working at home corona crisis

Work-related tips for corona times by Marc van Veldhoven

Tips 3 min. Corine Schouten

For alumnus and Professor of Work, Health & Wellbeing Marc van Veldhoven, the corona crisis does not mean less work. On the contrary, teaching and research continue as usual, albeit in different ways, remotely, and everybody is bombarded with online working tips. But what does Van Veldhoven think is important?

The expertise of occupational psychologist Marc van Veldhoven covers a whole range of subjects, the core of which is how people can achieve effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction at work. This can involve the organization of work, stress, changes at work, ‘smart working’, or the use of information technology. Where tips for working from home are concerned, Van Veldhoven does not believe in ‘one size fits all’: in this crisis, people work in complete different situations. Nevertheless, he can instantly name five sound pieces of advice.

TIP 1. Be sympathetic to IT staff

We should treasure them

“In a matter of weeks, the universities and other educational institutions had to redirect all kinds of processes from offline to online. We rely heavily on our IT units. They need to scale up systems, train people, test applications, and do a lot of trouble shooting. I wonder whether we sufficiently appreciate what they are doing. We should treasure our IT staff. As a university, we would be almost completely lost without them at the moment. As we would in this crisis without all those other people in key professions, of course.”

TIP 2. Try to garner general lessons, but remember the specific situation we are in

Situations may be totally different

“We can try to garner lessons from the literature or from practice for the current crisis. But it is also important to bear in mind that situations may be totally different. This crisis situation is hard to compare with normal circumstances. Working from home for a day before the crisis is totally different from working from home for weeks or even months, whether or not with a partner and/or children. For some professions, switching over to teleworking is relatively easy, but there are also entrepreneurs who are in shock at home with a business on the verge of collapse. Others are fighting hard to save lives. Above all, we need to understand each person's specific situation as triggered by this crisis.”

TIP 3. Create informal contact

Emphasize what you are doing jointly

“Distance working is a challenge for our social systems. Much of what we communicate is informal and is characterized by signals that are lost in remote contact. But they are very important all the same. Especially if an organization is rather disjointed, it is crucial to emphasize what you are doing jointly. Therefore, supervisors would be wise to organize informal meetings. Our Department of Human Resource Studies, for instance, is organizing an online meetup over drinks, which we would otherwise have in the Esplanade Café at the end of the afternoon.”

TIP 4. Be on the alert for conflicts

Distance raises the threshold

“The literature shows that solving conflicts and relational problems at a distance is very difficult. People aren't good at it. Worse still, the distance raises the threshold to take action or clear things up. In this large-scale crisis, it is important to identify conflicts earlier on and to better articulate what is going on.”

TIP 5. Give your home workplace a facelift

This is the time

“One colleague of mine was biking while Skyping, on her new desk bike. That’s a good example of how you can give your home workplace a facelift. Sitting on the couch with your laptop is not a problem, as long as you don’t do it all the time. There has never been a better time to set up a good home office for yourself.”

Thuiswerk poes