Now that the coronavirus is looming large, working from home is the motto for the vast majority of Schiphol’s workforce. We spoke to four members of our community – Aylene, Michel, Sanne and Melvin – to find out how they are handling things. ‘Start your day as if you were going to work as usual.’
Aylene Visser, intermediary/planner at Skyjob: ‘I am part of a team with four colleagues and we’re all working from home at the moment. I was at the office yesterday, but I’ll be working remotely for the foreseeable future. I commute by public transport and that’s something I’d rather not be doing right now.
Other than that it’s business as usual. All our calls are being forwarded, and we agree among ourselves who does what. In addition to my standard tasks, I’m tackling some overdue maintenance, including some admin that has taken a back seat for a while. We keep in touch by phone and email, but most of our daily consultations take place via the team WhatsApp group. The company also keeps us informed by email.
I think the current situation with the coronavirus is pretty scary and bizarre; you don’t know what’s going to happen in the weeks ahead. Right now we are still allowed to go outside, but perhaps that will change too. All told, it’s a very strange experience. How am I keeping my spirits up? By making sure I’m not alone. I'm working at home together with my boyfriend, and tomorrow I’ll be going to my parents to work there for the day.
My tip for colleagues? Start your day as if you were going to work as usual. I shower, dress and have breakfast before getting down to work. Without that ritual, I think I’d be more inclined to let things slide. It would take longer to get into the day and that makes you less effective.’
Michel van Dijk, project manager with Schiphol Group: ‘I've been working at home for a week now and so far, so good. We work through Skype Teams to stay in touch. I’m accustomed to working from home, but I do miss the personal contact. Interaction is automatically more business-like than it would be at the office, where you can bump into colleagues and strike up a spontaneous conversation.
Sometimes I still work on location. On Wednesday night, there was IT implementation work planned at the airport. For a while it was touch and go as to whether it could go ahead. In the end we were able to proceed, working to strict safety and hygiene protocols. There were about ten of us on site and it all went smoothly.
Currently my wife is working from home too, and we work at the same table for much of the time. She has to take several video calls a day, so we give each other some space – I just grab my laptop and work in another room for a while. Things can be a little hectic sometimes, since the children are around at the start of the week too.
Every day I have a conference call with all the project managers. There are over 35 of us so it’s quite a gathering, but we have a good chairman and the rules are strict. If you have nothing to add to the discussion, you don’t talk. And we all make sure we call in from a quiet room, so we don’t have to put up with domestic background noise, like the sound of someone clearing out the dishwasher.’
Sanne Postma, adaption & change management specialist at Microsoft: ‘At Microsoft, most of the staff are working from home. That’s something we’ve been doing for years. Even before the crisis hit we did much of our work online, not least because one of Microsoft’s goals is to facilitate new ways of working. However, we do make a conscious effort to keep things cheerful, and to stay in touch with each other. We have a virtual check-in a few times a week, where we call each other with the camera on. That helps in terms of really seeing how someone’s doing and what we’re are working on.
It’s a super busy time for us because so many of our customers are suddenly switching to working online. In many cases they already had the software available, but not everyone was using it yet. We have also set up a volunteer community to help as many teachers as possible with technical and practical issues to do with remote teaching through TEAMS. That’s a real morale booster; it feels good to help others in these troubled times.
At the start of the week I was in Sweden and worked online from an island cottage. I had a beautiful view from the study and at breaktime I went for a walk in the countryside. Refreshing your mind like that is something you should definitely try to keep doing. When you’re at the office, you’re not working all the time either. Instead of talking to a colleague at the water cooler, have lunch with your kids at home or go for a walk. And put that in your calendar too, so your colleagues can take it into account.’
Melvin Broekaart, owner of Aircommerce: ‘Virtually all of the companies in the travel retail sector at Schiphol Airport have wound down their operations completely for the time being. There are no new orders coming in and existing orders have been cancelled. Aircommerce has six permanent employees and we are now all working from home. In theory, it’s fine because you have the peace and quiet to focus, but almost everyone in our company has children. Now that the schools are closed, the kids are having to learn at home, so it can be quite a balancing act.
I’m busy taking care of the admin, finalising projects and dealing with all kinds of declarations. In addition, we have been working for some time on a new application to optimise digital support for travellers. Until recently, that had been on the back burner, but now we are able to devote a lot more of our time and energy to it. That’s the positive side of this situation: it’s accelerating our work on the future of our company.
One thing is certain: the world will change as a result of all this. At the same time I am seeing signs of genuine solidarity; after all, we’re all in the same boat. I encourage my colleagues to do something fun every day. Appreciating the small things can make all the difference. As a family – me, my wife, three children and a dog – we now have the chance to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together. If you take a moment to focus on the positives, life becomes that little bit more enjoyable for everyone.’