We are able to return to campus. All coronavirus measures were lifted about a month ago. The repeal of these measures was taken for granted to such an extent that neither the government nor Radboud University spent much time talking about it. Of course, COVID-19 has not gone away, but at the moment it is not as potentially life-threatening as it was some time ago.
The campus is bustling again! It is really wonderful to see students sitting in the sunshine on the grass outside and larger numbers of people at the sports complex, University Restaurant "De Refter", and all buildings again. I felt so lucky: being able to work on campus again and to also enjoy the beautiful weather on a green campus during my break.
When I started in January, “working from home” was the standard, and my daily routine developed quite quickly: I preferred to start with a short walk, a delicious cappuccino, and after that a large number of Zoom meetings would begin — then another walk during lunch, and back to the ritual of the Zoom meetings. At the end of the working day, you’re immediately “at home”: all very efficient. The drawback was that I sometimes continued to work for longer, and it was a given that there was blurring of the lines between “a normal working day” and “a private evening”.
I also missed a lot during the “working from home” period: informally talking to colleagues to consult on something, finding out what people think about a particular topic while at the coffee machine, and at least as important, to “just catch up for the fun of it”. Taking up challenges together, talking it through, the creative process: for me, it really works better if we do this at the office together.
Now, a month after all coronavirus measures were lifted, we have the welcome challenge to properly structure hybrid working: you do the work activities in the location best suited to them, which may be at home or at the office. Of course there are exceptions: hybrid working does not apply to staff members that have to work according to a timetable.
I think that I have found a nice new balance again. It works well for me if I work one — and very occasionally two — days from home: my productivity is high, especially because I do not have a commute. The days that I work at Radboud University are productive in a different way: consulting with each other adds so much more value. Flexibility is essential in this: my agenda and type of activity will determine where I work.
A large majority of staff members would like to work flexibly, like me: sometimes quietly at home, and sometimes intentionally at the office for the connection and social interaction with colleagues and students. Some people work during “normal hours”, others may work an hour earlier or later, interspersed with a good walk or an hour of sports in the sports complex, for example.
I all work at Radboud University in different compositions and in different ways and locations. Hybrid working can only be successful if we make agreements about this together in an open dialogue: let us all make it our new normal!
Agnes Muskens is vice president of Radboud University's Executive Board.