Today marks the end of my work this year. A day later than planned due to the schools closing a week early. This meant that my and E’s available work time at home was halved so we could split the time caring for Y. There are always a few things that really do need to be finished, thus carrying over into what would otherwise have been the first day off.

In my company we gave the entire team next week off, meaning we don’t expect anyone of us to work, and won’t count the days against the default 5 weeks of paid leave per year everyone has.

It’s been a challenging second pandemic year. At times each of us struggled with energy, motivation and mental wellbeing. I hope we’ve done well by our team to support them at those times. We tried to spend time together regularly and have fun within what was possible. I’ve noticed a general slow down of work in the late spring towards summer. As if the entire world was tired. After the summer things kicked back into high gear however.

Despite that slowing down before summer, which was noticeable in our turnover as well, economically it ultimately was not a challenging year. This year, like last year, we’ve done some 15% better than the pre-pandemic 2019. For 2022 much has already been lined up. I will have the pleasure to focus completely on the new wave of EU digital and data related legislation. In fact, as far as my own time is concerned, I’m already overbooked for the entire year. In short, we are looking to expand our team again.

Last month it was a decade ago that me and my business partners decided to start our open data consultancy The Green Land. To me the past three years, despite the pandemic dominating two of them, were the best of those ten, with a fun and growing team, and meaningful projects.

A well deserved break for all of us is in order therefore.

This week our team is staying in a vacation park in the south of the Netherlands. All have their own cabin, except me. Family logistics mean I am spending most time at home, and commute to the holiday park.

This afternoon we discussed our office. What to do with it, how to make it more useful to us.

We opened an office exactly 2 years ago, and more than half of that time we didn’t use it much because of the pandemic. We opened the office because some of us need a place away from home to work. I am used to working either at home, en route, or at a client’s, and have been doing so for 17 years. Having an office, especially a centrally located one as we have in Utrecht, within a building with other facilities available to us (meeting rooms, restaurant/catering services, event spaces, roof terrace), to me is however very useful as a meeting place, and to be able to host groups. During the pandemic some of our team used it to escape the four walls of their limited living spaces in the inner city of Utrecht or Amsterdam. I handed my office keys to a new hire early on in the pandemic.

The central question today was, moving forward, given our pandemic experiences, and the likelihood of at least some measures being in place on and off, how do we want to use our office? And given that use, how do we want it to look / feel?

We split in three groups of three. That in itself was already an important first realisation for me: we can actually split in three groups of three. And the office should work well for all 9 of us, as well as for a handful of frequent collaborators.
In our little groups we discussed our ideal office, and shaped it with the material at hand. One group got to paint the office, another group to build with Lego (serious play is the applicable term I think), and the group I was in used clay.

Patterns in the results were that, while it is still needed to have a few desks, most of them can be removed, that we want to make the office much greener with plants and more colourful in general, that shaping it as a social place is important, as well as a place where things can be created. A few immediate actions (such as removing two thirds of the desks, doing some painting, and adding plants) were decided upon for the summer. Another conclusion was that we simply cannot already know how office use post-pandemic will really be, meaning having plenty flexibility is key. Think furniture, devices, or dividers that can be very easily rearranged at will by those present. Think not investing in a ‘perfect’ design, but doing it as we go along.

Yesterday afternoon and evening we held an open house at our new The Green Land offices in a late 19th century former technical school building in the heart of Utrecht. It was a pleasant event with some 30 people attending, some good conversations with people I hadn’t met before, and an informal dinner party afterwards.

My colleague Frank saying a few words, with Utrecht’s 13th century cathedral tower in the background. Word is, you’re only truly in Utrecht, if you can see the tower from your windows

De eerste Algemene Ledenvergadering van 2019 van de vereniging Open Nederland vindt vanmiddag plaats. Met al meer leden dan we voor dit jaar beoogden, kijk ik uit naar een bruikbare sessie. Als penningmeester heb ik nog niet veel te doen gehad behalve de basics zoals handelsregister, bankrekening en btw-nummer. Daar gaan we hopelijk de rest van het jaar verandering in brengen. Met ons nieuwe kantoor in het centrum van Utrecht zijn we als The Green Land gastheer voor de ledenvergadering.