CBMR PhDs and postdocs reflect on the impact of Denmark’s social distancing measures, and what it means for their work, family and social lives
Danes were given little warning before the prime minister introduced stark social distancing measures on March 11 – measures that are now expected to last through until the middle of April.
Immediately after, the University of Copenhagen closed and staff sent to work from home. This includes CBMR researchers, who now have to try and get on with their work without their lab equipment and close contact with their colleagues.
I asked the Center’s PhDs and postdocs to share their experiences and received a range of different responses. The first is postdoc Morten Dall (above) from the Treebak Group.
It’s normally hard enough to balance family life and science, but that feeling has intensified during this situation.
“To be perfectly honest, I struggle with feelings of guilt throughout this situation. We are expected to work full time, but when you have children you have to divide the time between work and them. My wife is a high school teacher and is expected to run remote classes, meaning that we have to divide working time between us. I don’t want my daughter to watch TV all day, so I have to make an effort in activating her somehow. But that takes time away from work. I can’t even imagine how much effort this must be for our colleagues who have to home school on top of their normal work load.”
“There’s so much I’d like to do, participate in the Metabolism in Isolation seminars, learn to code R, catch up on reading. It helps to read Twitter, because I can see a lot of others are in similar situations, but Twitter can also be less helpful as it can make you feel like you are under-performing. It’s just so hard to find the time. It’s normally hard enough to balance family life and science, but that feeling has intensified during this situation.
“I’m lucky I have a basement where I can work in peace, meaning I can be somewhat productive when I can work. However, it’s a rather weird contrast to go back and forth between science, and being cast as the big sister when my daughter wants to play house. It’s feels a bit like groundhog day, and it’s really strange that we do not know how long this will go on for.”
Postdoc Nathalie Krauth from the Clemmensen Group is also trying to find ways to use the time productively.
Working in a goal-oriented manner is way better than just floating around.
“It took me some time to get used to the home office but I am now starting to develop a routine. What helped me was to actually ‘get dressed for work’ and make a designated home office area in the apartment.
“I also made a list of all the things I wanted to achieve and learn. Working in a goal-oriented manner is way better than just floating around. For me the time has been most productive working towards getting better at coding and reading literature in an organized manner while collecting info from articles in different categories of word documents with all the highlights and most important figures.”
Given the international travel ban, our international postdocs and PhD students face a long period of uncertainty away from their friends and family. This is the case for PhD student Hermina Jakupovic.
“There are many good things happening, with people coming together to help at-risk groups, sing together, organise free online yoga classes or providing free e-book platforms – there’s lots of positive news from around the globe!”
“This situation makes me frustrated because there are still people who do not take this seriously enough. And I also have no idea when I will be able to see my family, boyfriend and close friends who all live in other countries.
“Thankfully we can socialize over Skype, Instagram or Facebook. I know people are watching Netflix together over a distance and playing online board games with their friends from different apartments. There are other benefit, lots of time to read and learn new skills. There are many good things happening, with people coming together to help at-risk groups, sing together, organise free online yoga classes or providing free e-book platforms – there’s lots of positive news from around the globe!”
The message from the public health authorities is clear: stay home unless you absolutely have to. So how do you remain sociable and in touch with your friends and colleagues? Postdoc Helene Bæk Juul from the Hansen Group shares some ideas.
“I started a daily ‘socialising’ email for the 8th floor. Each day there is a new question or category that people can nominate colleagues for. Previous categories have been ‘most likely to work in PJs’ and ‘most similarity to a mermaid/merman’. It’s a little silly, so I started with the colleagues I already know well, but now there are more than 30 people on the list and many reply daily that they enjoy the socializing and procrastination.
“As a tip, I think many people are unaware of how easy it is to set up meetings in Outlook using Skype for Business. For example, only the meeting organizer needs to have Skype for business, everyone else can join through the web app or by phone, so it also works with collaborators outside of UCPH. Just choose ‘New Skype meeting’ when creating the meeting in Outlook calendar, which creates a unique link to your call and also a unique conference code for participants calling in by phone.”