I am writing this while overlooking the beach in St Ives, Cornwall. We have come down here for a week with our children as it’s the first week of their Easter holidays.
This week is part holiday and part one big experiment. Can we relocate our four children for a week, do all the work that we need to do and have some lovely family fun together? It is an important experiment for us because we are building Makelight with a ‘sustainable family business’ at the forefront of all that we are doing.
Over the past few years of both doing lots of different things, some together and some individually, we have really thought about what is important to us. And the thing that comes up time and time again is family.
How can we build something that supports our aim of spending plenty of quality time with our children every week and of having adventures with them both near and far?
For both Stef and I work and life are very much connected, and our idea of work/life balance is not about having distinct days of work and play. We have written about this before and we are not the only ones thinking and feeling this. Douglas Coupland wrote about this last week in The Guardian.
What is important for us is reducing stress rather than reducing the number of hours a week that we work. A huge amount of what we do at Makelight feels us with inspiration, joy and excitement. We live and breathe out work and I know we are lucky to really love what we do. But we also have the big stresses that come with startup life, particularly startup life with a family living in London. The major stress for us is cashflow. It can be brutal.
This week's experiment
But back to our experiment. A major part of what is important to us this week, is how our Members feel about us being away for a week. They seem to sit in two camps (with of course plenty in the middle who haven’t even noticed that we’re anywhere different or don’t really mind either way as long as all that they need is there when they need it).
The first group of people are grumpy that we’ve gone away. To them it feels unprofessional I guess. They are understandably worried that something they have paid for might not be there when they need it. Or we might reduce what they get in April by a quarter and that wouldn’t be fair. I sort of get this. I know that we have a long way to go on our own story telling and communication. And this reaction highlights that for us.
What the people in this group don’t realise though is that all that we would be doing in London this week (especially as it’s the school holidays) is being done here while we’re away. We’re working every evening and taking it in turns to work during the day. And then all having some hours off together just as we would have done at home in London during the school holidays.
The second group of people are very concerned that we are relaxing enough and taking a break. They wish we could just switch off for a week and not worry about them or think about them for a week. They know how hard we work and know that we need and deserve a break.
We will of course talk to our Members more about this soon but it's been interesting to see their reactions so far. (Hello Members!!)
And what about the children?
They are having the best holiday. They love it when we are altogether and are so happy here. We are staying in the most beautiful place, literally on the beach. Yes, they know we are doing some work but one of us is always having fun with them and so they are loving it. For them this working holiday thing is totally normal. This is the life they know and love.
We are super happy. We are staying in one of the best self-catering places we’ve ever hired….if not the best. We are working with the sound of the ocean as our soundtrack. We are playing on the beach with our children and going surfing with our eldest.
We have thought about some big Makelight questions that always require time away from the every day to think through. We have shipped lessons, answered questions, replied to emails, signed a funding document, written blog posts, taken a whole heap of photographs and even fixed some technical bugs.
The biggest thing for us in all of this is whether or not we have connection to the internet. If that is working then everything else works. Ten years ago we went on holiday and one day we had to drive to an Internet Cafe where Stef spent the whole day fixing stuff and I walked around and around and around with a baby in a tiny town. It’s a memory that always sums up our need to be connected.
When we are holiday we are online in a different way. I definitely have holiday mode and work mode. A bit like my Sunday mode really. But if we don’t have any connection or really sporadic connection this causes us so much stress. When your business is on the internet like ours is and you can’t check anything or reply to anything or do anything…it is not fun. It is certainly not a holiday in anyway.
“But you need to switch off. You are working too hard.” Yep, so I’ll be back in a couple of hours when I’ve been for a surf or played cricket on the beach, safe in the knowledge that I can check in on anything I want to when I’m back.
That is my idea of holiday heaven!
Stef has just said "a holiday is like a normal working day but with holes in!" Yes, exactly this!
So, I conclude that this week of experimenting has gone very well indeed and is a definite sign that there will be many more adventures ahead.
PS I totally know that this way or working, thinking and doing life isn’t for everyone. Or even possible for everyone. But we want to be open about how and why we are building Makelight as we go. xo