Rethinking the Office – Dutch Design (Plus: Pics of My Home Office)

112 Comments


Interpolis – unconventional but damn effective. (photo: jsigharas)

Through simple redesign of workspaces, Interpolis of Holland increased productivity 20%, and sick leave has dropped from 9% to 2.5%. Last but not least, their new design also brings in 90,000 visitors a year.

How was it done?

How do you create a Results-Only-Work-Environment (ROWE) for yourself or a company — and increase profits — by tweaking your surroundings?

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the new German hit “Morgen komm ich später rein” (Rough idiomatic translation: I’ll be coming in later tomorrow.), translated for you all by author and fellow reader Markus Albers, who also interviewed me for German Vanity Fair. Danke, Markus!

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Thanks to a sophisticated office structure, the headquarters of Interpolis insurance in the Dutch town of Tilburg has freed up 51 percent of their working areas, cut 33 percent of construction and equipment costs, and reduced office usage expenses by 21 percent.

How it works: In the morning employees take their laptop and mobile phone and look for the workplace for the day. Documentation of joint projects and operations that were formerly located on the desk, are now replaced by common electronic folders and virtual databases, accessible for everybody.

The man behind this revolutionary and visionary concept of the 7000 square metre and “Tivoli” project was Gijs Nooteboom of the consulting firm Veldhoen + Company. In an interview, he explains to me why the Interpolis concept represents all future office building, the reasons why we will spend more time working from home and on travel and why offices are basically old-fashioned but still needed:

Mr. Nooteboom, what was the basic idea of your concept for the insurance company Interpolis?

Gijs Nooteboom: We represent the philosophy that every human being anywhere and at any time of day can work. The fact that you can not concentrate on personal jobs, but on activities. And that work can be focused and individual. Sometimes one works together – it can happen virtually or with physical presence. Based on the analysis of these activities, we design work environments. We do this for town halls, schools, hospitals, banks or insurances such as Interpolis.

Individual offices seem to play no role?

Nooteboom: No. Interpolis has open designed work floors and a large meeting floor: The Plaza,which was differently designed by artists. That’s where you can eat, drink coffee and discuss in large or small groups.

And every morning everybody hunts for his desk…

Nooteboom: The employees are released, so to speak, in environments where there is no separate desk, where you work almost paperless without standard office desks but several different ones – suitable for all kinds of activities. Furthermore you don’t have to come into the office daily. If you work individually, you can plan in advance and finish tasks at home, at the customer location, or on the beach.

But one still has to attend at the office every now and then?

Nooteboom: One should attend the Interpolice office – depending on the function – at least two to three days in office due to social cohesion. In contrast to the past, work is not measured on the presence, but output; The performance of the staff expected by the company. This is a fundamental change that requires time and training – amongst workers, but even more in the administration. What are the new tasks of the management ? No longer to check whether someone is there, but to define the output and control it. It takes months to incorporate this culture into a company.

A considerable effort. What are the benefits for the company?

Nooteboom: The company requires 50% less square meters. All cleaning and other maintenance costs will be reduced accordingly. In addition, Interpolis increased 20 percent in productivity through flexibility and sick leave, by nine percent 10 years ago, now dropped to two and a half percent. Thirdly, it is good for image and culture of the company – Interpolis receives 90,000 visitors a year. The office is marketing tool number one.

And what are the benefits for staff?

Nooteboom: The most important thing is freedom of choice: What to do when and where? You can freely decide on work time and place more or less, depending on the function. Secondly, it is now festive to come into the office. It is an open and transparent work space designed for meetings and exchange, much more so than in a standard office with long corridors and closed spaces.

How important is modern technology?

Nooteboom: It has to be state-of-the-art. In future virtual collaboration will be even easier and more intuitive than it is now. During the telephone call one will be able to see the image of each other, exchange data, show presentations and work together on documents. Therefore there will be less business travel than today.

Is the 9-to-5 working day a model of the past?

Nooteboom: It won’t be over that quickly, one reason beeing the schools which convey this rhythm, but in ten to 20 years a very large proportion of the working environments will be differently organized. One reason beeing globalization: If you are in contact with Asia or the United States one has to work either early in the morning or late evening.

Will we still need offices in the future?

Nooteboom: The concept of the office is basically old-fashioned, but we still need it. It will be used almost solely for meetings in the future. More and more companies will let their employees work from the home or while traveling.

Are we talking about a fad or a real trend?

Nooteboom: We are working on these concepts for companies and administrations for more than 15 years and the growth is enormous. Lately also because of environmental issues and sustainability. Dutch companies are increasingly aware that one should be in a traffic jam, if it is not required. Buildings should not be bigger than necessary but rather extremely functional.

My Home Office/Non-Office


My home “office” – more like a Zen garden with a desktop than an office. The framed quote is from world-famous cook Bobby Flay: “Take risks and you’ll get the payoffs. Learn from your mistakes until you succeed. It’s that simple.”


The three-association desktop: a gift from the CIA, a gift from a Japanese monk, and a quote to put into practice like religion.

I design a workplace like I design any space: by association and positive constraints.

First, I want positive emotional associations with each object within my visual field. Limiting associations is often better than careful selection. The greenhouse you see is essentially a private rain forest with automatic ion generators and timed water systems. It is entirely self-contained with eight sun roofs and no openings. This is the morning oxygenation chamber where I have breakfast. I love it.

Second, I limit misbehavior by limiting options. Notice that I have no shelves. This discourages accumulating papers and encourages both elimination and immediate digital note-taking. When in doubt, I take a digital photograph of documents (I prefer this to a scanner, which consumes real estate).

Don’t want to eat too much chocolate? Don’t put it in your house.

Don’t want to send too much e-mail? Force yourself to stand at an elevated desk vs. sitting in a comfortable Aeron chair. Don’t want to spend a lot of time filing? Eliminate a place to put the documents.

Constraints — a precursor to simplicity — aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, they’re often better than increasing options.

Posted on: September 30, 2008.

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112 comments on “Rethinking the Office – Dutch Design (Plus: Pics of My Home Office)

  1. Cool. Even though I don’t see as big a shift (yet) at my company, more and more of my friends are being given the flexibility to work when they choose, and now where they choose as well – as long as the work gets done.

    I find it especially interesting how he points out that they have to adjust their schedules not just for the US, but also Asia as well. The way my lives (and my friends) are structured, it seems the whole world runs on the times of a few key cities: London, New York and Tokyo.

    Like

  2. Tim,

    I was scared to death to leave my office staff all by themselves, but after reading your book I took the leap. This article is more poignant that you’d believe. While working side by side my multiple assistants, I ended up editing every word they said to customers, as well as various other micromanaging time killers.

    The 4HWW forced me to realize that I needed space to produce activities that make the register ring and abandon the non-productive “busy work”. The improved Feng Shui of our office has increased productivity and allows me to focus on growth and strategy, not what my assistants are doing.

    In an ocean of scams and myths, you are a beacon of truth. My business is wildly successful and provides an incredible lifestyle for me. You’re principles have helped me cut 80 crazy hours a week down to just a couple hours a day. I can honestly say that with just 4 hours a week, I could live comfortably. I’m realizing that I do love my work however as I find myself coming back to it frequently.

    Thanks!
    Josh

    Like

  3. Tim,

    Thanks much for this refresher on minimalism and getting things done. This post touched on many of the points in the book (that I need to re-read), that I have so quickly forgotten or fail to practice.

    And cool looking patio BTW.

    Later.

    Like

  4. Very nice Tim, thanks. I know how to make my life more paperless, but I’m still fighting with the paper sent to me. Processing your email effectively is one thing, but doing the same with paperwork is another, and I still can’t get that to work the way I want it.

    The idea of being able to work anywhere is great, and I always try to keep my set-up as simple as possible with that reason in mind.

    Like

    • it is true that alot of unwanted paperwork can be overwhelming, try what tim said, take a picture of it on your phone and label it, that way its always easily accessible and defeats having to search through piles to find one page… surely if its not important enough to take a picture of it, its not important enough to keep? throw it away/recycle it/feed it to the dog?

      peace.

      Like

  5. You have been cranking out the inspiration lately… not in volume, but in quality. It seems all of the recent articles have really given me (or someone I am close to) some great ideas. Thanks.

    Like

  6. Tim,

    You’ve hit it on the head. The less on my desk, the more I get done. Anytime I’m feeling stuck on a project, I get everything off my desk and start with a piece of paper, a pen, and let the magic happen. Great post.

    Like

  7. I now practice a concept from the recommended book, The Magic of Thinking Big, by instead of ‘preparing to get stuff done’, (read wasting time cleaning up the desk) I take my arm up and sweep everything off to the side, grab a pen and some paper and start writing.

    It looks like you’re one step ahead…

    Like

  8. After spending the last week trying to imagine my new workspace, along comes this blog entry and solves my problem. So, I’d like to use *your* office to re-launch my company. I think it could work! While you’re running around, can I use it??

    :0))

    Like

  9. This is very cool, of course, but quite a few services can’t use a model like this, it seems — such as a medical office.

    Where it can be done, though, it ought. Makes for a more free world in tangible, if less fundamental ways.

    Like

  10. Inspirational! I’m counting the days that remain before I outsource my business overseas. After reading the 4HWW this summer, I decided to take on the challenge of accepting a little bit of unknown by investing my spare time in web design for my dream website- while studying full time at McGill. It’s really hard to do both and excel at both, but I’m loving it! This is where I feel the “4-Hour” part of your book is really becoming alive!

    If it isn’t voluntary, just cut it out and focus on your strengths.

    Thanks for the inspirational post Tim!

    Dan

    Like

  11. Your “anonymous” quote on your desk (“Do one thing every day that scares you”), is actually from Eleanor Roosevelt.

    Thanks for the interesting post (and book).

    ~ Justin

    Like

  12. Tim, I wanted to add. I’ve started using outsourcing for all my research work as per your suggestion. As a sample, I’ve bought back 45 hours of office time a month for a $125.00 investment. We bill between $175-$300 hour so the ROI is outstanding.

    Best,

    Chris.

    Like

  13. Can the posts get better? Yes, as I am a fanatic of your blog not in weird way. It is great to gather such interesting info they offer. I am on my way to Germany here in about a week so I am definitely going to Denmark and check it out. What I thought most interesting in this post was the last paragraph. Changing one’s work are seems like something we should all experiment with.

    Cheers from Tejas,

    Jose C.F.

    Like

  14. Perfect timing Tim. We are moving our agency into a new office this month. We are going for a minimalist environment with little storage, open plan work stations, couches, cafe setting etc. All info to be stored digitally or online. Also implementing non-interruption systems for staff and adopting the one task – no interruption approach you advocate.

    Will be a great experiment.

    Cheers, Craig

    Like

  15. Beautiful. Just beautiful. Is that table Scandinavian? Tim, I wrote about you in my book. I’ll send you a

    ###

    The table is plain old Northern California. Thanks, Jill!

    All the best,

    Tim

    Like

  16. Tim,

    Great article! I’ve recently made my day trading office more zen-like and it’s had extremely positive effects. I need to be focused and on task when I’m trading the markets, so any unnecessary distractions must go!

    Love the book and blog-

    Chris Dunn

    Like

  17. Hola chicos,

    Thanks for the comments and dialogue!

    @Josh,

    Thanks so much for the kind words. The book has been a journey for me, and I’ll report on my lessons learned soon. I have some really fun stuff planned…

    @All,

    The table is just a kitchen table with expanding horizontal wings for when more people come over! I liked the wood so much that I use that table for a desk and use a much larger hardwood table for meals and wine with friends.

    The computer that would go on that desk is a 17″ silver MacBook Pro. I don’t own a desktop because you can’t put a desktop away. I like the closure of putting a lid down and tucking it out of sight.

    Pura vida,

    Tim

    Like

  18. Wow, what a beautiful work space!

    I love the idea of zen, uncluttered living. It was challenging for me to create it at my place in Manhattan but with custom closets built and some rearranging, I managed to do it.
    I agree that It’s important to look at objects that evoke “posititive emotional associations” – my bonsai trees, things I brought from my travels (especially my bamboo screen that I shipped from Bali) and pictures make me just want to work from home. BTW, I actually don’t have a desk/space at my own office (my friends make fun of me because of that…)

    Like

  19. Tim:

    Seems very cozy, great decoration. Simple and sofisticated, not for many. =)

    I have this feeling ROWE will become widespread in some years, don’t you?

    * * *

    We have some slightly different habits on filing philosophy. You see, I try to get rid of as much of the clutter I can, but found out that it sometimes takes more time deciding whether something is or isn’t useful, and to digitize it if it is, than to simply file it without thinking, period.

    So I bought a big four-drawer filing furniture and dozens of folders and put GTD system into action. Might be useful? Put in a folder, tag it, finished.

    And then I purge it every year. Batching applies marvelously here.

    Grande abraço,
    André

    Like

  20. Tim:

    Seems very cozy, great decoration. Simple and sofisticated, not for many. =)

    I have this feeling ROWE will become widespread in some years, don’t you?

    * * *

    We have some slightly different habits on filing philosophy. You see, I try to get rid of as much of the

    clutter I can, but found out that it sometimes takes more time deciding whether something is or isn’t

    useful, and to digitize it if it is, than to simply file it without thinking, period.

    So I bought a big four-drawer filing furniture and dozens of folders and put GTD system into action. Might

    be useful? Put in a folder, tag it, finished.

    And then I purge it every year. Batching applies marvelously here.

    Grande abraço,
    André

    Like

  21. Tim, you did it again! 4HWW lit the fire in my belly to pursue my dream lifestyle. Now you made me realize I was essentially replicating the bad habits from my former office life while starting up my own business from home. 9-5 job, paperwork piling up on the desk, pressuring myself to work even though I already had a super-productive morning behind me…

    Thanks for the inspiration, and the reminder!

    Nick

    Like

  22. Hi Tim, that quote on your table is very good. Is it by Eleanor Roosevelt? Do you really put it into practice every day? Sounds like a great exercise for “expanding” yourself. BTW – it may be a really good article to write something more about this concept. Viel Glück!

    Like

  23. And I forgot – what happened to your slow-carb diet? I thought you don’t eat sweets for breakfast (and drink hot chocolate with them) as you apparently did in Spain – just joking. Enjoy life!

    Like

  24. “Deliver me from Swedish furniture.
    Deliver me from clever art…
    …May I never be complete.
    May I never be content.
    May I never be perfect.” – Chuck Palahniuk

    Perhaps some day we will get over the idea that we are payed for our time…but I doubt it. We don’t pay people to complete tasks, we pay them to not enjoy themselves for a period of time. Just as the worker finds it easier to watch soap operas on the interent than to fill out paperwork, the manager finds it easier to measure attendence rather than completion of tasks. Like the old Soviet saying goes “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

    Your average person has no interest in changing this arrangement, no tollerance for risk. Fortunately those reading this blog are not average people.

    “Do something that scares you every day” sounds like an excellent twitter expirement. One could use it for both documenting their results, and for accountability by letting others know what you’ve done; two things that are key to achieving goals.

    Like

  25. Those chairs are the ugliest monstrosities I have ever seen. Man, and I thought the CUBICLE was ugly! Thank goodness we are moving to working at home – at least you can escape those hideous chairs.

    Don’t employers understand that productivity is affected by your surroundings? Sheesh! At least the wallpaper is okay.

    Like

  26. @Sid, Sarah: The experts and managers I interviewed for my book say, this flexible and mobile way of working is possible for every ‘knowledge worker’ or member of the ‘creative class’. Depending on how you define those categories this means at least 50 percent of all current employees in developed countries.

    Basically I argue in the book: Everybody whose job includes turning on a computer in the morning can nowadays work whenever and whereever they feel like.

    Cali and Jody, the ladies who invented ROWE for Best Buy, are even more optimistic. When I met them for an interview they claimed that 100 percent of all employees can go ROWE. I asked: “Really everybody? What about shop assistants, doctors, construction workers?” Their answer, smiling very confident, was: “Everybody!” They wouldn’t give any details how this would be possible in the specific jobs though.

    As much as I love the concept of escaping the 9-5 of dull offices (and I do fight for it over here in Germany) I have a hard time imagining how, say, air-traffic-controllers or nurses should work nonterritorial. Any suggestions?

    Like

  27. Hi Tim,

    Just dropping you a note to let you know that I am a big fan of 4HWW and it inspired me to write my first book, Boss of Me!.

    I thanked your book in my acknowledgment note in Boss of Me! in these exact words:

    “This book would not have materialized if not for the brilliance of ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’, a truly life-altering book by Timothy Ferriss. “

    Like

  28. It’s cool to see you mention the standing/elevated desk… I started using one two months ago when I tweaked my piriformis doing heavy deadlifts, and sitting is now my most painful position.

    Anyhoo, I spend so much less time in my office now, and get so much more productive work done. I can’t remember the last time I just surfed around the ‘net; it just requires too much energy.

    But it’s not just that; my entire thought process around work has completely shifted. Planning happens while lying down to stretch, and then once I’m up, I’m at it hard. No wasted time, no fluff. (In fact, this is the first time I’ve been to the site here in months! Sorry, but efficiency cuts both ways!)

    Great post, Tim. Thanks.

    Like

  29. Hi Tim-

    Great post as always. However, ING headquarters near Schiphol Airport was already practicing the flexible desk space in 2002. It’s even mentioned on the corporate page. Granted, ING does not devote all of its space to the open desk space concept, 50% of the building is still reserved for more traditional office meeting spaces.

    Like

  30. brilliant work Tim!

    Constraints! love that
    change + constraints creates new patterns, habits and paradigms

    where and how work gets done is changing rapidly. the ability to accommodate gen Y – will force employers to solve the telecommute puzzle on a grand scale. teleworking – a managed telecommute – improves the company’s bottom line, the environment and the employee’s lifestyle. a very real win/win/win

    as bandwidth becomes even more ubiquitous – and commute become more retarded
    a new work paradigm where people can at least enjoy an environment like yours a few days a week could go a LONG way!

    all the best!

    Like

  31. Hey Tim,
    Much has been written on the R.O.W.E. but little has been mentioned about the physical space in which it’s done. Kim and I have a similar zen type set up in Atlanta (where we edit our videos and create our guidebooks). We have a ritual when we’re filming around the world to have a local DJ make us some chill house music. We listen to those Cd’s while we’re writing our blogs, dreamlining and planning our mini-retirements. This gives us a visceral reminder of the trip as well as hip vibe for the space.
    Be Well,
    Rob

    Like

  32. Does Interpolis play music in the morning while the employees search for a work area and if they don’t find one before it stops, do they have to work from home that day?

    My favorite movie line from Austin Powers Goldmember -
    Nigel Powers: [to Goldmember] “There are only two things I can’t stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures… and the Dutch.”

    Tim – another great post. ROWE everyone, ROWE – I feel like I am on a viking ship or something…

    Like

  33. Hello Tim!

    I saw your book out of the corner of my eye after I got off work at Wal-Mart. I read the first 33 pages and was instantly hooked. A couple days later, I told myself that I would finally quit my job and start making money online. On my 15-minute break, I bought a candy bar and your book (and saved a whopping $1.76 with my discount card) and walked out.

    Now, it may not have been the smartest idea financially speaking, but I feel that I wouldn’t have taken starting up my own business seriously had I continued working there. Ah, the magic of the deadline; put up a website to make you money or do nothing and become homeless.

    Of course, it might still take the website time to make enough money for me to at least get by, but I could get a job until then. The reason I quit my job was to give myself that initial push to create the business. Once it’s created, I could go back to work if I needed to.

    I’d like to thank you for helping me help myself get back on track! I really appreciate it!

    TheAndySan

    Edit: I just read your “No url in the comment box” rule as I hit the button to submit. My bad!

    Like

  34. Hi Tim,

    This is the 1st time I heard about ROWE. I will definitely introduced it here. However, I’m expecting lots of resistance as it is a culture that salaries are based on attendance (9am – 6pm habit), not on the output and results.

    Thanks for this insight. I also learned from the comments of others here. Thanks to them too.

    More power, Tim. I’ll be visiting your site again

    Like

  35. OH how I love my Aeron chair – but yes it makes it hard to leave it! Anyway, great piece of info Tim and I loved the interview. If only more companies were into ROWE rather than their present archaic ways of thinking. I think this is why I quit my Banking job! And now I am contracting to a firm who let me work from home – I think this is the result of the law of attraction. Despite my efforts to find a ROWE company, one really ended up finding me due to my fixation on ROWE’s and advocacy of your brilliant book.

    I love your Zen garden – definitely a must-do for me once I migrate from apartment living.

    Thanks Tim.

    -Electric Vagabond.

    Like

  36. Tim,
    This blog entry was inspiring and I’m impressed by what I saw and read. Your private rainforest is the greatest idea! I’m now convinced that the beenfits of having it outweighs its creation!!!

    Like

  37. Tim,

    You mentioned in the post that you take pictures of your documents. What document management software do you use? Tried evernote, onenote and a few others, not seeing any decent results, suggestions? Thanks!

    If you are ever in Calgary, Canada, I have a group of people here that would love to meet/see you, and pick your brain on your thoughts about how your world changes to accommodate each new project you have.

    Like

  38. Hi all!

    . . .a few more ideas that some might find useful:

    I’ll second that keeping an empty desk is a super-charged way of staying on top of things as well as reminding yourself that you’ve completed your work for the day as well.

    I too use a standing desk, it’s an aluminum table I picked up at Costco. . the kind used in kitchens. Since my home office is big enough, I use it for my cold-calling (standing helps me stay moving and keeps my voice fresh), and a sit down desk for my writing and reading.

    I also finally got around to buying Fujitsu’s ScanSnap sheet-fed scanner and wonder how I EVER lived without one before. As someone who reads a ton and clips articles of interest to send to friends and clients, this is the only way I have found to not drown in paper, and make them easy to attach to emails in a pinch. Buy one, you won’t regret it. They also automatically scan and capture business card info as well. Sa-weet!

    Lastly, the post reminds me of a book I read last year (the book itself is much older) about a creative agency in the UK that took a much different approach to office space and work habits. The book is named “Creative Company” and is written by Andy Law. It’s a good read and plays into the whole idea of delegating and giving responsibility to co-workers, etc. There are some glitches along the way, and I believe the experiment was a partial failure, but there are some real gems in the book that you can spin for your own world.

    Cheers,
    Doc

    Like

  39. Markus & Tim,

    How interesting. Good old Andersen Consulting tried the non-territorial office at some point in the 90s and failed miserably, because they couldn’t convince staff that they really, really did not need that picture of the wife and kids to work productively. After a few months, the same people showed up early every day to be able to claim that same particular desk over by the corner window … But that was the 90s and the concept lacked the ROWE ideas behind it, obviously.

    The Royal Bank of Scotland started a project recently, of which I only know the money-saving aspect: They wanted to cut their real estate costs and found out that 1/3 of their staff is on the road at any one time. They ruthlessly reduced their office space accordingly.

    We’ll get eventually, I guess …

    Anja

    Like

  40. Tim,

    What a beautiful office! I am truly inspired and can see that it invites you to work rather than compels you to run screaming from the building!

    Also great to hear from another country on the implementation of a version of R.O.W.E. – an idea whose time has come.

    Terry

    Like

  41. Tim,

    Great article, I love the garden!

    You talk about traveling a lot so I was wondering if traveling destabilize your good habits and if the worse environment decreases your productivity.

    For example, you do weight training. Did you continue to do weight training when you’re abroad at a gym?

    I ask because If you didn’t work for 3 months while traveling then when it’s time to work won’t you have much adjustment of habits to do?

    Like

  42. same with other readers, im wondering… where’s your computer? anyway i like your home office – great view! i think i wouldn;t get bored sitting in my desk if i have that kind of an office

    Like

  43. Hahm, must say that this is probably the idea of the office, according to Plato..

    The garden is excellent – though nothing beats a real, calm swedish forest. Wasn’t the oxygen chamber figurating in one of all the Michael Jackson-rumors? He slept there to preserve his youth and health, or something? Maybe another experiment for you ;)

    BTW, don’t know how you have regulated the light, but if you “have night” in the garden at nighttime, wouldn’t it be smarter to be there in the evening? Considering that plants actually use oxygen and produce carbondioxide during night, if I remember my photosynthesis correctly.

    And… it seems that I’m not the only one who’s curious about the gifts… c’mon, give us a clue :P

    Like

  44. Tim – Great little piece, but I would encourage you (and your readers) to read Ricardo Semler’s work, if you haven’t already. Ironically enough, the book to introduce you to Semler’s management style is entitled, “The Seven Day Weekend” followed by “The Maverick”. Cheers,

    Jake

    Like

  45. Hey Tim,

    I’m trying to get my boss, who is also my mom, to look more into this concept. It’s a bit tricky, however, since we are in the garden service industry and everything bottlenecks through her. She doesn’t want to have to work so much, but she has the company set up so she must. Hopefully I can keep drilling this 80/20 principle into her brain.

    Your work is great, keep it up.

    -Mike

    Like

  46. I was on the train in Stockholm last year and struck up a conversation with a chap from British Telecom who like me was in town for a convention.

    Guess what? BT in 2007 had 80,000 workers but only 60,000 desks! A employee goes into an office wherever he may be that day,picks an empty desk plugs in his laptop and logs into the IP phone which is already there. Instant office…

    MySQL was sold for $1B a few months ago. Guess what #2? They had 400 employees but NO office! You can’t beat that can you??

    So ROWE seems to be more common in Europe, But working anywhere can lead to working always… and that is where Tim and the 4HWW come in. Thank you Tim!

    Like

  47. Great post Tim,
    It is great seeing where you work/think/write… your personal rain forest is an incredible idea for home-based entrepreneurs who need some time to think & relax.
    It is seems to work incredibly well

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  48. I’m all for getting rid of as much paper as possible – good for the environment – but surely having to hunt for a desk every day is a bit of a waste of time. Also, open plan offices always seem to be real productivity killers – too much distracting noise.

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  49. The Interpolis implementation works because the created the space, they changed the culture, the staff don’t have to be there 100% of the time.

    The same thing was attempted at ING House as Celine points out. But it’s a myth. There are now 1.5 x the original number of intended occupants and space is squashed. Most people in the building “need” to be there 5 days a week. No-one voluntarily changes desks. The “free-desk” concept that the building was designed for has definitely failed. Mainly because no effort went into changing the culture, and not all the tools are available for people to work from home easily.

    (Thanks for the post of your home office – it gives me something to aim for. I use one IKEA night table to hold laptops and books needed for research. I thought I was doing well!)

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  50. @ anja, moshe: I am absolutely sure that ROWE-like work-environments will be the way to do it in the future if you want to succeed as a company – not only in Europe. Employees are more productive, more motivated, happier. Voluntary turnover rates go down. The employer saves a lot of money on real estate and can more easily recruit the best people. Also consider the environmental aspect of not everyone contributing to a traffic jam every day just to look at a computer screen.
    @canalrat: Other than this post might suggest at first glance, office design is NOT the critical factor for going ROWE (though it’s good to have a corresponding / open floor-layout, in fact the goal is – of course – to be in the office as little as possible). So, you are absolutely right: Easy-to-use tools for remote-woking are vital and culture is the main ingredient. Ask Cali and Jody from Best Buy and they’ll tell you how you first have to fight “Sludge” (i.e. people badmouthing about time behind their colleague’s backs).

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  51. From personal experience I can tell the Interpolis HQ is an impressive building. Some areas feel like living rooms, the furniture is beautiful and breathes quality and the variety of spaces and rooms makes it an exciting place to work. I can imagine people being more productive, but it’s not working-heaven.
    The same problem pointed out by CanalRat applies here. People coming in late have difficulties finding a workspot. Quite a few people I know who work there are in 4 to 5 days a week. Also, this kind of setup is not suitable for everyone. It works very well for people working individually, but less for teams that perform better when they have a dedicated room for themselves (the right environment for the right job…). For more thoughts on this, see my post ‘Office Layout – Going Overboard with Open Spaces’.

    Neat office btw, no distractions but with a positive feeling. Nice insight on constraints being a precursor to simplicity. Makes me think about the stress of choice…

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  52. Hey Tim,

    The first thing I noticed about your “Zen office” is the lack of papers everywhere. I wonder how many lifetimes it will take us to learn that clearing the slate is actually good for productivity. Keep up the good work man, you’re an inspiration to all of us!

    Zen Dodgeball Master Alex

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  53. I want to believe I can make this work because it makes good sense and is definitely more beautiful.

    Maybe with thorough effort and follow-through, it can work. I try to overcome the expectation that under the calm demeanor of the duck above water, he is paddling his feet like crazy.

    It’s a good destination only achievable if I can make the journeying proper.

    Thank you for your article, ideas and photos.

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  54. It’s late, I’m in my office getting rid of all of my stuff… It feels so cluttered now that I’ve seen your workspace. I absolutely love your plant area. I have a total of three plants… that’s going to change.

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  55. I’m more productive at home than at the office! How ironic is that? When I am at the office, there are so many other distractions, more specifically sugary foods, other people, phones ringing, office pages. . .just noise. If i don’t ave to be there, I make it a point to stir clear and work from home.

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  56. If you take a digital photo instead of using scanner what do you then do with the file to make it searchable, sortable, printable??? I know about the scansnap but I already have a digi camera so if I can use that instead I’d love to know how. thanks-Bill

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  57. Inspired me to clean out my office. I got rid of so much paperwork and cleared out almost everything of a personal nature. This way if I ever need to bail I can be out in 5 minutes flat. I still have pictures of my daughter, for inspiration, plus a little item to remind me of each planned mini-retirement. I have a small pyramid paper weight for a sojourn to Egypt, and a model train to remind me of my mom & I planning to travel by rail. We hit the tracks in Canada next summer.

    I also hit the select all delete on my inbox folders. It was scary, as I have no way of verifying if I communicated with co-workers and clients, but it was liberating too.

    I eliminated a ton of crap on my to do list, re-prioritized, profiled some of my largest clients, and yesterday signed another new large contract.

    My other habit is putting only 3-4 items on my to do list and then get up and go home when I’m done. So far there have only been mild mumblings about my where-abouts. When people ask I always answer, “I don’t get unemployment if I quit”. Good thing I just brought in more money, I think I just earned my keep for a few more months at least.

    Love, love, love, the lessons of the 4HWW.

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  58. Dude,

    You just sumerized in a book what I have spent most of my life trying to create. I have actually felt guilty working hard for short hours when I watch my friends and neighbors come home way after dinner. The hardest part of focusing on high impact short hours vs low impact long hours is that the rest of the world hasn’t seem to have recieved the memo. When I lived in Europe during college I swore to myself that I would return. Then I thought i needed to make gobs of cash before taking this step. Then I had kids. What you have done with your life is admireable. You have created your own reality. This is like putting puzzle pieces together however with a puzzle there is a finite amount of pieces with a certain solution. What you have done is taken the leap of faith that the pieces would all fit together if you focused enough thought into making it work. The good news is that I will be increasing your passive income as I plan on buying many copies of this book for family, friends and work collegues.

    Thanks for what you have done.

    Scott

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  59. Tim,

    I enjoyed reading your book and I visit your webiste from time to time. This is just another article I enjoy to read, as Interpolis says: Glashelder.
    Thanks!

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  60. Hi Tim,

    The new Dutch Microsoft building at Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam), which has just been opened, learned their lessons from Interpolis and even took it to the next level: It’s the four hour work week in full effect!

    I happen to work there and I don’t have to physically attend to any meeting anymore! And here is the great part: It’s all part of Microsoft’s official “People Ready” strategy.

    Productivity has gone through the roof since its opening and other companies are lining up for a visit as if it was the Van Gogh museum.

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  61. Tim,
    I can’t see the quote very well * do one thing every day..* If you or anyone can write it here, I’d really appreciate that.
    I like your office and garden very much…. need to work on mine too.

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  62. Whether you are starting a new business, upgrading or expanding your current office space now you have to find the right for your business application. The you choose can save you money or cost you money in employee productivity and efficiency. Sometimes paying a little extra for ergonomic options available in the line of office furniture you may be considering will pay you back with increased productivity. When your employees are comfortable they can maintain a higher output for a longer period of time before they begin to feel tired and stiff from sitting at a desk all day. In an ideal situation, your employees will feel as fresh at the end of their work day as when they started. Your office furniture is more important then you may realize.

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  63. hi Tim. love your book, blog and work|breath-space. the idea to use an expandable kitchen-table for a desk is brilliant. myself, I don´t have a need for this idea, as my company is a small furniture manufacturer, so of course I´ve got a very nice and slim cherrywood desk with expandable sites for mouse, phone and the like and with drawers, too, where I even can store my netbook in, if not my notebook. But, I will happily recommend your “solution” to people who come in and long for our custom-made desks but just cannot afford one. It´s funny, many quite obvious good solutions just don´t come to mind easily- is that because they are tooo easy? ^^ Grüße aus Deutschland, nea.

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  64. Your zen home office looks very beautiful and tranquil. You are an inspiration. I’m working on finding my muse to get my time back.

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