people on campus

Healthy Work Environment

Health and fitness

Our sports and catering offers support the fitness and health of our employees.

Fitness

CampusVital is a joint initiative for the health of employees on the Berlin-Buch campus. In the fitness center, employees can train strength, endurance, coordination and physical fitness.

Offers:

  • Free equipment training
  • Circuit training and foot gymnastics
  • Yoga classes and mindfulness meditation
  • Back fitness and Pilates
  • A professional team of trainers and sports scientists supports the participants of the courses

Campus Vital website

Sports

Who cycles the most? Every year, we compete against other public companies in Berlin in a bicycle competition. It's all about the distances traveled by bike. The kilometers are added up and compared with the other participating companies. We have already won the "mehrwert Berlin-Pokal" several times.

"Wer radelt am meisten" website

Runners from the Max Delbrück Center participate in a wide variety of runs throughout the year. Registration fees are covered by the Society of Friends of the MDC.

Table tennis is available on campus. We also usually participate in the annual table tennis company cup.

Health

All employees have the opportunity to take part in a company medical checkup. The preventive medical checkup is performed by the company physician.

Food and drink

Catering offers on the Berlin-Buch campus include a canteen, a restaurant, cafés as well as food trucks. 

Information about gastronomy on the Buch Campus

In the MDC-BIMSB building at the Berlin-Mitte site, there is a cafeteria serving hot and cold meals.

Public Transport, Bicycle, Cars

The Max Delbrück Center supports the mobility of its employees by various means of transport. Awarded: Campus Buch was certified as a "bicycle-friendly employer".

Job ticket

The Max Delbrück Center is offering a discounted ticket for public transport in Berlin for its employees.

This allows them to benefit from the convenient location of the sites: A bus connects the Buch campus with the nearby S-Bahn station, and there are other bus lines in the immediate vicinity. The MDC-BIMSB site is located in the center of Berlin. Various buses, streetcars, subways and S-Bahns can be used here.

Bicycles, scooters and cars

In Berlin, various companies offer bicycles, e-scooters and cars for short-term rental. On the Buch Campus, there are also several rental stations as well as a bicycle workshop.

The Berlin-Buch Campus was the first science and biotech park in Germany to receive the coveted silver "Bicycle-friendly Employer" seal from the German Bicycle Club (ADFC).

Bereit zur Fahrt: Fahrräder und Scooter an einer Leihstation auf dem Campus Berlin-Buch.

Employees can rent a parking space for a monthly fee. Parking spaces for disabled persons can be used free of charge by eligible individuals. Visitors and guests can use the parking spaces for up to three hours free of charge. 

Working flexibly

We offer flexitime, mobile working, part-time and sabbaticals.

Our employees can work with flexible working hours in the flexitime model. A daily core time of 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. is established for all our staff. Joint work discussions or meetings should take place during this time.

Two days a week, all employees can also work remotely if their work allows them to do so.

Family-friendliness also includes our offers to work part-time. Sabbaticals are also possible.

Mental health

We support and raise awareness on the topic of mental health.

Psychosocial counseling

Our employees have access to various counseling services.

Let’s talk about mental health

The following texts are an initiative of the PhD representatives at the Max Delbrück Center.

Our mental health fluctuates as our life changes. We all have times when we feel down, stressed, or angry, and most times these feelings pass. But sometimes, they develop into complex mental health problems.

Getting definitions straight

 

Distress occurs when we cannot cope with chronic stress in a positive way. This “can result in serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system”, according to the American Psychology Association. Distress can be the start of a mental illness, like depression. Depression is, according to the World Health Organisation, “a common mental disorder characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities for at least 2 weeks”. Depression is an extremely serious disease resulting in a chemical imbalance in the brain, that can prevent joy and lead to isolation, affect relationships and social interactions. Even though it is a psychiatric disease, depression is as serious and real as a physical illness such as cancer or hepatitis.

How do mental health problems affect us?

 

Mental health problems can manifest in many different symptoms and signs. If our feelings or thoughts stop us from living our life normally, have a big impact on those around us, or affect our mood over a long period of time, we should see these as red flags.

Warning signs

 

  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Emotional numbness, feeling absent-minded
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased drug and/or alcohol consumption
  • Feelings of guilt, grief, or worthlessness
  • Isolation, avoiding friends and colleagues
  • Feeling like everything we try to do is exhausting
  • Becoming thin-skinned
  • Experiencing difficulty in focusing, making unusual mistakes at work
  • Experiencing difficulty motivating ourselves and keeping plans
  • Looking dishevelled
  • Joking about suicide

These warning signs are just indications- always seek the help of specialists to understand your mental health status.

Knowing your mental health status

 

The best way to find out about your mental health status is by consulting a doctor or a psychologist. If you are reluctant to go straight to a specialist but think you might be having mental health issues, you can try The Goldberg test as a first indication. It is a resource used by professionals and measures the severity of depression.

Support each other

 

Talking about mental health can be scary, but talking often helps and can mean a lot to the person having a difficult time. If you are worried about someone’s mental health state, start by approaching this person in a warm, authentic way, giving them time to realise you care. Devote full attention and listen actively.

Further information on this topic

 

Read 7 reasons why we get stressed during our PhD, which explores the reasons why PhD students find themselves stressed, and the importance of acknowledging mental health issues.

Take a look at our article Feeling overwhelmed by academia? You are not alone. It summarises advice from several researchers on how to maintain good mental health in the hyper-competitive environment of science.

Or take a look at the Downloadable poster guide: Mental Health During Your PhD

Further information

What to do if we can't cope on our own?

Sometimes our life needs some structure to help us manage the stress of a huge project without clear goals. There are so many creative ideas such as inclusion of routines, going to stress reduction courses, practice meditation, as well as regularly seeing a therapist or a life coach. Some of these ideas can improve your life tremendously. However, what works for some does not work for others, that’s why I encourage you to find your way, you can start by the resources below.

Resources online

 

There are many resources online that can help us manage mental health and improve wellbeing. The charity “Mind” has a wide range of resources available, from coping strategies for everyday living to how to keep your mental health at work, and how to support others. You can also find more specific graduate student focused material, collected by students at Berkeley in “Thriving in Science”. Mentalhealth.org is also a great resource, with tips for everyday life and lots of material.

Seeking professional help

 

When things get “too much”, and we can’t cope with the distress, it is extremely important to ask for help. While family and friends may offer a listening ear, specialized help can empower you to deal with the stress you are experiencing and work on important topics for you on a regular basis. Finding a therapist might not be the easiest nor the fastest task, starting early helps a lot. Many health insurances in Europe pay for some sessions, and many institutes and Universities have specialised therapists- inform yourself of your options.

Mindfulness courses for stress reduction

 

Mindfulness meditation is loosely defined as practicing paying attention to the present moment and experiencing the flow of consciousness, including thoughts, feelings and sensations, in a non-judgemental way. There is a growing body of evidence showing that it can be beneficial in maintaining good mental health, building resilience to stress and potentially alleviating certain mental health disorders.

Importantly, mindfulness meditation should not be used as a substitute for therapy. If you feel you might be experiencing symptoms of mental illness, contact a health professional before engaging in meditation exercises.

Guided meditation apps are rising in popularity, such as Headspace, Simple Habit or Baloonapp. They provide an easy way to figure out if meditation is beneficial for you.

Social media

 

If social media works for you, find pages from people or organisations who advocate taking care of yourself, like @ithinkwellHugh on twitter or @letstalkaboutmentalhelth and @notesfromyourtherapist on Instagram.

Take home message

 

Doing a PhD can push us to the edge, and that’s normal and happens to all of us. There are many ways of taking care of ourselves, from doing sports regularly to meditation, to meeting friends or seeing a therapist if we can’t cope alone. We opened the debate, this is just a start. And remember: be nice to yourself.

 

7 reasons why we get stressed during our PhD

Doing a PhD is challenging, no doubt about it. But we can only find strategies to cope with anxiety and detect stress sources if we start the debate about mental health. This is not admitting defeat, this is taking care of ourselves. Let’s break the taboo!

PhD students have a 2.43 times higher risk of developing a psychiatric disorder than the rest of the highly educated population. Females and gender-nonconforming PhD students are significantly more likely to experience anxiety than male counterparts, and men are less likely to seek professional or interpersonal help. This has been studied and recognised in the U.S. and Europe with Science and Nature already talking about it.

1 No more tick boxes

 

During our studies we were trained to do short projects, with constant feedback of our performance through graded tests, which were designed to be solved. Now, we are in a world of open ended projects on our own, with abstract goals. We won’t solve problems simply by working longer and harder.

2 Failing and competition

 

School was mostly a breeze and we still did pretty well in University. But suddenly we have to deal with the frustrations of constant failed experiments. We wonder what went wrong, especially when our peers get scholarships and papers. Don’t forget that tasks at school and university were designed to be solved. In research, we are at the edge of knowledge and failing is pretty much part of the job.

3 Feeling like an impostor

 

Does it feel like everyone around you is just so much smarter than you? Actually, 7 in 10 people experience impostor syndrome throughout their career. Impostors have a hard time accepting positive feedback and often deny their success is related to their own abilities, and think they are not good enough. Tip: use it as a strength. Taking time to celebrate achievements helps to embrace our impostor-self.

4 Feeling guilty and isolated

 

In our studies, we were always surrounded by many students, but in the lab we are often part of a very small team or working on our own. It can get particularly lonely if we moved to a foreign country for our PhD or during a writing phase. On top of this, we constantly feel bad for neglecting friends and family. Whereas, when we force ourselves to go to social events we feel guilt for not working.

5 Work-life (in)balance

 

More than half of PhD students are concerned about work-life balance as long working hours are widely accepted and even promoted in academia. In fact, 40% of academics report working more than 50 hours a week. Alarmingly, this was found to be a significant predictor of depressive symptoms. Long working hours skew our work-life balance and can create a sense of loss of control and signal to ourselves that whatever we do is not enough.

6 Fear of the future

 

Although a PhD seems long at the beginning, time passes quickly and the end can be an even more stressful time. Besides finishing our thesis and paper, we have to start thinking about our future career whilst faced with the fear of running out of funding before we finish.

7 Power abuse is not an acceptable source of stress

 

Harassment is defined as unwanted conduct that violates the dignity of the person concerned and creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment - usually in a situation of power abuse. There is a unique set of social interactions in academia that allow power abuse to fester. This is no excuse to minimize its impact on our lives, nor to normalize or oversimplify it behind a #phdlife. This source of stress should not happen in our PhDs.

Further information on this topic

 

Take a look at our article Feeling overwhelmed by academia? You are not alone. It summarises advice from several researchers on how to maintain good mental health in the hyper-competitive environment of science.

Or take a look at the Downloadable poster guide: Mental Health During Your PhD

Further information

 

5 tips to stay mentally healthy during your PhD

We all experience stressful times during our PhD which can be fueled by failing experiments, guilt for taking time off, jealousy successful colleagues or by being overwhelmed when we don’t set proper boundaries with our boss or colleagues. Here are some strategies to prepare for stressful times and also relieve acute stress.

1 Focus on you

 

Find own activities you like that bring your energy level back up and do them routinely and seriously, like sports, meditation or any personal project you might have. Try to be efficient during working hours to make time for your hobbies! Taking a regular breaks and walking on campus everyday can have a positive impact on both your body and your mind.

2 Take some time out

 

Taking va- or staycation can improve your efficiency. You are legally entitled to spend your vacation days. If you can ́t take a couple of weeks off at once, take a series of long weekends. And make sure you stay off work emails. It is easy for us to think that our projects won't advance when we go on vacation, which can affect our career in the long run. However, consistent good quality science is not easy to achieve if we are in a bad mental headspace, tired, distressed, anxious, sick or even depressed. Take care of yourself first, then your project can fly.

3 Keep in touch with friends and family

 

Strong family and friend relationships are essential to make us feel included and cared for. They can offer us different perspectives on our internal worries and anxieties. Explore and find your own lines of communication, sometimes online is enough, sometimes face to face is required. Invest time and energy on relationships that make you feel loved and valued. If being around someone damages your mental health, it may be best to take a break. Make friends on campus by visiting social events.

4 Create manageable chunks

 

If everything is overwhelming, try to break down your research into manageable tasks, and set achievable goals. Don’t hesitate to ask for help of your supervisor or a postdoc. Try to have weekly, monthly and yearly plans and keep an overview. Don't ́t worry if you can ́t keep up: you can adapt it if you had unrealistic goals or things didn’t work. We become better and better at setting goals during the PhD, as we master techniques and get to know ourselves and our boundaries.

5 Talk about it

 

Remember: talking about your feelings isn’t a weakness, being vulnerable is extremely brave ! It is part of taking charge of your well-being. It might be awkward at first, but it is worth exploring.

If you have a supervisor that you trust, discuss your mental health concerns with them. By letting them know that focusing on mental health and personal development is important for your future (and present) you are defining your boundaries. You can also reach out to a mentor. This can be a collaborator who has no conflicting interests with you and has time to help, try to find the best fit. Postdocs around you survived their PhDs and developed coping strategies. You could reach out to them as well. Reach out to your fellow PhD colleagues - share experiences and coping strategies, listen and support each other.

 

About the authors

The mental health awareness series was a collective effort to raise awareness and brake the mental health taboo, brought to you by the MDC PhD representatives Laura Breimann (Preibisch Lab), Lorena Sofia Lopez Zepeda (Ohler Lab), Marta Bastos de Oliveira (Gerhardt Lab), with participation of Anita Waltho (Sommer Lab), Remo Monti (Ohler Lab) and Eric Danner (K. Rajewsky Lab).

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