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
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 www.thechangeagent.nl, or follow @thechangeagent on Twitter.
Hello Zuidas September/Oktober 2013