Work experience

Working at Catalyze during COVID-19

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. The employees of Catalyze won’t tell you anything different. The coronavirus turned our lives upside down and also impacted the way we work everyday. As we have already been working from home for the last 8 months, we wanted to know how our colleagues are holding up with with this new working situation. Sedef Iskit gives us a little snippet of how she experienced working from home during COVID-19.

Experience from working 100% at home

It was 11 March 2020, right after a long weekend of skiing in Austria with nearly 30 colleagues (one of the many reasons Catalyze is an awesome place to work at), our office decided that we all should start working from home. We all probably thought it was for a week or two. I sure did.

I packed up my laptop, but optimistically left my second screen on my desk. At the beginning of the following week, it was clear that we would not be returning to the office anytime soon. The management team sent several messages encouraging us to pick up from the office anything that would help us set up a working spot in our houses. So I went back to collect my keyboard, my second screen, my laptop platform, and my office chair. Now my new office was half of our dining table in the living room. Since I moved out of the flat I used to live in during my PhD, I had not felt the need to reserve an office area at home.

Working 100% from home, as comfortable as it may sound at first, has its difficulties. I felt many unexpectedly invasive elements appearing in daily life. My partner’s computer station was also in the living room and he was used to being alone in the mornings before his work. He would play music and tap along while reading the morning news. Well, that could not be happening anymore of course, but habits do not change in a day. The middle ground was occasional tapping to the rhythm of the music leaking as unpleasant noise from his headphones. Then, PostNL would ring the bell every single day at the most inconvenient time. Also, the effort to maintain the house tripled due to both of us “living” at home at all times. I can imagine that the list goes on for others with larger families.

Despite these major changes, work had to go on. And it was even busier than ever with all the urgent COVID-19 projects. It was such a thrill hearing first hand about so many groundbreaking ideas from ambitious scientists and innovators! We had the unique opportunity to be a part of the projects that will protect us from this virus with unpredictable consequences.

Catalyze helped us stay engaged

As I am writing this article on December 14, I am still working from home. I now have a dedicated office room. The COVID-19 proposal wave has passed and we are moving forward at our normal pace. Frequent video calls with team members replaced our daily coffee corner and lunch conversations, but we are not even talking about it anymore. It feels like this has always been so. But I am afraid we lost touch with the rest of our colleagues since we do not run into each other anymore.

Yet, for me this has been pretty much a seamless transition. That’s why I think our management team must have been working very hard this entire time. Some of the things Catalyze has done to keep us engaged and help us continue feeling that we still are part of a well-functioning whole are:

  • Bi-weekly social video calls with randomly composed groups of 5-6 colleagues
  • Sending treats to our homes every 5-6 weeks
  • Continuing the internal trainings and encouraging external trainings.
  • Reorganizing the offices so that we could safely use them on the days allocated to our teams (even though this could be practiced only for two months before the second wave got out of hand)
  • Arranging bi-weekly unwind events online (last week it was bingo!)
  • Orchestrating a meticulously planned physical Christmas event (of course, with small groups and strict time slots, over two days, but I am looking forward to it nonetheless!) – unfortunately not all of our colleagues will be able to attend this event, as new, stricter RIVM guidelines are expected to be announced this evening

I appreciate all this effort, and I am one of those people who is entirely comfortable working from home 100% of the time. Still, after 8 months of working from home and having minimal physical interaction with my colleagues, I am looking forward to the next big event where we can be together and have cheerful, loud conversations, and maybe celebrate a tough deadline or another FD Gazelle award.


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