"Before you know it, you'll be stuck on that chair"

Working from home during the corona crisis is slowly becoming our ‘new normal’. We learn to deal with the changed framework and our pitfalls in this situation, find our way in being at home and miss the campus and each other in the meantime like never before. Cursor calls a fellow remote worker every day to find out what’s up. Today: Daniëlle van der Hagen, secretary at the Department of Electrical Engineering.

photo Privécollectie Daniëlle van der Hagen

Cursor's phone call on Friday afternoon appears to be a welcome distraction for Van der Hagen (secretary working for both the Center for Care & Cure Technology Eindhoven and the Cyber-Physical Systems Center). "The walls are closing in on me anyway." The walls of her house in the Eindhoven neighborhood of Blixembosch to be precise, where she spends the days with three teenage girls and her partner Jeroen (who still goes to his work during the day). Her eldest daughter, eighteen years old, is doing an internship in healthcare, the youngest who is fourteen is now working on her school planning from home. Her partner's daughter is supposed to take the VWO (pre-university education) exam this year, "but that’s a hot mess at the moment.”

She has been working from home since Tuesday March 10th. “I was at the office at eight in the morning, but no one came. Apparently an e-mail had been sent the night before, which I missed, urging everyone to stop coming to campus. I came home at half past nine.”

And that was a serious switch. Putting a load of laundry in the dryer or folding it up, having a cup of tea with one of the girls, eating a sandwich at ease; at first she felt guilty about it, Van der Hagen confesses. “In the beginning I kept going and going and going; eight hours straight, trying to get rid of everything like crazy. Initially it was also much busier than now; everything had to be arranged, organized and converted.”

Now, a few weeks later, there is more peace, she says. “I no longer feel guilty if I don't make my eight hours a day. There are also three children around here who need me regularly.” The thank-you e-mail from the Executive Board, in which they emphatically appointed the families who have certain needs as well, definitely helped.

And that was necessary, after her body - that just recovered from a neck hernia - also started to protest. Her initial workplace at the dining table was therefore far from ideal, and not only from an ergonomic point of view. "I would just start a Skype conversation, and meanwhile the oven was opened for a sausage roll."

View of the park

She recently started working in the bedroom, where she set up a desk with a comfortable desk chair and linked a separate keyboard to her laptop. A fine place, she thinks, “very chill with a view of the park, some music in the background”. She can do her work well from home anyway, "I can be reached by phone, people know where to find me, everything is going perfectly." She does miss having her colleagues around, "the cup of coffee and the chit-chat." She now drinks that cup of coffee virtually, especially together with her colleague Noortje, with whom she Skypes three days a week.

She also goes down regularly to check on the girls, “or just to get an apple, or to fill my bottle of water. Otherwise, you just get stuck to that chair and keep going - at work you also move regularly. We are now also much more inside, we stick to the rules quite strictly. My youngest and I are asthmatics and I am also a heart patient. When you hear the stories about the coronavirus, you reconsider.”

Van der Hagen does get out of her house every evening for a walk through the neighborhood, with her partner or a friend. And that is also her most important tip to all other remote workers: "Get out every day, find a piece of forest, a park where you can dodge others a bit, go out into nature."

Read on below the photo.

The secretary has accepted the situation and says she is prepared to work from home for the next four weeks. “Then we have the May holiday; I hope that we can all enjoy that and take some days off; enjoy the children, the garden, a walk. But I really hope to go back to the office after the holidays.”


The most difficult thing at the moment is that the coronavirus has hit the place the oldest daughter does her internship. She works with elderly people with dementia. "When she called, I immediately said: "Babe, I come to get you, you can't go that way." But of course she did not choose healthcare for no reason and she won’t abandon her colleagues. Fortunately, she now mainly does things outdoors, like grocery shopping or getting the mail, those kind of things.”

She is nevertheless somewhat anxious, Van der Hagen confesses - which is very much against her normally cheerful mood: “This time does affect me. I haven't seen my family in a few weeks, and now I can't go with my father if he has an appointment at the hospital. I'm really starting to miss them. I am now sending cards, putting a surprise here and there in the mailbox, a booklet for my nephew and niece. I just want to tell them hi. I am concerned and have a hard time transposing that negative feeling - and I don't like that.”

She continues: “On the one hand, occasionally the kids are really annoying me, but I am also very happy that I have them around. My daughter dances at a fairly high level, every now and then I have to record her dances for her and then I think: "Daan, don't worry". And when Jeroen comes home after work, I am always a lot happier instantly.” Another blessing that she emphatically counts these days: “Finally we eat with the five of us. Normally there is always one who eats at a friend’s place, is playing sports, or whatever. Now we are all together and I really love that.”

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