News and events Tilburg University

Golden Rules

Published: 12th February 2021 Last updated: 22nd July 2021

The current corona situation demands a lot from all of us, but together we have managed to continue our fine work as best we could. Every employee deserves a huge compliment for that! But the crisis continues and, although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we also see that it is becoming increasingly difficult for many employees. This fact is borne out, among other things, by the results of the second employee survey into work and wellbeing.

Nearly all of us are working from home and our days are filled with computer work and back-to-back Teams or Zoom video calls. We combine our work with home-schooling or taking care of kids or providing informal care. We have the feeling that we are ‘stuck to the PC’, that the boundary between our working and private lives is becoming increasingly blurred and we can feel fatigued as a result. Social contact with colleagues in the office and elsewhere at work is what connects us and can give us energy. Having to do without it is getting more and more difficult.

Although the situation is different for everyone and is experienced differently, all these circumstances can affect our mental and physical wellbeing. Therefore, we need to try and take good care of ourselves and also to look out for each other. This is more important now than ever. It requires a joint effort: from supervisors to look out for team members and from employees to take good care of themselves and to look out for colleagues.

As the Executive Board, Deans, Vice-Deans, and Managing Directors, we have set up some ‘rules of play’ that might help us all to carry on in these unusual circumstances. This really needs the special attention of each one of us! On the Stay connected and healthy website, advice, tips, and support facilities can be found, offered by Tilburg University to help you stay mentally and physically fit. Since the situation is different for all of us, everyone decides what will be most helpful for them personally.

Basically, it is important that we remain positive and connected and look out for one another. That we are constantly aware of the impact that our actions can have on others. As supervisors, we want to set a good example: Leading by doing.

The Executive Board, also on behalf of the Deans,

Wim van de Donk
Jantine Schuit
Paulina Snijders

We take care of you

​​​​​​​Rest and time to replenish are important

This is what we are going to do

We are introducing healthy meeting routines by:

  • making standard meetings shorter: 45 rather than 60 minutes, 25 rather than 30 minutes. This will create more space in diaries and more time for short breaks.
  • not scheduling any meetings during the lunch break (12:00-13:00 hrs.). This will give you time to get away from your computer, take a break, get up, and do something completely different.
  • opting for alternatives to video calls to coordinate matters by using the telephone, sending a Teams message, or agree to meet for a walk to reduce time spent in front of a computer screen.

It is important to have breaks between meetings and during lengthy meetings. What is more, a short meeting is more effective and will give you more energy than a long one. Furthermore, spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen is unhealthy and puts a strain on your eyes. We will liaise with the secretaries’ offices to help introduce these healthy meeting routines.

The pressure to meet will be reduced as follows.

  • No regular and formal meetings will be scheduled during holidays.
    Concretely, we assign a number of weeks per academic year that we keep meeting-free as much as possible. For the 2021/2022 academic year, these are the following periods:

    Meeting-free weeks:
    23 October to 31 October 2021 (autumn holidays*)
    25 December 2021 to 9 January 2022 (Christmas holidays*)
    26 February to 6 March 2022 (spring break*)
    30 April to 8 May 2022 (spring holidays*)
    *These are the holidays of primary and secondary schools.

    Organizational units where work does not lend itself well to meeting-free weeks can decide to choose different meeting-free periods.
  • Options for one meeting-free day in the week will be explored. We will consult with the secretaries’ offices to see if this is feasible.

We value the importance of meetings, but want to remove the pressure of compulsion. Not everybody will be able or willing to clear their diary, but we are aiming for less pressure and more flexibility. It is important that you can make your own choices as an employee, taking into account colleagues who make different choices.

We respect your working time and private time

This is what we are going to do

We reduce the e-mail pressure.

  • No e-mails will be sent after 20:00 hrs. and in weekends, unless this is strictly necessary.
  • Practical tips will be provided on smart use of e-mail (delayed delivery, turning off notifications, etc.).

Within Divisions/Schools, expectations are discussed and agreements made on:

  • availability during and outside office hours, and
  • how to reach colleagues (e-mail, WhatsApp, Teams, etc.), and
  • what would be an acceptable response time.

Working from home gives you more freedom and at the same time also more responsibility. It is important that you are clear about your boundaries and respect those of your colleagues: “no” or “not now” is a legitimate answer. It should also continue to be possible that employees work at a moment that is convenient for them, without causing inconvenience to colleagues.

Attention, contact, and dialogue are essential

We stimulate the dialogue as follows

  • Wherever necessary, we stimulate dialogues on priorities and expectations between employees and supervisors, providing support where necessary and appropriate;
  • Work pressure is regularly put on the agenda: to share experiences and agree on feasible targets and deadlines (what are the things we don’t do, no longer do, or don’t do now).

We find ourselves in an exceptional situation. Working from home offers us new insights and benefits, but also leads to the fact that we may not get the job done the way we used to. The work pressure is high: the constantly changing rules require a lot of flexibility in our work, we have more work, and we need to work much harder. It is therefore essential to make sound agreements about goals, deadlines, expectations, and priorities.

Take care of yourself and look out for each other

​​​​​​​Take a rest, take time to replenish
  • Reduce the scheduled time for your meetings;
  • Do not schedule any meetings during the lunch break (12:00-13:00 hrs.) or during blocked time/other meetings/time off in your colleagues’ diaries;
  • Try to limit the number of online meetings to four in one day (to a maximum of six hours);
  • Opt for alternatives to video calls like the phone, a Teams message, or a walking meeting;
  • Organize time to think and to reflect;
  • Use the time freed up in this way to get away from your computer screen, to take a break, get up, and do something completely different;
  • Take time off and schedule free time, even if you cannot go on a holiday. Time away from your work is important for you to recharge and replenish.
Find a healthy work-life balance
  • Inform your team about your work times;
  • Set your own boundaries and respect those of others;
  • Be assertive: “no” or “not now” is a legitimate answer;
  • Make sure that you are not constantly working or are available all the time;
  • Do not send any e-mails after 20:00 hrs. or in weekends, except if it is strictly necessary and if you have agreed this with your colleague;
  • Please use the practical tips we have suggested for the smart use of e-mail.
Continue the dialogue and stay in contact
  • Set priorities in your work with your supervisor;
  • Enter into a dialogue with your supervisor and your team: what is the work pressure like, how do we feel about it, and what are we going to do about it? Agree on feasible targets and deadlines;
  • Invest in contact: reach out and show interest. Take the time to talk and to ask how a co-worker is really doing;
  • Pay special attention to vulnerable colleagues;
  • Schedule informal moments with your colleagues and supervisor to catch up and – if at all possible – meet face to face;
  • Do you miss contact with colleagues and does the idea of supporting each other as colleagues appeal to you? Try and find a buddy. If you want us to help your find one, please contact us at

Practical tips

  • Do you want to work quietly through the day? Turn off notifications/pop-ups so you don't see every message coming in.
    Click here to find out more
  • Enjoying your day off? Turn on your out-of-office reply. Then it is clear to everyone that you will not be reading your e-mail.
    Click here to find out more
  • If you do not want to be disturbed by incoming e-mails on your phone, set options to snooze notifications with Do Not Disturb. Or get rid of e-mail on your phone altogether.
    Click here to find out more
  • Want to give your colleague a break? Don't send any e-mail when someone has taken time off work or delay the delivery of your message.
    Click here to find out more
  • Send effective e-mails. Be to the point: what is it about (clear subject), what is the core (main focus/point/content) of your request, and what is the deadline (clear conclusion).


And never send any e-mail after 20:00 hrs. or on weekends, unless strictly necessary.