#WirBleibenZuhause – Lesenswertes aus dem Homeoffice V

Dr. Helen Gries und Dr. Irene Sibbing-Plantholt erzählen in der fünften Folge unserer Serie über eine neue Wahrnehmung von Zeit und die besondere Qualität sozialer Kontakte im Homeoffice. Außerdem sprechen sie darüber, wie die Coronakrise ihren Blickwinkel auf die eigene Forschung beeinflusst hat und über Effekte, aus denen wir lernen können.

„Ich würde mir wünschen, dass wir die Digitalisierung vorantreiben!“

Dr. Helen Gries, Kuratorin für Mesopotamien am Vorderasiatischen Museum der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Dr. Helen Gries an ihrem neuen Arbeitsplatz direkt vor dem Bücherregal | Foto: © privat

Im Museum habe ich sonst mit originalen Objekten zu tun, arbeite in Archiven und Depots oder sitze in Meetings. Die Wochen vor dem Homeoffice prägten zudem das Umplanen, Verschieben und Absagen von Ausstellungen und Veranstaltungen. Auch wenn ich gerne und häufig zuhause arbeite, waren die ersten Tage im Homeoffice ungewohnt.

Normalerweise haben mein Mann und ich recht unterschiedliche Tagesabläufe und arbeiten nicht beide ganztägig zuhause. So mussten wir uns erst mal in unserer Zweizimmerwohnung arrangieren und eine Routine finden. Um mehr Platz zu schaffen, haben wir nach einigen Tagen unsere Schreibtische umgeräumt (meiner steht jetzt etwas unorthodox vor dem Bücherregal). Ab diesem Zeitpunkt begann für mich eine sehr produktive Zeit und die folgenden drei Wochen vergingen wie im Flug. Langeweile oder Einsamkeit kamen nie auf. Per Mail, Telefon und Online-Konferenz habe ich Kontakt zu Kolleginnen und Kollegen in der ganzen Welt, vielleicht sogar mehr und intensiver als sonst.

Ich empfinde es als großes Privileg, mir die Zeit frei einteilen und so ungestört arbeiten zu können! Jedoch tritt der geringe Digitalisierungsgrad in den Altertumswissenschaften nun umso deutlicher zutage. So sehr ich es bedauere, dass das Vorderasiatische Museum so lange geschlossen ist, so sehe ich in dieser Krise auch eine Chance. Ich würde mir wünschen, dass das Arbeiten im Homeoffice gängige Praxis bleibt, wir die virtuellen Kommunikationsmedien konsequenter nutzen (statt ständig zu reisen) und endlich die Digitalisierung (gerade auch von Museumsbeständen!) vorantreiben!

 

„The current circumstances have thus forced me to think about my research in a unique way“

Dr. Irene Sibbing-Plantholt, Research Associate at the Einstein Center Chronoi, Freie Universität Berlin

New form of interdisciplinary research in times of Corona: Dr. Irene Sibbing-Planholt and her team in the home office | Foto: ©.

Falls ihr auch euer Zeitfgefühl verloren habt: Heute ist Montwoch, der 47. März.”[1] This text embellished one of the many funny memes that were sent to me by friends and family in an attempt to process this challenging time together. Besides toilet paper, a popular topic of corona(SARS-CoV2)-related jokes is the loss of a sense of time and boredom ensued by the lockdown. This particularly speaks to me, as I am a research associate at the Einstein Center Chronoi, a center that researches time and time awareness in the Ancient World. I am tasked to study how people experienced time in ancient Mesopotamia, and my focus is how life time was perceived, especially when confronted with illness and death. Now in the midst of a global pandemic, in self-isolation and mandatory home office, I am subject myself to an unforeseen time experiment that relates to my work: how do I perceive and manage time in times of corona? For me, each day is a confrontation with time: with a “before” and “after”, with “how long” and “when”, with an enduring present, with waiting, and with longing for the past and future. This allows me to think differently about time and brings me closer to the people I study, who may have lived more in the present than I am used to, and who, unlike me, were not dependent on clock-time but on the rhythms of the day and the activities connected to this. Moreover, I normally research responses to the power of disease and the vulnerability and limitations of human life, ranging from emotions to the practice of social distancing, in ancient Mesopotamian sources; now, I experience these responses myself. The current circumstances have thus forced me to think about my research in a unique way.

In the practical reality of home office at times of the corona pandemic, I also noticed that time forms a red thread through the challenges I face – which, I do realize, are only relative compared to those of others. For me, like for many academics, home office itself is not a problem; in fact, home office used to equate valued, productive time, as it meant days of quiet and uninterrupted work. However, mandatory home office comes with a new sense of distorted time. Being at home around the clock and not having normal activities, events and social interactions to structure the day and week, I loose track of the days and dates – something I previously only knew as a pleasant side-effect of vacation, a temporary relief from normal work time, my calendar, and the clock. The blending of time due to the monotonous life I currently live threatens my ability to concentrate and focus, which was already jeopardized by feelings of distress and worry over loved ones. A remedy for this is of course an intentional management of time, keeping a strict schedule and designating a specific time slot for work. Unfortunately, this is what constitutes the second part of my home office challenge: I cannot manage time the way I need, because my child cannot go to Kita. This makes combining a full-time job and motherhood harder than ever. Even though my husband and I try to take shifts, there is no opportunity to ever escape from noise or my duties as a parent in our 75m2 apartment. I have tried to solve this by removing myself to a specific area in the house when I need to work. I gave up my beloved home office space at the well-lit kitchen table and set up a small improvised desk at the foot of our bed. But even when I do find a moment to sit down there to read or write (which not to mention, is severely complicated by the lack of access to the libraries), these boundaries are hard to understand for a little one, so I am continuously interrupted by my son’s imaginary play and games. My colleagues and I have no choice but to accept that he is an integral part of our video conferences..

Nevertheless, we have developed some fruitful strategies to get through the day and make the current home office situation successful. A very welcome relief was offered by the Freie Universität and the Chronoi directors, who have made it possible for me to take 10 days off because of the Kita closing. After this, we established a clear routine and anchor points in the day, which mostly evolve around food. The mornings I spend with my child; between lunch and dinner, as well as after Unser Sandmännchen, I sit down in the bedroom to work. Furthermore, I divide my worktime over seven instead of five days. Also our weekly Chronoi meetings, which allow me to share my thoughts and experiences with my colleagues and Chronoi fellows, are moments that provide structure and keep me grounded and poised about my work. My colleagues at Chronoi and other institutions all over the world are a great support, and I talk to them when I need encouragement or a moment to talk or laugh. And last but not least, I am kind and forgiving to myself. I focus on the successful moments and progress I make. And in the moments that I struggle, I try to either take a break or do something that requires less thought and inspiration, such as database entry or answering emails.

This is undoubtedly a difficult time, and the consequences of this pandemic and the crisis it causes cannot be grasped yet. But there are also good lessons to be learned that may influence our future lives in a positive way. Living in the present and slowing down is a beautiful experience, as is waiting and boredom. They generate creativity, and can help us to turn this adverse time into a fruitful one.

[1] https://mademyday.com/.


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