Photo: Logan Weaver (Unsplash)

It isn’t about how we can keep working while being at home; it is about how we can keep being happy at home while working.

The beginning of this sanitary crisis coincided with my transition from academia to industry. I got confined while dealing with a new position as consultant and some remaining work to be done in my PhD thesis. Despite I think it is not time to put any extra pressure on ourselves in terms of work, and taking care of ourselves and our beloved ones should be the top priority, I’ve learned that work has actually helped me to get through this whole experience more smoothly. So I think this is not really about how we can we behave at home to be more efficient when working, it is rather about how work (and the way we face it) can make our time at home more liveable. In any way you conceive it (home office, smart working, etc.), the goal isn’t to keep up with work and get stuff done, the goal is rather to feel well with ourselves by accomplishing small things every day, either work-related, study-related or family-related. Without falling into being condescending with ourselves, I now understand that we’ve got to really take life easier, appreciating the small things we have and valuing the small steps we make. As with many other aspect of economic and social life in the world, this whole situation is also an invitation to change or improve the way we do research, by taking a lot less care of publishing/producing and focusing more on impacting/reflecting. It might take more time than what we would prefer, but this crisis will pass; hopefully, learned lessons won’t.

Sergio Manrique, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Reflecting on how the pandemic has shaped the way we early stage academics work, is far from an easy task. To begin with, it depends on many factors. Take, for instance:

  • Whether one is spending the lockdown in a country with more or fewer restrictions – compare Spain with Denmark, or Sweden.
  • Whether one is living alone or with friends/partner/kids.
  • Whether one has proper office space at home.
  • Whether one is at a stage in the thesis writing that demands physical isolation, and concentration.
  • Whether one still has to carry out teaching obligations.

In early March 2020, I decided to move back to Spain and complete the writing of the thesis from there. Shortly after I resettled, the lockdowns started, and the pros and cons of my decision became clear. On the one hand, Spain probably has one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe; outdoor sports like running or cycling are no longer an option. On the other hand, I’m not living alone, and it would have been much harder for me to spend the lockdown without the company of my loved ones. In addition, I have enough personal space to do my job, which these days has mostly been about publishing thesis papers in journals and in the RUNIN Working Paper Series, and getting the thesis papers and introduction ready for submission.

Importantly, I am at the last stage of the thesis work. Would the situation have looked different if I still had to gather fieldwork data? Thanks to tools such as Skype or Google Duo, it is possible to carry out interviews and meet with one’s supervisor. Most academic and grey literature is available through online repositories. What would probably be missing is the tacit knowledge that doesn’t get so easily communicated through online calls, text messages or e-mails – and that is a key ingredient in many academic breakthroughs!

David Fernandez Guerrero, Aalborg University