Many colleagues are currently working in their home offices, exchanging information by telephone or video conferencing. Nevertheless, we still lack the opportunity to meet other colleagues simply in the hallway or in the kitchen. That’s why we are shifting “hallway conversations” to the digital. Today we present Rutger Schlatmann, director of PVcomB at HZB.

What are you working on ?

At the moment I am managing two institutes at the same time: the PVcomB competence center and the Institute for Silicon Photovoltaics. I coordinate the new structuring in Kekuléstraße (laboratories, offices, implementations etc.). These tasks have not changed, however I have more administrative work than usual.

Which kind of work has increased?

For example, I have to approve or reject many requests for exceptions from colleagues who urgently want to go to the laboratory. In the process, I notice how differently people react to the situation. Some really enjoy home office and others are looking for any good reason to get out. How understandable! But I’m sorry… Lockdown applies to everyone. In principle, I can do almost all tasks from home office, except the personal talks. They will have to wait until we get back to the office. Face to face is still different from Skype. 

How do you use the time you save by not having to travel to work?

Because I don’t record my working hours, I don’t really save time. But since I’m not far from the garden at the moment, I use every opportunity to paint the house or to pull weeds in the garden. Normally I never have time for that.

What is your biggest challenge now?

There aren’t really that many, but due to corona, we feel that Garmin, a large industrial partner based in Taiwan, are actively working there again and are getting a little impatient. But the cooperation is continuing well.

Which advantages do you see in the lockdown?

Since laboratory operations have been shut down almost everywhere, our world records with the tandem solar cells will last longer! On the other hand, we need to continue our research quickly in order to become even better and stay ahead. 

How do you keep in touch with friends and family in the Netherlands?

As always via telephone, Facetime or similar channels. I was at home with my family a few times just before the contact restriction started. Since the borders with Holland are not closed, it gives me the feeling that I could still go there quickly if necessary. Therefore, not much has changed for me.

Do you want to share something with your colleagues?

Yes. In spite of all the circumstances, this time we should enjoy working in the public sector, not having economic pressure and not having to fight for our existence. That’s a great luxury. Nevertheless, I am aware that many colleagues have small children and therefore cannot work as much as usual. I understand this well and try to take the pressure off. Some tasks just have to wait sometimes.

What opportunities do you see in the crisis?

The chance to think about priorities, about what is more or less important to us. But above all, that everyone realizes that science is indispensable for solving the world’s major problems.

What are you most looking forward to when this time is over?

Of course, that I can visit my family and friends to my heart’s content. Or to go to restaurants. Usually I don’t do that so often either, but now I feel that I need to be allowed to…

I currently meet many colleagues digitally. In principle, many things can be handled in this way. Though, I look forward to the spontaneous, random encounters at work. And from Monday, to the knocking at my office door!

The questions were asked by Sophie Spangenberger