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Found their work-life balance in thesis office

They get together, so they can get away from it all. Sharing an office space can be the best way to concentrate, this reporter found

The first thing you notice when stepping into the Edison’s Friends thesis office, is the silence. Every footstep thunders, and placing your cup of coffee down on your table is deafening.

This was a marked change from the newsroom your reporter is used to, where the chatter is constant, only interrupted by ringing telephones.

“Is it always this quiet?” I ask. “Or are you intimidated by the fact that there’s a reporter present?”

Showers in the gym

“Oh. This is the loud room — we’re probably more chatty than anyone else.”, laughs Katja, a student at Copenhagen Business School (CBS). She is working in a relatively small room — there are only three desks.

This makes it easy to figure out everyone’s level of noise tolerance, she says.

Edisons venner, or Edison’s friends in English, is a ‘thesis office’ — a specialekontor in Danish – a place where students writing their theses can find peace, quiet, and some balance between solitude and companionship, while writing their Master’s theses.

There are a number of desks, four rooms, along with wifi, coffee, peace, quiet, and a small hive of students, all writing, and going through various stages of mania or depression, depending on whether their thesis is currently in a rut.

“For about a month, this chair is the place where I’ve been sleeping. I shower in my nearby gym”, Katja quips.

No lugging books

So, why not just write your thesis at home? What difference does sitting in an office make?

“The difference is that here, it actually happens. At home, no work gets done”, says Anne, an educational sociology student from Aarhus university, who is currently studying in Copenhagen.

“It can’t do it at home. It cannot be done — it’s impossible. Home is only good for guilt-driven last minute work”, says Widad, another CBS student, studying international marketing and management.

“I could potentially work from the CBS campus. There are great facilities, but there’s something to be said about having your own space. I don’t have to lug all my books around, and my desk is exactly as I left it the previous evening”.

Social constructivism headache

Desks are allocated by seniority. Those who have been in the office longest, get the first pick of the desks of students who have moved out. Some prefer the smaller rooms, others the ones closest to the exit, some close to the window, and others away from it.

“I picked my desk because it’s facing a wall — that way nobody can look at my screen, and tell how much time I’m spending on Facebook instead of writing”, Katja says.

The fellowship created by bringing together students brings many benefits — it’s not only a question of sharing the burden of writing and having a sympathetic ear in times of trouble.

“We are a pretty disparate bunch — there are RUC people [Roskilde University, ed.], there are CBS people, there are UCPH people — but there is still a lot of overlap. At one point I had problems with social constructivism, and some of the other social scientists, stepped in, and in an hour, they gave me enough to continue writing”, another student says.

There is work, then there is life

Sara, who is taking the development studies programme at Roskilde University, says she would feel pressed to work at home, with her two children.

“It can get quite lonely at home”, she remarks.

For everyone, it is about work-life balance, or in this case, separation.

“It’s nice to have others doing the same thing as you. My apartment is a single room, which I share with my girlfriend. You start to feel cramped pretty fast. For both our sakes, I needed to write my thesis somewhere else”, says Torben who studies political science in Aarhus University.

“It is nice to have a certain work-life separation. This feels more like a job. I show up in the morning, and leave in the afternoon.” Torben says.

Then he adds. “And I normally manage not to think about my thesis anymore”.

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