bologna. For the next two and a half months, I was alone in my apartment dreaming of some more normal times. Following the instructions from the government, I was leaving my apartment only once a week to buy groceries. After a few weeks, I got my little routine which besides the work included cooking, exercising and a lot of Skype meetings. For example, every day at 4 P.M., I was waiting with a cup of coffee for a few sun rays on my window since this was the only opportunity to get some vitamin D.

There were some days when it was very hard to focus on work, but I had support from my supervisors which helped a lot. We had regular Skype meetings and continued all activities online. When the government-imposed restrictions relaxed a bit, life became easier. I still missed working in the office partly because my home office wasn’t very comfortable workspace and partly because I missed working with my colleagues.

In early July I went back to my home country (Croatia) and I am currently still here. Now I get to meet my family and friends and even go to the beach after work. However, if it was possible, I would prefer to go to my office and have a proper workspace.

In the future, when things get back to normal, instead of hating the sound of my alarm I will be grateful that I can enter my office.”

Annah Muli

“I work in the dry lab thus a laptop is sufficient enough to keep work going. I had never imagined that working from home would be a new normal for me. I had travelled home (Kenya) to spend part of my maternity leave when the pandemic was officially declared by the world health organization. The declaration led to the closure of many countries borders (including Kenya, a week before my scheduled return to the UK).  My baby boy (Aiden) will soon be turning 9 months.  Working from home has favoured Aiden as he now gets to spend more time with me. I am a full time mother as well as full time scholar.  Most certainly, I get a lot of help with baby Aiden from my family here which gives me ample time to study. This has created a better work-life balance for me.”

Arianna Landini

Twitter post“As a data analyst, my job and daily work activities were only slightly impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak. Set up the VPN, found a spot in the house with a stable connection and I was good to go!

While travelling was still allowed, I came back to my parents’ place in Parma, Italy. The lockdown period was a bit tough: for nearly 2 months, we were not allowed to leave the house if not in case of need (e.g. going to work and groceries shopping). Nevertheless, Covid-19 gave me the opportunity to spend more time with my family and to enjoy the warm Italian spring. I was in a comfortable house, surrounded by my loved ones, and I feel really lucky for this.

I have never been an early morning person, so waking up directly in my office helped me not being (too) late for work! And, as suggested by @jagdishcodes on Twitter, there were also other advantages…”