The new nine-to-five: Sanne Dijkstra-Downie

Reading time: 4 minutes
Within the space of a few weeks, the nine-to-five changed completely and we want to know what yours looks like now. Each week we’ll be sharing your new daily routines.

Here Sanne Dijkstra-Downie, Philanthropy Manager for GeoSciences in Development & Alumni, explains a typical day.

7:00am – I am the first in the house to wake up, and stumble downstairs to make a cup of tea. As the water boils, I inspect the tomato and cucumber seedlings that are taking up ever more space in my kitchen. I pull out my laptop and start work at the dining table around 7:30am.

8:15am – Our youngest (just turned five) usually comes down the stairs at this point. He enjoys the quiet mornings too and will happily watch Paw Patrol on the iPad until his sister (seven) gets up.

Sanne sat outside her office shed in the sun.

9:30am – When things get lively, I move to the ‘shed office’ in a corner of the garden, where the temperature by now is a balmy 10 degrees. On video calls it looks like I’m in a sauna, and on sunny afternoons that’s not far wrong – but right now, it is anything but! Luckily we managed to dig out an old fan heater, which is noisy (so can’t be on during calls) but does the job.

I feel very lucky to have this little bolthole though. It must have been constructed decades ago and has certainly seen better days. On the day the lockdown was announced, we cleared out the toys, evicted an army of spiders, repaired the floor and installed some electrics. It’s now a brilliant hide-out where the kids let us work in (relative!) peace.

Sanne's child painting.

Normally, many of my interactions with donors to the University are face to face. We meet over coffee with a scholarship recipient, visit academic colleagues on campus or meet in offices to discuss potential projects. While it is harder to do that remotely, I still have regular video catch-ups with some donors. I find that it works great for people I know well, but less well for first interactions – but we are all learning! I am interested in sustainability and low-carbon alternatives to travel, and it will be very interesting to see if we continue to have more virtual meetings when lockdown ends.

12:45pm – Handover time! My husband and I both normally work four-day weeks, but we now spread our hours out over five days, so that one of us is always on hand for the kids. I relinquish the shed office and go make lunch for everyone. I spend the afternoon ‘supervising’ schoolwork, den building and art creation while eating countless mud ice creams and wondering quite how much mess the kids can make… We normally live hectic lives, and although we all miss our friends, this new routine definitely has its upsides for us as a family. One thing I absolutely don’t miss is the daily commute and frantic rushing for drop-offs and pick-ups.

Sometimes it is inevitable that meetings are scheduled during the afternoon, and like many others we navigate that as best we can. We have a sheet in the kitchen where we both write down any calls that fall within each other’s core hours, so that we can negotiate which meetings take priority. Mostly, that works. If it doesn’t, the grandparents step in, and the kids have become experts at playing Carcassonne with them on an online board game platform, while I try and do a little more work.

3:00pm – It can be hard to find the time to exercise solo right now. Once or twice a week, I am in large meetings where I don’t need to contribute. So instead, I turn off the video and go for a brisk walk down to Wardie Bay, which is ten minutes from our house. My daughter likes to comes along, listening to an audiobook – though we must look incredibly anti-social both with our headphones on!

Sanne and her daughter with headphones on on the beach.

6:30pm – We manage to eat together more often now, which is nice, but I am finding it increasingly difficult to think of interesting dinner options. Our neighbours have chickens so at least we have a steady supply of fresh eggs! After dinner, we sometimes go out in pairs on our bikes along the North Edinburgh cycle network. It’s much quieter at that time, and easier to keep our distance. On our last ride we saw two foxes and even stopped to listen to some incredibly loud birdsong. Everywhere smells wonderfully of wild garlic, and we’re so lucky to have these havens of nature on our doorstep.

A child riding a bike along a cycle path.

9:00pm – The kids are in bed and we tidy (!) up. I sometimes catch up with a colleague over a drink, or look for some light relief on one of the WhatsApp groups. Occasionally, I have work calls with people in different time zones. One of my projects was due to launch last month but sadly we had to cancel all in-person meetings and events. Some of the meetings are now taking place online, and the other day we managed a call with participants in the UK, the US and the South Pacific. Although the timing was rather later, at least the carbon footprint was negligible!

What does your new nine-to-five look like? Share it with us at