A month on holiday with all your colleagues, what's that like?

A month on holiday with all your colleagues, what’s that like?

why not? This is how Paul Reijnierse (36) reacts when he receives an app from his colleague Karin at home on a Friday afternoon. Reijnierse is an entrepreneur and founder of The Main Ingredient (TMI) in Amsterdam, a ‘start-up studio’ that invents and develops digital products such as apps. At the Friday drinks table there, Gijs, another colleague, has just told how he once went on a working holiday to Australia to set up a start-up. The mutual conversation quickly goes from ‘that seems great to me’ via ‘that is really something for our office’ to ‘I’m just sending Paul an app.’

Reijnierse: „Later we reconstructed: was it really that easy? But yes, that’s how it really happened.”

14 October

Three days before departure

The idea came up in March, and in October all thirteen TMI employees travel for four weeks to a villa in the hills of the Italian Marches. There they will be working on a major new product. The photos of the accommodation, usually rented out as a wedding location, do not lie. Two swimming pools, a tennis court, a terrace with large lounge sofas. Two chefs will prepare the meal every day. All colleagues have their own room or apartment, so that family or partners can come over on weekends. TMI has allocated 75,000 euros for the trip.

The fact that Reijnierse quickly agreed is because the plan fits in with what he and his business partner Nikaj have had in mind for a year and a half. Instead of mainly building products together with clients – such as Tikkie for ABN Amro or Geldvinder for pension provider APG – he wants to launch products himself more often. “It turns out to be difficult to find the focus and time for it here in the office. Such an Italy adventure seems ideal to me boost to make that change,” he explains, three days before departure.

Team building is another important reason. “Six new people started here during corona time, but we have never been in the office at the same time.”

Thirteen people work at TMI, mostly in their twenties and thirties. Two of them have children, all but two of them work full time. Was everyone immediately enthusiastic about this four-week work trip? Reijnierse: „You have a group of extroverted lunatics like me, who prefer to embark on these kinds of adventures all the time. But there was also a colleague who said: I have never been away from my girlfriend for more than a week. You have to take that sound seriously.”

Femke Lina (29), operational manager at TMI, therefore had an exploratory one-on-one conversation with everyone. “It showed that privacy is an essential condition; so no sharing rooms. In the end everyone said yes. In the meantime, two colleagues go home and back home for a week, and then join the team digitally during the week.”

She was immediately enthusiastic about the plan. „It is not for nothing that I work in a small team; I like to close to be with my colleagues. I expect it to be a great month.”

It could well happen that quarrels arise, but you shouldn’t be afraid of that

Femke Lina operations manager

Incidentally, Reijnierse has perhaps the most challenging situation of all at home: he has two daughters, 2 and 5 years old, and his girlfriend Lies is heavily pregnant with number three.

Did she immediately say: yes, go ahead? “Well actually yes. She grants me this adventure, and four weeks is manageable. She will come over with the children during the autumn break and in the other three weeks she can enlist the help of family and friends.”

Reijnierse jokingly says that he will probably come back from Italy rested. “I have been standing next to my bed every day for five years at six o’clock because of those girls. So I’m looking forward to finally getting some rest, yeah.”

And on a social level? A month with your colleagues in one place, day and night: that seems like a recipe for tension and irritation. Femke Lina: „It could well happen that quarrels arise, but you should not be afraid of that. It also offers an opportunity to talk to each other about that.”

But if it becomes too much for someone, who leaves with slamming doors? Lina: “I can’t imagine it going that high.”

Reijnierse has not yet thought about such an escalation. “But if it turns out that this pressure cooker style doesn’t suit you, you might not be a good fit for our company. I don’t mind if that’s the conclusion. Then I would rather find out now than that we have to muddle through together for three years.”

Finally: in an Italian villa with a permanent holiday view, the threshold is not high to open a bottle of wine every day. Has TMI still imposed restrictions on this? “Oh. Um, no”, says Femke Lina. “No one has actually suggested that as a point of discussion, even though we are a team that likes to have a drink. I’ll just throw it in the group.”

the 4th of November

Almost three weeks in Italy

When asked how Paul Reijnierse is in the Italian villa, he has to confess that it is raining. “That’s a shame for the picture, isn’t it? But for this we had fantastic weather. We have regularly sat around the pool with our laptop.”

Reijnierse sounds a lot more tired on the phone than in the previous conversation. It is super intensive, he says. „You have many impressions throughout the day, you are far away from your family. Especially now that the finish line is in sight, everyone also wants to go home.”

There are also a few things going on at home, says Reijnierse. “Lies is both pregnant, and our youngest has decided to fight her, so she sleeps little.” He finds it difficult that his girlfriend now has to solve this on her own. “At the same time, we were talking about it: I can feel guilty about that, but that is of no use to anyone. We try to think in practical solutions. If, for example, the children now spend a little more time on the iPad: fine.”

The Main Ingredient staff in their Italian villa. Four weeks of intensive collaboration resulted in a product that previously required three times as much time. Photos Roberto Masic

Femke Lina is doing well. She does notice a difference in energy. „In the first week everyone was mainly excited about the place – it’s so beautiful here. Now, in week three, everyone is a bit more tired, but there is also a lot of pressure: it has to be finished in a week. That gives new energy and focus.”

Lina herself likes to work so intensively with colleagues. For example, the first weekend they organized a Mexican-style Halloween party, where one colleague ran a margarita cocktail bar and the other made tacos for everyone. “Then it just feels like you’re standing there with your friends, and not with your colleagues.”

Has it ever become too much for her? Yes, that happened. “After a busy day, my head was already quite full. Still, two colleagues wanted to have a strategy meeting after dinner. Then I got a kind errorbecause it really didn’t fit anymore. There was also a tear. Yes, that is easy in such a situation.”

The next day they fixed it right away. “We decided: we won’t do business after dinner. That’s better for everyone.”

And what has become of the alcohol policy? “I discussed that, but most of all there was a lot of laughter. I do not believe that we are necessarily a company to agree strict rules for drinks.”

Nov 24

A week and a half at home

The final evaluation will take place at The Main Ingredient’s Amsterdam office. Paul Reijnierse and Femke Lina are sitting at the large lunch table, in an otherwise fairly empty workplace. “Just about everyone got sick after Italy,” says Reijnierse. “After such an intensive month, normal life is also a bit of an anticlimax.”

Lina: “Everyone is quite sad that it is all over.”

They both call the trip to Italy ‘one hundred percent successful’. In terms of work, what they had planned has been achieved: their product is finished and usable for customers. Kinety is a web application where teams can align personal goals, business strategy and their team goals.

TMI has also made such products before, but then it took at least twelve weeks. How could it have succeeded in Italy in a third of the time? Lina: “You really feel the urgency: this is the place and this is the time span in which it has to happen. Then you want to make it work even harder.” The efficient use of time means that Reijnierse considers it more than worth the 75 grand from a business point of view.

As a social experiment, this month was a special, fun and intense adventure, both agree. They noticed that emotions surfaced faster – at work, but also in private. Reijnierse: “One of our colleagues received bad medical news about her father. She heard that in the middle of the group and wanted to go home as soon as possible, so there you have to on the spot to handle. It touched everyone. That makes it very close.”

No one has angrily stamped out or found out that the work at TMI does not suit him or her. “But you notice in such a place that existing uncertainties immediately become visible. Am I doing it right? Is this my work or someone else’s? Due to the pressure on the kettle, it can sometimes come out a bit more blunt or more direct than desired.”

The advantage of the pressure cooker is that frustrations are dealt with immediately. “That’s nice: you have to move on. So the next morning you immediately discuss how you are going to do it differently. It has never led to lasting conflict.”

Femke Lina says that the team has become a real group of friends. Is that a good sign? Reijnierse: „I have an aversion to the hard separation between work and private life; after all, it all affects each other. The risk of being too friendly with your colleagues may be that you no longer dare to give each other feedback. You don’t have to worry about that with us. We are all nice and Dutch direct”, he says with a laugh.

And what happened to Paul and his pregnant girlfriend? “I immediately took over as much as possible from Lies when I got home, so that she could rest, rest, rest.”

So her conclusion was: nice adventure, Paul, but never again? “I did hit a special one with Lies with that; it actually supports these kinds of adventures – no matter how spicy it was sometimes.”

To keep it special and manageable for the home front, Reijnierse would not suggest doing such a working holiday trip four times a year. “But once a year… Yes, why not?”

A month on holiday with all your colleagues, what’s that like?
Source link A month on holiday with all your colleagues, what’s that like?

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