All alone on campus. These TU Delft people cannot work from home

You can hear a pin drop on campus. Not surprising, as everyone is working from home. Aren’t they? These people are still on campus as they cannot do their work from home.

Cleaner Hassan tries to make sure he's not even skipping a millimeter during cleaning

Cleaners are even more crucial than ever during the corona crisis. And cleaner Hassan sees this reflected in his rota. He is now cleaning the TU Delft Library two hours a day instead of twice a week.

He takes out a spray bottle and sprays hard twice on the palm of his hand. “This has extra alcohol for disinfection. Can you smell it in the air?” 

‘Doorknobs are especially important’

Since Covid-19 arrived in the Netherlands, Hassan has made doubly sure that he doesn’t miss even one millimetre. “We cleaners want to make absolutely sure that the staff that are still on campus are extra protected. Doorknobs are especially important as everyone touches them.”

It’s extremely quiet, this abandoned campus. “It can get boring as I enjoy chatting with people.” But it also has its advantages, he says. “I don’t need to keep asking staff or students if I can come in. That saves a lot of time.” 


Books and rubber gloves
Staff member Henk rips off a plaster from the bright blue desk in the middle of the Library. He carefully repairs a tear in a book that – by all appearances – has gone through a lot. “The book can last a bit longer now,” he says.

Henk and his colleagues prepare the reserved books every morning between 10:00 and 12:00. The students can then come and collect them. “We print out the orders, find the books and put them in this cupboard,” explains Henk, pointing down. “The students have to sign the books out themselves at the moment.”

He is wearing white disposable gloves. “It’s safer,” he says. When books are returned, Henk and his colleagues leave them be for a few days before putting them away, just to make sure that the Covid-19 virus does not spread on the paper.

Last week he and a colleague went through all the reservations in the stockroom. “We wanted to check that there were no old orders lying around. The corona crisis has given us more time to do this sort of work.”

‘We have extra time to check old reservations’

Henk and his team meet on Skype every day at 15:00. “Some colleagues work mostly from home. We then talk about work, but we always talk about how we are faring too.” The corona crisis is a strange and uncertain time.

He has quite a few people with poor health in his social circle. “I hope scientists will find something against Covid-19 quickly so that people with poor health can be helped.”

Pub quiz on Skype 

IT staff member Jeroen has been in the office, sometimes by himself, since the start of the corona crisis. But that doesn’t mean he has nothing to do. On the contrary. “It was really busy at first as almost nothing can be done without IT anymore.”

More people working at home means extra work for his department. “We are helping upscale online teaching, but also helping with other things like securing the buildings. We needed a lot more card readers.”

‘I still have that ‘out and home’ feeling’

It is an unpredictable and tense time. “The reason behind all this is not good. I try to push it to the back of my mind as much as I can.”

Not only his work, but his contact with his colleagues too, has changed. He talks to them virtually more than he does at one and a half metres distance. “We start our day with a Skype meeting with all the teams. During the first few online meetings you heard some people who had their hands full with their children, or who were going crazy because of having to be at home all the time. We recently did a pub quiz for the first time together. If we don’t do something fun once in a while, the situation would only be upsetting.”

Had he rather have worked from home? Not especially. “I enjoy the quiet here. You can get the job done more easily. And I also still have that ‘out and home’ feeling.” One of his colleagues drops by every now and then to have a chat at a safe one and a half metre distance. “At least you then see people other than just your family.”

Moniek maakte deze foto van haar werkplek.

Final year exam pupils’ questions
Mechanical Engineering student Moniek works in the Library one day a week for TU Delft’s Online Service Team. It is quieter than usual in her department. “At this time of year it would normally be enormously busy with questions about registering for master’s courses, for example. But now the telephone hardly rings at all.”

‘Normally the UB is bursting with students’

Shortly after the corona regulations were introduced, Moniek and her team were mostly asked if TU Delft would also carry out research into masks. “And particularly questions about current research into masks.” Either that or it was a school pupil who phoned. It was announced last week that pupils in the last year of secondary school do not need to do final exams this year. “Final exam pupils told us that they didn’t have much to do and asked if they could already start preparing for their bachelor’s or start working for courses ahead of time.”

At present, Moniek is working on her own in the Library. The deathly silence there is very strange. “It is exam time so normally the UB is bursting with students. It’s eerie walking down the corridors on your own.”

News editor Annebelle de Bruijn

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