WOUT HERMANS is a former digital strategy consultant, now working as the Enterprise Transformation Manager at MURAL – and – a part-time digital nomad. In this interview, we talk about how the team at MURAL works remotely, why it’s important to visualize your work, and Wout’s experiences on Nomad Cruises. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/hermanswout, https://mural.co/)
Wout’s tips for working remotely:
- Find a group of people that you can get together and work with (in person) occasionally.
- For team building and better communication, turn the webcam on.
- Visualizing work can bring a new kind of alignment on the team. It helps people understand each other better.
- Visualizing work online distributes the power to the group. Instead of one person standing at the whiteboard with a pen – in person, virtually, everyone is standing at the whiteboard with a pen. Additionally, there is a recording of the session. So instead of walking into a room and seeing a whiteboard with scribbles you don’t understand without the context, MURAL can record the session so you know how things came to be.
- A lot of conflict comes from people not knowing what each other are doing.
- Get your team together in person on a regular basis.
- To create focus, try breaking your day into different parts.
- Set boundaries for yourself so you don’t overwork.
- Keep digital devices out of the bedroom to help improve your quality of sleep.
- If you’re just starting out with remote working, give yourself a transition period to try things out first.
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: Great. So we’re live welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette, and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. And I’m very excited today to be speaking with Wout Herman’s and Vout you are an Amsterdam, and I am in The Hague. So we’re actually not that far away. We’re still doing it remote. That’s, that’s just the way it goes. But now you’re the enterprise transformation manager at Mural, which is the tool that all the rage online whiteboard. You also participated in the Nomad cruise. So we’re going to get into that. But let’s start with the first question, which is what does your virtual office look like? What do you need to get your work done?
Wout Hermans: Yeah, good question. Thank you, thanks for having me. So I basically I would say, split up my, my virtual workplace into two different modes. The one mode that I’m in now at home, this is my home office. I work from here I think about like seventy-five percent of the time, and they have like a big monitor, ergonomic chair, everything that I need here to get my work done. And the other time I really like to spend outside of my home in, in coffee places and co-working spaces, whether that’s in Amsterdam, or when I’m traveling for work, maybe somewhere else. And for that, I also have my old gets of five, my iPad, my laptop stand, my ergonomic mouse and all the little tools that I need to still work economically and comfortably. But I do like to get inspired by some by some new places and actually going out there to meet some people because, as you see in my living room, there are not so many people to meet and I do like that.
Lisette: Yeah, it’s like thankfully in your own home. There’s not a lot of people hanging out because you invited them there. So…
Wout Hermans: Exactly.
Lisette: So interesting. So but in terms of like all your ergonomic things that you have, is that something that you have bought yourself or is that something that company provides for you? How that, how does that work?
Wout Hermans: Yeah, good one. I actually started buying these things myself even before I joined Muriel but they did help me with some newer purchases that I had around that because they appreciate that it is important to have like a comfortable an ergonomic work situation so I’m definitely supported in that which I which I really appreciate as well.
Lisette: Yeah different companies around the world doing different ways and in the US the health insurance it’s tied to the company so it’s in the company’s best interest to supply people with ergonomic things and then places like the Netherlands you know, we have our own health insurance is not dependent on any particular company so then it’s usually up to the individual to supply it.
Wout Hermans: That’s true that’s true. Even though even though I would like I would invest into it and do it myself because I’ve had some problems in the past with RSI for example on my arm, so I do know the value of it, so I would happily invest in it. Yeah, it’s, it’s something you work on like probably like close to ten hours a day, so it’s worth it.
Lisette: Yeah, for sure. I have the same standing desk all kinds of stuff. And I’m curious so you’re in your home office seventy-five of the time, what makes you leave the house? When you go to your coffee shops or co-working spaces? Why? What tasks are you doing then?
Wout Hermans: So I will do most of my meetings from, from home even though I don’t I still have like online meetings Wherever I am, even sometimes on my bike, to be honest, I, I cycle around and I’m sort of scrolling with my that will be with my close colleagues, and they’re like, Where are you I like sitting on the bike in the park, just enjoying the sun. But usually, when I go out to a coffee place, it will be to get some new inspiration whenever I’m writing something or actually have to have to focus deeply. I can do that better when I’m in a different environment where I just put on my headphones. And the second part is actually to just meet to meet some other people. I have a group of friends here in Amsterdam who are like digital nomads, freelancers who work in the same situation. As me basically, they also like to go out there sometimes. So we have a WhatsApp group, I think of about twenty people now, where we just ride like, Hey, I’m going out in the afternoon or in the morning, wants to join. We just pick a spot and meet there. And then we are kind of like, you know, like, like fake colleagues or something we call it sometimes.
Lisette: Make colleagues. Yeah, but you’re real. And so it’s like good people, every random people getting together, working on your own things, but being social and working on your own things.
Wout Hermans: Exactly. And we have the same like water cooler chat or chat over a coffee and we help each other out with some problems that we’re facing and it just like normal colleagues.
Lisette: How did you meet these people?
Wout Hermans: Actually, most of them I met on the Nomad cruise. We’re going to talk about it a bit. So like it’s, it has been like a very great network building, building exercise for me. And through that Now, like I had, like a core group of friends who have their own friends and it grows and it grows, it grows and randomly by posting something on LinkedIn or an Instagram actually other others asked like, hey, that sounds cool. Can we join that group and threw it out the meeting, new people, all the time.
Lisette: So I asked these questions because so many remote workers complain about feeling lonely working in your house all the time. And, and this kind of this kind of idea, I think would help a lot of people, which is just to have this ad hoc group that you can WhatsApp and say, hey, I’m going to go work at the coffee shop X in the afternoon between two and six. If anybody wants to join, I’ll be there. And then people join or not. And…
Wout Hermans: Exactly, yeah.
Wout Hermans: So it’s free to join. No, no obligations. Yeah. It’s amazing.
Lisette: Cool. And is there any structure to the work sessions or just people show up at a table and everybody just starts working with you tell each other for instance, what you’re working on, or do you check in with each other? How does, what does that look like?
Wout Hermans: Yeah, like that’s a good question. Because in the beginning, when we started off, we did that really structured actually. We, we had kind of like this Pomodoro technique of like, now we’re going to work for twenty-five minutes everybody focus and we’ll have five minutes of chatting. And then we’ll repeat the same thing over and over again. That seems to work really well. And I don’t know actually why we, why we stopped doing that we did have like a more structure to it. Now we are a bit more flexible, I think in terms of chatting over, over-focusing a little bit like, like you would be in the…in in an office. When you have your headphones on. You want to focus Otherwise, we’ll just go for a coffee and a jet somewhere else.
Lisette: Love it.
Wout Hermans: Yeah.
Lisette: It’s sort of a self-organized, self-organizing colleagues.
Wout Hermans: Yeah. But I do like this reminder of the structured work and then we need to introduce that again, I think.
Wout Hermans: It’s nice to like speak, to speak about like the topics that you’re going to work on because it always sparks and conversations and ideas, I think.
Lisette: Yeah, indeed. You are right like other people knowing what you’re doing, like, oh, yeah. How to how do you do that? And how do you use Opting Monster for whatever? Yeah, I mean, it’s all yeah, it’s all kinds of good things. Interesting. Okay, we’re going to talk about the Nomad cruise in a second. But I do want to I want to dive into your experience at Mural just because it’s all the rage. So you’re the enterprise transformation manager at Mural. You have offices in the Netherlands, obviously, Windows IRA’s, San Francisco, you’ve mentioned Berlin and some other places. So you guys are clearly working across a number of different time zones with a number of different people. Tell me what is an enterprise transformation manager and then tell people a little bit about what mural does.
Wout Hermans: Exactly a good point. Let me start with that. So what Mural is, is basically an online whiteboard or a digital workspace for teams to collaborate visually. So I always compare it a little bit to Google Docs in Google Docs you can collaborate with multiple people at the same time. In real-time, and you see changes that are made in Mural that happens the same as your race if you’re working on like a white canvas where you can add sticky notes, you can add images, videos, whatever elements you what you want to add to collaborate visually used a lot for online workshops for design thinking workshops for agile practices, etc., you can come up with almost any use case that you want. That also rules a little bit intuitive rule that I have. So an enterprise transformation manager. Basically, we gave it that name intentionally. My role is kind of like a client success manager, or maybe a modern version of an account manager. I work with existing clients. But I’m not just focused on teaching people, the tool and getting new licenses and those technicalities, but it’s a little bit more a little bit broader. It’s kind of I’m kind of more of a consultant and teaching the client to collaborate efficiently and collaborate online. Because we’ve experienced it’s not, it’s not just about like implementing a tool or software like Mural, that that’s going to change anything in the company. It’s actually about the practices and the rituals around that are much more important to get any success out of it.
Lisette: For sure, so where do you start with somebody? How do you start them down the path of this digital online collaboration? Because that is, yeah, so well, yeah. Where do you start?
Wout Hermans: It is it is a huge, huge task, and it definitely doesn’t happen. That doesn’t happen overnight. So where do we start? It’s very different for our company because we work with enterprises that are as big as IBM’s and the SAP’s of this world, very traditional, very large corporations to maybe more digital-native companies like Spotify and Netflix. As you can imagine at the more digital-native companies people are more used to working online to having online meetings like this. So they would, they would basically they don’t need so much support. They like a little bit of our help. But they usually get on with it fairly, very quickly. Especially then I would say like design more design-focused roles. People are actually working with online tools. People get it, get it very quickly and they know how to work there. If I’m working with corporations with bigger corporations, I come from the background myself as well. I used to work at IBBM with also with other corporations so I definitely know how its how it’s going there. And it is very common still to have like meetings not even definitely no camera on but even in a video conferencing, audio conferencing setup, it’s over phone and even today if sometimes they have a long way to come and I don’t try to we don’t try to boil the ocean there but take them with little steps like hey, let’s try it let’s try video on and let’s try to use Mural for simple tasks maybe just for an online meeting or for a stand-up meeting to visualize the things that we are working on as a team so it’s really a nice little steps.
Lisette: Okay so little steps trying to get people online and yeah, I’ve also noticed that the bigger companies that they have, they’re a little bit more behind in terms of software and I won’t even say its tools it’s more like people not turning their videos on this really old equipment why do you think that is? What is it what or what why do you think people don’t like turning their videos on?
Wout Hermans: I think it’s like comfort in a way it’s nice to hide. It’s nice to hide but be with not having the webcam on, I do think of course like we will both agree on this like a lot of visual communication is lost if you don’t have the webcam on, and I think I’ve heard a number of reasons actually, like one of them is like, hey, I’m, I’m not in my business attire at the moment now so I don’t want to show the show myself to the client like this. So that’s why I don’t turn on my video. I think it’s like little things that keep keeping people from doing it. But I think the way to change that is to actually just switch it on and see people see the value of it. So I have been in meetings where there are like fifteen people from, from a customer, everybody at their video switched off, but I was like, Okay, I’m going to switch mine on because I believe that this is, this is important. And then I saw like more and more people switching it on during the call and also in later calls with them. More and more people will switch to videos. I think it’s, yeah, you need some, some change-makers. And maybe people need to see the value of it because it is a change in working since from what people are used to.
Lisette: Yeah, Indeed, indeed. And I like the idea of like showing them what is the value of turning on, turning on the camera. Because immediately the extroverts in the group usually turn their cameras on like, oh, this is nice. I love seeing people its way more fun this way and then slowly others start to do it. But I’ve also found that the reason why people don’t do it is they’re hiding they want to hide for whatever reason, like clothing, maybe their backgrounds not appropriate or the kids are there or yeah, it’s a bad hair day or something. So…
Wout Hermans: Yeah. Or they are just on their phone or like doing something else another go and reason I think.
Lisette: Multitasking I think I think is…
Wout Hermans: Multitasking.
Wout Hermans: It’s reason yeah, why they’re not paying attention. So, so then what do you guys um, I would say let’s describe a little bit about how you work at Mural with across the different time zones like how is it loot, you know, just on a very general level, how are you structured?
Wout Hermans: Yeah.
Lisette: How do you guys work? Like when you have standup meetings? How do you coordinate with each other?
Wout Hermans: Yeah, the definitely so Mural is originally from Buenos Iris from Argentina. That is why most of the most of my team members or the company is in Buenos Iris I think about like fifty people are there. And then there are about we are seventy-five in totals that are twenty-five spread over mainly the US. There are like there is an office in San Francisco and under some people spread over to the US. And currently, we have three people outside of the America that is one in London, me and Amsterdam and one in Berlin. And we all work from home or from co-working spaces. And we e typically work together as a team. I’m in the customer experience team. We are with about ten people. We have like weekly meetings with our team on a Monday, Monday, late afternoon beginning of the evening for me early in the morning for San Francisco and then we have like stand-ups to talk about what we’re all working on what we’re busy with what, what problems we have, so we can all chip in there. And on a daily level we do kind of like an online stand up in slack we have like a boat there where everybody is updated what he’s working on for today. And that’s nothing very elaborate. It’s just for yourself also to get an idea of what I’m going to focus on you just right there for it just takes a minute what you’re working on everybody sees that then I usually browse through that and chip in when I see someone is working on that or struggling with that like I know I know something and we, we just…
Lisette: It in your work you are Adhoc colleagues in a way.
Wout Hermans: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.
Lisette: Yeah. Okay. Interesting. So you’ve got daily stand-ups and weekly meetings, you guys are using slack and for your…what do you use to talk to each other?
Wout Hermans: We use Zoom.
Wout Hermans: We’re a big fan of, of using Zoom before because of the great audience video quality but also definitely the breakout rooms because we tend to do workout workshops quite a lot so breakout rooms’ functionality is amazing.
Lisette: Yeah, it’s like one of the greatest features the Zoom is separate overall the slavish [Inaudible 16:13] for sure. I get no money from them from anybody that’s listening I just [Inaudible 16:17] but if Zoom wants to offer me money, I’ll gladly take it.
Wout Hermans: Yeah it, and of course, of course, I have to make sure like we use Zoom and slack but mainly we use Mural. Of course, we got a…
Lisette: I was going to ask.
Wout Hermans: You know like food.
Lisette: I just hate the phrase eating your own dog food because who wants to eat dog food but…so what do you guys then use mural for? Like, how does mural play into your day to day life?
Wout Hermans: Yeah, so we tend to use it.
Lisette: Maybe like unnecessarily for everything. We tried. We try out everything like sometimes they’re like, I don’t think this is the best use case for a Mural but let’s try it out. And then if it doesn’t work, that will put it into something else and I have some, some examples for that where I was making an overview of a lot of, a lot of data and it’s like, let’s try it out a mural didn’t work so well for that use case. So we use the air table instead, which is kind of a, an online version of Excel I would say or database. But I use it, for many use cases. One is, for example, account mapping, if I’m like working with a new customer, I’m trying to understand the organization trying to understand what their needs are, which are trying to do how the organization is structured in terms of people who are their customers and worked it out visually on a canvas in Mural for myself. And usually, I work together with someone from sales on that. So we work on that mural together, synchronously or asynchronously, which is the beauty of it as well. other use cases would be actually for almost every online meeting that I have we just open up a mural, even if it’s just a one on one meeting, to catch up with, with someone or to discuss some topics, just open up a Mural and we based links in there of things that we are discussing, or we work out the notes in there visually. So we were sure that we under chat understand each other and yeah, both get the most value out of it.
Lisette: So indeed, this is got me thinking, like, one of the aspects for great online meetings is one being able to see each other and turning the cameras on. And another one of the aspects is being to visualize what we’re actually talking about together. And so, I mean, in the combination of having video and having sort of this whiteboard that everybody can access and post anything to easily select photos, videos, text, you know, I’m sure you know, others, or what else is including those categories, but I’m sure tons of stuff and just being able to visually see what you’re doing. And so then does everybody do just share your screen and people I mean, everybody’s logged into Mural, obviously, and they can add things but is there as a do you share your screen or is everybody just looking at their own instance of Mural on a separate monitor?
Wout Hermans: Yeah. So when I go collaborate with colleagues it’s usually everybody is working in their own instance of Mural. In there I can summon people to look at the part of the mural that I am looking at so I can guide them around. That’s the, I would say the best way to collaborate, I would sometimes share my screen that is mainly with from us if I’m working with people who are new to mural who haven’t used it before, or have a limited amount of knowledge and I guide them around what by sharing my screen, but usually we just opened up like the video and a Mural on the sides. And indeed what you mentioned in terms of being able to visually see what others are doing it comes up with a lot of it brings a lot of alignment is one of the advantages that we see of using Mural because very often in language invoice but also seeing each other. Still a lot of communication is lost and still, we are not aligned. Like I can tell you something that in an idea that you haven’t you might interpret that in a very different way. But once I visualize it and like, ah, that’s what you mean, then we really get aligned.
Lisette: Right? And so it’s, it’s sort of the modern or the digital version of everybody standing around a whiteboard and saying, no, this is what I mean, I’m going to draw like this puppy in this, whatever it is that you’re talking about, like, like, oh, this is what I mean, I’ll just draw it for you quickly. And on Mural, you’re basically doing the same thing for people, you’re just doing it virtually
Wout Hermans: Exactly, exactly like that. And that brings up actually another advantage, and that is kind of more of inclusion and confidence of people. If there was someone at the whiteboard, it’s usually the person with the marker, and there’s closest to the whiteboard that it said that one that it’s writing, if everybody has their own workspace in front of them for a laptop, it’s much there’s much lower barrier for them to share something. And if other people are sharing something that you are a little bit more peer pressure to actually also start sharing yourself so you have a little bit more engagement than there as well.
Lisette: Oh, I love it indeed. Because I forget that there is somebody there’s one person that’s got the pen and they’ve got the power whereas you Sort of distributing the power, everybody has the pen.
Wout Hermans: Yep.
Lisette: And since we’re not physically standing, we don’t have to physically crowd each other, everybody can contribute, equalizing a lot. And in this case, remote has an advantage over in person.
Wout Hermans: Totally, totally also for people who couldn’t make it to that session, for example, because it’s all stored in the cloud. It’s all it’s all digital. So they could log into the Mural afterward and see what’s happened. Whereas it’s harder to walk into the room and see what’s still on the whiteboard. So it brings those advantages as well.
Lisette: In combination with recording your meetings, then they’ve got everything they need to know like, they don’t even need to, can you look back at the history of Mural? Can you like do a playback of like, this is where we started, and this is where we end up?
Wout Hermans: In a way, but that is actually a feature that we are looking at because it’s we’ve gotten that request before and it said it will be interesting to see.
Lisette: Yeah, I mean, you never know. I mean, I know what it’s like to get in like requests, everybody who knows how often it would get us but it would be pretty interesting for people.
Wout Hermans: No, no definitely, I think so. Because a lot, a lot is set in the process of doing a workshop, rather than just looking at the end result so I definitely do see the value.
Lisette: Yeah, curious. Okay, so what do you guys struggle with? It can’t all be roses over there you go. I’m sure there’s some. There’s some challenges.
Wout Hermans: No, no, of course, there. There always are. Maybe one of the main challenges that we, that we see in getting this way of working across this visual way of working that it’s, it’s one it’s often hard to, hard to explain. I’m curious if listeners immediately got what would we have been explaining here? It’s much easier to see what Mural is if you visualize it, again, it’s one of the powers of Mural, but you got it you got to see it and then you learn it. But then still, it’s hard for people to imagine what to use this for what when you use this because you can do so many things. I mean, I named a few use cases, but there are so many things that it sometimes overwhelms people. And they’re like, okay, but where? Where do we start with this? And the other thing is that it doesn’t replace really replace something that we do already. It’s not like Skype is replacing a normal phone call, or slack is replacing email. Mural isn’t replacing something that we were that we are doing and online meetings now already. It’s kind of like a new thing. It’s a new addition in there. So that’s hard to. It’s hard to say what to ask people to make people see the value of that, I would say,
Lisette: Yeah, and at the same time, I get daily emails from people asking, are there is there an online whiteboard that I can use? It’s like the number one question after how do I get a remote job? Which, how do we what whiteboard because there’s one there’s many different whiteboards out there. And people and also I think people just don’t know that this is available. So it’s almost like they don’t know what they’re missing yet they don’t know how much pain they’re in, because they’ve never experienced not being in pain. So it’s, it’s a tough problem to solve except you know that there’s a need out there everybody’s looking for like, Yeah, but how do that online and I think Mural just go to Mural.
Wout Hermans: Yeah, exactly. It’s, it’s good to hear that there is a market and maybe that’s, that comes into to what we are really working on, like, we are still a small company, as I said, we are seventy-five people, which is fairly small for such a, for an enterprise tool that we are that we’re actually trying to be. So we’re, we’re working on scaling at the moment on that getting this out there more. And then people don’t have to ask the question anymore, what whiteboards that they use but they’ll just think about Mural.
Lisette: Yeah, it’ll just be a no brainer. And, how do you guys deal with conflict when it happens between remote colleagues, I mean, it must come up. That there’s like disagreements and fighting. And so what’s your social norms for dealing with that?
Wout Hermans: Right. That’s a, that’s a good question. I haven’t had big, big conflicts coming up in, in meetings that I’ve been, but I, I do feel some feel some conflict sometimes coming up, and I would say, most of them, most of them come. I know, the reason for most of the conflicts is that people don’t understand what other people are doing, what they are working on. So they kind of assume this person is trying to do this. And that interferes with what I’m doing, or I don’t agree with that. And that’s where some irritation happens. And basically what’s in those cases then that helped us reach is go back to the basics like hey, what are we as a company trying to do here and what role do we that we both play and who’s responsible for what and, hey, we’re all in this together. We’re actually trying to do the same thing, solves a lot of, all of those irritations and those conflicts.
Lisette: So just stay taking a step back and looking at the big picture like okay way before we fight about this, what’s the ultimate goal? And then what’s so then it sounds like it’s more one on one like, it would be me coming to you and saying, hey, I’m irritated about something. How to let’s work on this. It’s not like people are going to managers or…
Wout Hermans: No, no, I think we have a very since we are small, we have a very informal culture and we know each other as a company maybe it’s also interesting to me to mention, like every year this year was in December, we meet up with the whole company together. So last December, we were in Buenos Iris where we’re Mural where it all began for Mural of course, and we met there with the whole company and that’s incredibly valuable, to meet everybody in person, to have a barbecue together, to have fun together to work together and I still reap the benefits of that now. Like there is for me a Mural there was a time before I met everybody and after I met everybody, it’s so much easier to like to talk to someone to align with someone.
Lisette: Yeah, I mean, I was an all virtual all the time. And I didn’t believe in meeting in person until my team that I work with we met in person for the first time after five years, it changed everything. And there’s nothing like hanging out over a bowl of nachos together. There are barbecues or beer or whatever drink. Yeah, it’s uh, yeah, it just accelerates the team building. So I do recommend getting together in person, if you can, so, so yeah.
Wout Hermans: Definitely.
Lisette: I can imagine. Okay, so we’re getting we’re running close to time but I have so many questions. So I want to step away from Mural for a second and ask you about this Nomad cruise which I’m when I looked at your LinkedIn profile I saw like oh, you doing on this Nomad cruise. Pretty interesting. So what I read is it’s a bi-annual skill-sharing journey for digital nomads and there was one it’s a fourteen-day sail between certain places. I don’t know if it’s different every time but there’s one from Gran Canarias to Panama. So it’s fourteen days on a boat. I’ll let you describe like what is the Nomad cruise? What and what attracted you to it?
Wout Hermans: Exactly good point. What attracted to me it let’s start with that that was the time when before I went for the first time I went twice Actually, I was still working at IBM, I was working in a corporate and I was unhappy about my job. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do, but I knew I wanted something different. I decided to quit my job to go traveling and explore very millennial thing to do with me, of course. And then a friend pointed me out like hey, have you seen this Nomad cruise thing? It sounds cool. And I checked it out. And I love the idea of it because indeed, as you mentioned, it is a skill-sharing journey for digital nomads. What it basically means the nomad’s cruise organization runs a part of a cruise ship that goes from Europe to Latin America. It has different routes every year. And it gathers a group of digital nomads on there. It’s a growing amount but like when I went the first time there were two hundred and fifty people. Last time there were five hundred digital nomads there who actually all go created the program for that cruise. So it’s a skill-sharing journey for professional skills, but also very much for more personal development for things like yoga and meditation, sports, improve whatever you name like the things that you have heard about, but you have never tried you can try on the nomad’s cruise. And it would look like different every almost every day although there was some structure to it. Whereas in the morning in the morning, she would have like keynotes of people who have something super interesting to share. And then the afternoon we have the whole afternoon of meetups workshops where people actually teach you things. And then, of course, there are parties there are sports, there was a lot of things to enjoy on the cruise ship.
Lisette: Yeah, food I hear food.
Wout Hermans: Food definitely, yeah definitely. [Crosstalk]
Lisette: Sorry, sorry what?
Wout Hermans: It’s all-inclusive. So there is an abundance of food and drinks.
Lisette: I can imagine and it’s fourteen days on a cruise ship.
Wout Hermans: Yes, exactly. And even though it is fourteen days, but it usually stops on islands in between. There are not so many islands, as you might know, between Europe and America. So the islands are mainly in the end, when you we were in the Caribbean. And from sailing from Gran Canarias. I think the first one was towards the Caribbean was around eight days at the ocean. And I did tend to enjoy those days more, rather than when we were actually hopping off on the island for a day and coming back because being locked up on this on this cruise ship actually gave us like really like a community feeling. And everybody, yeah bonded really well in those days.
Lisette: Yeah, because you’re all in one place. You can’t go anywhere. It’s sort of this sort of exclusive thing that you’re doing at the time. And what are some of the skills that you learned on this Nomad cruise what are some of the workshops you attended?
Wout Hermans: So actually, the first time that I went, I really, really enjoyed going to well, let’s start over saying I went to almost everything. I was super overwhelmed after that first one because I just tried out everything. I didn’t have any focus as to what I wanted to learn. I just wanted to learn it all. And so actually, I went through like meditation workshops. I went to cryptocurrency talks I learned about, about how to set up your online e-commerce business. I learned about web development. I learned about so many, so many things.
Lisette: Dang, I love it and the content is all curated by whoever shows up. So it’s sort of like a, conference or…
Wout Hermans: Yeah it is curated a little bit curated beforehand like they make it to make a program beforehand but everybody who was speaking was also just attending the cruise of course, you cannot just hop on and hop off.
Lisette: So what’s the biggest reason for the digital nomads for working this way? I mean, what why are people doing this?
Wout Hermans: Yeah, so the reason the founder of Nomad cruise I think set this up is to find like a community of like-minded people. Because digital nomads as a, as a people are often traveling around independently alone going to places like Thailand, like to Colombia to Bali, working from their online sitting in a co-working space, but having a hard time to connect to other people who are living maybe like a more normal life like living like it living in office job. They’re always trying to connect with the with like-minded people, and what the Nomad cruise has brought to many of them, I think is this community of like-minded people. And that is what I clearly saw on this on this cruise when I went for the first time, but maybe even more afterwards, because for the weeks and the months and almost years, I think afterwards people continue traveling with each other, but people that they met on this cruise because they have similar interests, similar lifestyle. And I think that is what really attracts people to keep on coming. That’s why I also went for a second time I built such a big group of friends there who I wanted to see again and to travel around with again. So I think that’s the big attractive side of it.
Lisette: Indeed, because I think two people I mean, like my dad, if my dad is still trying to understand what I do, you know, like, what’s the what’s going on. And so I can imagine that if you’re a digital nomad and your parents have never heard of this before, then it can be or your community has never heard of this before. It can seem like a really radical thing to go do and it’s nice to be around other people who are also doing the same thing. And I can say like, no, you’re not crazy. This is a viable way of making a living. It’s totally okay to do this. Here’s the tips. Here’s how to keep yourself sane. So do you have the same than I mean, are you just mostly based in Amsterdam? Or do you still travel around a lot do you?
Wout Hermans: Yeah, so I am, what I call well, part-time digital nomad, I don’t think I even am. I have a lot of friends who are really traveling around full time around the world. I’ve tried it for a little for a few months, and I didn’t enjoy it that much. I really prefer to have like a home base. And that is Amsterdam for me, for me now, where I spent most of the year and then there is the occasional trip for work or for myself, where I would travel and come back as well. I would come back and travel and work but I’m here predominantly, and so are a lot of these, these people that I met on the Nomad cruise who liked the concept of just maybe traveling for two, three months of the year. And for the rest. Stay in stay in Europe, maybe travel Winter I think it’s a good idea.
Wout Hermans: Ah, indeed yeah, I’m the same I like a home base the traveling a lot of just cracks me out no matter what I do no matter how many luxuries I buy myself, I still somehow it’s just if it’s too much then then I crack out. How do you keep yourself? How do you keep the work-life balance sane for yourself because we were talking earlier about you know you’re working with people in Buenos Iris and in San Francisco and you know like as you’re going to bed or you want to turn off at night, they’re just really their days are just getting started and you could just keep working pretty easily? I mean, how do you keep that balance for yourself?
Wout Hermans: Yeah, there’s definitely a struggle that I have learned over time and I’m still iterating on like, what works best to me in that regard. I do. I think it’s all about balance and like, not to say like breaking up my day into it into parts. So what I what I really like, like doing is just Working in the morning for a little bit and then doing a workout and going for lunch and I really take probably like, well definitely one hour usually like two or sometimes even three hours for that to really break up today. Working out its really meditative, meditative habit to do. So, I get I start work totally refreshed after that. And but as you said, like I am working with these different time zones. So especially in the evening, that’s where my problem is to switch off because when I tried to log out, which is usually around seven, everything’s slack is basically rambling emails are coming in, and it’s hard to switch off. So I really have to plan something for my evening. If I would just stay at home, I keep on working. And that honestly, that happens quite often. But if I just planned to go for dinner or for drinks with a friend or maybe like a meetup or something that actually got set up for me and that is super, super helpful. And the other thing is maybe what I learned through over the last month is I’m not doing any digital devices in my in my bedroom anymore. That’s like a, like a no go zone. My phone doesn’t go in there anymore and it helped my help improve my sleep. Quite, quite a lot.
Lisette: Yeah, it’s all the small easy things that we keep hearing and just not doing as it’s the same. I’ve had to put my phone out of my bedroom. And my husband has his phone out of his bedroom and are out of our bedroom. And yeah, it helps tremendously. I can’t I’m so sad and how much it helps actually. Like you don’t wake up thinking about work because I don’t check email the first thing in the morning. It’s like if I actually have to do something else before the email goes on, so I can imagine. Yeah.
Wout Hermans: Yeah exactly.
Lisette: Yeah, I keep telling people the most thing the thing that you have to worry about with remote working is not people being lazy. It’s the opposite. It’s burn out because it’s so easy to always be on I mean especially across time zones
Wout Hermans: I know exactly I can see that happening in the in our company as well everybody’s always working so some colleagues are very good at switching off their really say like Okay that’s it for today I’m logging off they even say it like that in slack and then we know they’re off often people like myself as well are online 24/7 and hardly take breaks hardly take holidays actually, even though we have the flexibility to basically take as much holidays as we want in a mural actually it’s super flexible, you do whatever you want, but everybody tends to keep on, keep on working because it’s I don’t know how that’s how that’s happening actually.
Lisette: Yeah, well, but also when you like each other and you like your colleagues and the people that you’re working with and you tend to want to hang out with them more and that sort of camaraderie that gets built so all you managers out there listening who are worried about your people being lazy, let me tell you, that’s not the problem. Oh man Okay, so I have I could go on and on but we’re going to have to wrap this up I would say last question. Okay second to the last question which is what advice would you give for people who are just starting out on remote working or digital nomads what advice would you give people now looking back on your own experience?
Wout Hermans: Yeah, I would definitely advise to have like a transition period not to jump into it full time basically not just jumping from your office job into rubbing your laptop and your backpack and going to Bali and just doing it all at once. But really like if you’re starting to do like remote work or maybe trying to become a digital nomad, try to go for a weekend away even if it’s just like going to an island in Spain for the weekend or for a week. Try to work from there and see how it works for you and how it works for your, for your, for your work and for your work-life balance. But not doing it all at once.
Lisette: Yeah, great. So small steps transition.
Wout Hermans: Definitely.
Lisette: Great advice. Okay. And I still have one more question, but and then I promise after that it will be the last question. Okay, so second to the last question again. Could you ever go back to working in an office?
Wout Hermans: No, there is no way. No, I’m very clear about that. And I, I experienced what the normal office life is also every day because of the clients that I’m interacting with, which I’m having a lot of fun with. But I yeah, I’m never going back to that like the freedom and the flexibility that it gives to me and the motivation. It’s worth a lot to me.
Lisette: I love it. Yeah, I could never go back either unless I had to five years ago and it was terrible terrible experience. I hated every minute of it. Got paid a lot and hated every minute of the actual last question, which is, if people want to learn more about you, what’s the best place to find you? How do they contact you?
Wout Hermans: The best place to find me would be On the LinkedIn search for Vout Hermans are not so many around there, I think there was only two so you’ll find me there.
Lisette: Okay, yeah, Vout Hermans at Mural even so…
Wout Hermans: At Mural yeah.
Lisette: To be more Specific. Yeah. Vout, thank you so much for talking to me today. I’m sorry. I went over the time it was just I had too many questions. And yeah, that’s what happens. But I really appreciate you taking the time with me today. Thank you.
Wout Hermans: No worries. I enjoyed it a lot. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Lisette: All right, everybody. Until next time, be powerful.
Individuals, Interview, Podcast