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Tips and tricks

Tips and tricks for PhD researchers in home office

Working from home in times of corona. For some, this will go smoothly; for some, it may be an intricate puzzle to get things worked out. Now that many of us are working from home, we would like to share some tips with you to help you get up and running as smoothly as possible. The tips are provided by Wageningen University and Research.

> COVID advice from PhD candidates to their supervisors (PDF download)

Tip 1: Keep yourself informed

All SENSE institutes will have their own way to communicate the latest news on the measures against the coronavirus and what effect they have on students, employees and partners of this institute. For instance, WIMEK PhDs can read the daily updates on the intranet and

Tip 2: Use technology

Check IT support of your institute to find out which technologies and tools are at your disposal. An important notice: stay alert for phishing emails. Many criminals take advantage of the unrest and insecurity to attempt to hack into the networks of your institute.

Tip 3: Create a healthy home office environment

Your institute will be unable to offer you health and safety support in your home, so you will have to create a healthy home office environment yourself. Make sure you have sufficient lighting above your workspace. If you have a desk to work at, use this as you would your regular office space. Are you using an office chair? Set the armrests to offer comfortable arm support. Then raise the seat to align the armrests with the tabletop. Place an object under your feet, so that your upper legs are supported horizontally by the seat. Don’t have any of the above? Try to adjust your seat height so that you aren’t forced to raise your shoulders when your lower arms rest on the table. Rest your arms on the table and push your keyboard away from you a little. Keep your back upright and avoid slouching. Avoid typing with stretched arms; this will result in tension in the muscles in your arms, neck and shoulders. The golden rule is to take a five-minute break every thirty minutes, and a ten-minute break every two hours. If possible, use a separate keyboard and place your laptop on a stand (or a pile of books). The top of the screen should be set just slightly below eye-level. Set your screen at the same hight if using a separate screen. Place your screen at approximately an arm’s length away. If you are working on a laptop without a separate keyboard, keep extra vigilant to relax your neck and shoulder muscles and keep your blood circulation going. Set up your home office near a window if you can, keeping the window behind you or beside you. Should the reflection of the light bother you, close the blinds or curtains.

Tip 4: Create a routine and minimise distractions

Set your alarm clock and get up at the same time every day. Get dressed as if you are going to the office. Have repetitive tasks? Do them at a fixed time every day.

If possible, work in a separate room and create an enjoyable (or calm, if that works better for you) atmosphere. Make solid agreements with others that are also home, such as family members, to prevent constant interruptions. Posting a daily schedule on a visible location may help.

Tip 5: Create focus

What do you want to achieve today? Write down your goals, making your minimum daily tasks visible to yourself.

Since no-one can concentrate for a full eight hours, make sure you get sufficient exercise and fresh air. This helps you stay focused. Plan two-hour time-slots in which you can concentrate on your work, followed by a break in which you can get some fresh air on your balcony or in your garden, or do small chores such as feed your cat/dog/hamster, or load the washing machine. Take a walk or cycle during your lunch break if you can.

When working from home, you run the risk of not stopping on time. Make sure you do so that you can start the next day afresh. Don’t forget to keep moving or exercising. Although gyms are now closed, there are abundant options to exercise using apps. Your own sports centre may offer online classes. Many sports instructors are also posting videos online that help children stay in shape.

Tip 6: Stay in touch

Do you miss your daily interaction with colleagues? Set up a regular video call with a colleague or friend. Email or phone each other, use chat groups, Skype (for Business), Whatsapp etc. You can take (virtual) coffee breaks with each other. Keeping in touch is essential!

Extra support

Do you need some extra help? Or do you feel a colleague might need some assistance? Contact him or her and involve your supervisor.

General tips

How best to respond to reviewers

Comments from referees reviewing a paper can sometimes be less than polite, making it tempting for authors to send equally rude replies. But a trio of blog posts emphasizes the importance of professional, constructive responses from authors. The posts, by three ecologists, aim to help researchers to avoid common pitfalls that can lower their chances of publication. See:

Career orientation

Interesting to read

Publication tips

Code of conduct for scientists

Tips for scientific authors

(Social) media tips and tricks

Sharing your tips and tricks

If you have additions that might be interesting to your fellow PhD researchers, please mail your tip to

You are of course also invited to share all sorts of relevant information directly with the SENSE network through our SENSE Facebook page and our SENSE LinkedIn page!

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