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Back to work...almost

These are exceptional times in the world and in Germany. Measures taken to prevent coronavirus from spreading too qickly are bringing public and private life to a near standstill. Returning to work after maternity leave under these circumstanes poses several challenges at once. However, as with every crisis there are chances to be seized in this one as well.


A report by Nina Maria Kohl (Marketing)

Some fundamental questions to start with

Going back to work after your maternity leave is exciting at best. As from now on, you will have to balance work and family life. However, returning to the office in the midst of a pandemic does raise some fundamental questions: Will I be able to return to work at all? Or will I be allowed to work from home even though I do not officially partake in the home office  scheme? Will I even have to extend my maternity leave?

I had these questions on my mind when nurseries closed on the 16th of March. Returning to the office under these circumstances: impossible! However, I was proved wrong by an exceptionally agile University of Cologne gearing up to face the crisis head-on.

The University of Cologne had all the answers

Photo: Nina Maria Kohl

Speaking to my superior on the phone I learned that all employees had been enabled to work from home cutting any red tape and that working from home had even become the norm for the time being.

It seemed as if the University was calling out to its members of staff to #stay home and #embracenewwork.

Within a very short period of time I was set up to work from home, including easy access to the University’s networks, apps for chats and video conferencing and - essential for a mother of two - I was left to arrange my working hours around our family routines. Wow!


I have been working at the University of Cologne since 2010, had witnessed how this institution steeped in tradition has changed over time, among other things by winning the title of a University of Excellence, subsequently implementing  its institutional strategy, building new networks, driving forward internationalisation and so forth. But this kind of agility I encountered in the face of the corona crisis was something new.

Of course, not everything was working perfectly at first, but I was very impressed by the commitment of my colleagues to ensure the University’s basic operations were kept up even in times of crisis. It was an atmosphere of "we are working together" and "we will master this crisis together" that I perceived in every video conference and every telephone call.

Starting work again after my maternity leave was exciting, yes, but above all it was a wonderful experience in very difficult times.