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Working Apart Together Almost seven years ago, I made a drastic decision: no

seem to be calling for my immediate attention. The dishes

more climbing career ladders or smashing glass ceilings

for instance, the clearance sale at my favourite online

for me. I decided it was time to take things into my own

shop, or that phone call to my mother about next week’s

hands and venture out on my own, so I joined the ranks of

family get-together.

independent professionals, who in Dutch are known as ZZP-ers. By December last year, there were almost

But there are ways to overcome these hurdles. A freelancing

800.000 self-employed professionals in the Netherlands,

friend of mine installed a programme on her computer

and that number is expected to rise to over a million soon.

that blocked all shopping sites. Another friend has a strict

I can totally see why.

no-phone policy whenever she is at her desk. And I decided it was time to hire a cleaning lady to help me to

One of the biggest advantages of being self-employed is

not use my household chores as an excuse for not getting

getting to choose when and where you work. At a client’s

down to business.

office, in a bar, an airport lounge or even in the park: today’s wireless world offers endless possibilities for

‘But don’t you miss your colleagues?’ is what people

flexible freelancers such as myself. That being said, there

sometimes ask me. Truth be told: at times I do. But I found

is one place I prefer over anywhere else: my own desk.

a solution: the virtual coffee break. Every morning around

After all, there is no place like home. No time-consuming

coffee time, my self-employed friends and I get ourselves

commutes, you can wear whatever you want, and no one

some tea or coffee and get on the phone to discuss our

will bother you with boring office gossip.

day, our business challenges and all other things people discuss at coffee machines. It’s a new kind of relationship:

But working from home does require some discipline,

the WAT - Working Apart Together. For those of you who

especially for the true procrastinators among us. When I

are contemplating a career move: I can highly recommend

sit behind my computer to meet one of those dreadful

it. And in case it gets lonely out there: you’re welcome to

deadlines, there tends to be a thousand other tasks that

join our virtual coffee break.

Kirsten van den Hul speaks, writes and works on the crossroads of culture, communication and change. She works as an independent change agent for Dienst Zuidas, and writes a weekly column for Dutch daily AD. In 2011 she was appointed as UN Women’s Representative. Her motto: “Without change no butterflies”. For more information, visit, or follow @thechangeagent on Twitter.


Hello Zuidas #9  

Hello Zuidas September/Oktober 2013

Hello Zuidas #9  

Hello Zuidas September/Oktober 2013