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EBSdigital: How to not “freak out” in the home office

19 March 2020 | By: Pressestelle EBS Universität
Professor Julia Hartmann at homeoffice

Prof. Dr. Julia Hartmann working from home

“Empowering You in Times of Social Distancing”: How do EBS members deal with the current situation? Prof. Dr. Julia Hartmann gives tips on working from home with your kids around.

Most European countries now face increasingly severe restrictions for social interaction to contain the spread of the virus. The objective is to ensure that health care systems will not break down by the time we will face an inundation with patients who face a severe progression of the disease. A friend called it the ‘zombie virus’ and this probably is what the disease feels like for those patients wrapped in plastic chambers and attended by healthcare personnel who look like astronauts.

The recent developments force more and more people into home office. Many professors have experience in ‘home officing’ as our species enjoys the calamity of home when delving deep into academic papers, data and statistical analyses.

Now, EBS Universität asked if the faculty could share some of this experience and provide recommendations about ‘how not freak out in home office with kids at home as daycare and schools are now shut down for five weeks in Germany’. The question rests on an important assumption: You did not freak out.

To be frank, this is precisely what I did when I heard the news last Friday. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kid. But being at home with a 5-year old has very little to do with ‘home office’ as I am used to it. A 5-year old does not get learning activities from school. A 5-year old has an enormous need for movement. A 5-year old asks for a lot of entertainment. And a 5-year old talks from sunrise to sundown. At least mine does. There is no family nearby. Playgrounds shut down, too. So, how NOT to freak out?!?

I am actually not sure that if I am in the position to give ‘how to’ advice. I mean, I have just two days of experience with this new form of home office. And, unlike others, we have only one kid. But I am happy to share what my husband and I worked out:

  • Share the burden. Both my husband and I work fulltime. Luckily, we both have jobs that allow us to do home office to some extent. Every evening, we go through our calendars and work out who needs which time slots for work the next day. Based on this, we derive how to take turns in taking care of the kid.

  • Get up early (or go to bed late or do both). The time the kid sleeps is the most precious work time.

  • Plan the kid. We know that our kid loves the routine from kindergarten and we use this to our advantage. We are about to establish our own routine which contains elements when we take active care and times when the 5yr old must do something alone. This makes it easier for the kid to accept that there are times when parents need to tend to their work. For instance, we start the day with sports and activity guided by us (much fun for all!), followed by an hour of painting for the kid alone.

  • Do some panic buy. Not for toilet paper, please! Rather, we invested some money into what we know will help us over the next weeks: Mini Lük and a French elastic. Alternatively, how about a jump rope or jojo? Think of something your kids like and that requires some practice. This will keep them entertained.

  • Screen the web. I am sure bloggers such as Cappu Mum will help us with ideas and advice in the time ahead of us.

In that sense: Keep the spirit and stay healthy!

Julia Hartmann is Professor for Sustainable Supply Chain Management at the Operations Department of EBS Business School in Germany. Her research interests include sustainable development, corporate social responsibility, sustainable supply chain management and environmental operations.


In this biggest global pandemic since the Spanish flu, we are all challenged to slow the spread of the coronavirus as much as possible. EBS Universität would like to make its contribution to this and has been offering courses since Monday, 16 March 2020 until further notice completely in the form of interactive video or audio conferences and e-learning, in which students interact directly with their professors, have room for discussion and there is basically no difference to a normal lecture (except presence). In this way, we fully maintain the lectures. These measures enable us to ensure that students can complete their semester or studies on time as planned. The safety and health of the EBS community and all visitors is of utmost importance to EBS University. We have been actively following developments since the first reports of the SARS-Cov-2 based disease in China. So far, there are no confirmed or suspected cases of the disease at our university or in its environment. We continue to consider personal contact with students to be an important part of a successful study program and a successful start: all employees and professors can be reached by phone, e-mail or video call - in the home office or as the last remaining person from the office.

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