“My four-day workweek turned into a relaxed seven-day workweek”

Working from home during this time of corona crisis has slowly become our new normal. Many of us regret the fact we no longer run into our colleagues and (fellow) students on campus and hear from them how they are doing. That is why Cursor regularly calls a fellow homeworker. Today: Valerie Mackenbach. She is a secretary at General Affairs and likes a bit of commotion now and then.

photo Privécollectie Valerie Mackenbach

Valerie isn’t just a secretary at General Affairs, that wouldn’t be enough for her. She also sits on the board of stEVHen, the organization that supports events by and for students in Eindhoven, and she organizes the inaugural and valedictory lectures for all TU/e departments on behalf of the Office of Doctoral Presentations and Academic Ceremonies. She’s not afraid to take on an extra task, at home as well as at TU/e, and when there’s not much to do, she’ll find something to do.

“I like to work hard and I’m focused and empathetic. A day without commotion is a less successful day to me.” You can’t make Valerie happier than with some fun and diversion. “I enjoy it when people come to see me in my office in Atlas, strike up a conversation or ask me a question. I like my job because I get to work with many different people. That fits my character.”


Valerie lives an active life. Lots of work, much care to give. She and her partner Barbara both work 32 hours a week. They have five (!) college-going children dropping by now and then, she takes care of two dogs, three cats, a field hockey team, and she’s in charge of the bar at Hockey Club Eindhoven. “I also like to go out for drinks on a terrace or to go to a movie with my wife and friends, or I search for the exit in an escape room. I can certainly enjoy reading a book or watching a movie at home, but not for too long, because there’s always work to do at home. Looking at it like that, my work suits me. I’m always busy doing things at TU/e, and at home as well. Variety keeps my work and my homelife interesting.”

No meetings to plan

The corona crisis has seriously impacted Valerie’s life. She sums up: “Because events can no longer take place, there’s much less for me to do at stEHVen. The inaugural and valedictory lectures were postponed until further notice. Many colleagues plan their own meetings. Because we work from home, I don’t chat with people anymore and no one stops by my desks for a talk.” Not having to do all that work was fine with her at first. “The things I found enriching in the beginning, the quietness, having a clear head and no talk about small things, are the things I miss now. The interaction, a wink during a meeting from someone or a look of understanding, gauging what the person sitting opposite you is thinking, feeling whether you’re asking the right questions, I miss all these things terribly by now.” But Valerie wouldn’t be Valerie if she didn’t see the positive side to it: “On the other hand, there’s much more time now to study documents and to carefully follow the direction TU/e wants to go in the future and after Corona.”

But after she’s done studying, there’s more time to fill. “It’s wonderful that I can take the dogs out for longer walks, that there’s no pressure to be on campus on time, and that I can walk downstairs for a cup of coffee with Barbara. What has really changed, is that my four-day workweek changed into a seven-day workweek. I don’t mind that at all. In fact, I like that flexibility. But I wouldn’t mind if things got a little busier…”

Village TU/e

That is why Valerie signed up for TU/e Together. She offers her services on this online demand and supply platform for short-term jobs, and her first assignment is currently being discussed. It concerns offering support for ten hours a week during proctoring of online exams.

“I offer my services because a number of my activities have come to a halt due to corona. I notice that plenty of people work overtime, and it seems only logical to me to help out.” An additional advantage, she says, is that it expands her network. “I learn more from others this way and I get to see more of the village that is TU/e than I usually do. Conversely, others at TU/e are welcome to contact me as well. What I would really like, is to share my ideas on what the new normal will look like once staff members and students are allowed back on campus.”

It seems like Valarie enjoys everything, but that’s not true. “What annoys me is when colleagues leave the sound on at online meetings, or people who always want to talk so that you can’t get a word in edgewise. Especially when it’s about sound I’ll say something about it, and when people don’t stop talking, I also just tell them.”

Her open attitude is something she wishes on others as well. “I don’t care for artificial background settings. Just show people your kitchen. Isn’t it only normal when someone walks by or a child pulls up a chair? I actually really enjoy finding out that even the most businesslike person can be a people person.”

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