Our Founding Story
Searching for an EASI work-life
When, Where and How to do your best work
I grew up encouraged to make the most of my life. Along the way I learned how to and never stopped tuning habits. Regularly I’d say to myself: “I could have known this earlier”. But heck, Rome was not built in a day. Let me share how I got to EASI Rituals.
My curiosity was tapped from day one, I grew up like a sponge, ever thirsty for learning. Not just to memorise, rather use the wisdom. My dad’s mantra: “don’t be idle, do something useful” was imprinted. As was “always be helpful to others, and nice”. In my teens “don’t wait, take initiative” was added. My mom then, would ask: “how long have you been indoors? Go walk the dog”. Boy did these hints make a difference in my career.
Throwing the Education Darts
Primary school was a joy gaining good scores for arithmetic and writing, so I was swiftly moved to a Latin-Math class to stretch me further. But there was too much theory, I grew hungry for applying teachings.
When my dad pushed me towards an overspecialised Civil Engineering degree, I disagreed upon hearing a cousin had done that track... only to be jealous his brother went for Applied Economics. I took a hybrid Engineering & Economics track, one of my best career decisions as I got a nice intro to Automation and Marketing, which would dominate the years ahead.
Once an Author, always an Author
As a teenager I was tapped as editor of our college Summer Vacation Gazette. I would dispatch grade journalists to visit classmates and write funny stories about their lazy hobbies and pranks. Reviewing copy, illustrating, fast and flawless keyboarding on stencils, delivering bound mini newspapers. It served me well in writing a brick-size thesis on Data Dictionary/Directory Systems earning a great distinction. It opened doors to my first job at Accenture. A couple of years later the Belgian Society of Info Management asked me to write two booklets about Office Automation during my military service at the Federal Police Headquarters. Soon after, consultancy assignments followed for the young expert.
Onto the Stage
First encounter with stage fright! Presenting to the National Banking Association about word processing, email and voice processing. Ultra-legible handwritten text and illustrations on transparency film... no PowerPoint yet. Q&A with questions I couldn’t answer, baptism by fire. It wasn’t in vain, Wolters Kluwer asked me to join an editorial team to oversee the content of the Handbook for Office Automation published over 2 years. It landed a cool job with Wang Labs as manager of their European Briefing Center educating big corporations, public sector and the salesforce. But I grew fed up spending day after day in darkened presentation rooms. I needed to get out of the office cage! A milestone was the reveal of an Ergonomic PC range for Fujitsu-ICL at a Paris Press launch: riding a mountain bike with notebook & mobile phone strapped to the handlebars.
Teaming up for Adoption
The time had come to enlist larger audiences towards embracing the wonders of automation. Technology push was neither good nor wise. Educating colleagues and customers became priority: informing, explaining, listening, objection handling, mentoring, and coaching. People management and emotional intelligence came to the foreground too: performance managing salespeople, navigating complex decision making at large and sometimes bureaucratic organisations, avoiding lost-in-translation. I learned that fascinating interactions were key; holding meetings in memorable locations, in and outdoor.
Having spent a decade leveraging face to face encounters during relentless travel and wining and dining, I discovered the power of virtual sales and service running large contact centres with Dell in Ireland and Texas. The palette of Smarter Customer Interactions was soon taken to a next level as e-commerce took off.
Energy for the Productivity Ninja
I had neglected exercise going into University as class schedules were dense and weekends were dedicated to DJ work earning great pocket money. The workweek, amidst tiring commutes and forever inside days, proved exhausting. I started cycling, canoeing and enjoyed plenty weekend outings with family. Wang Netherlands had a company gym staffed with excellent coaches that blessed me with resilience building. As I worked for public companies with gruelling quarterly treadmills, I went for quarterly 10 day (weekends included) vacations in nature inspiring locations. I bought a foldable race cycle, so I could go for early morning cycle rides whilst crisscrossing Europe by company car.
Best Places to Work
My early work experiences as student were all outdoors: farm help, postman in seaside resorts, delivery van driver; what a joy. Consultancy and executive leadership kept me moving too.
In some assignments though, I had no choice but to camp in an office for days on end. I didn’t like it: cubicles in the US, open landscape offices everywhere with endless interrupting passers-by. Plus dull meeting rooms lacking fresh air and windows. Hated it. It got in the way of doing my very best.
With the arrival of mobile internet, for the first time I could ask myself: “where and when could I do this activity best?”. I discovered quickly: authoring early in the morning straight after a bike ride, arresting keynotes just before lunch. Sparring walks with colleagues or customers in the afternoon. Sharing experiences during a lovely outdoor dinner. Rituals started to emerge.
It took a while before I had a dedicated closed workspace at home. But the acoustics and views would often be inadequate. Living at the heart of London proved tough: never ending street noise, very poor internet connectivity, suffocating commutes. Often I would get the most done whilst traveling, embracing a good hotel room for late or very early focus work. I tried co-working but wasn’t impressed: again open landscapes with glass cages and hindering acoustics.
Every time I was on vacation or in nature, the creative juices started flowing. I decided to take my work outdoors, on my own, during weetings (walking meetings) and held seminars and workshops in parks and on boat decks. Energy was flowing constantly! Amidst generous breaks... in nature of course.
As the pandemic arrived, I found my home office suboptimal: very bad acoustics due to room shape, no humidity control, domestic lighting unfit for work, etc. I was not alone: the majority of home workers don’t have good acoustics nor height adjustable work surfaces. Most professionals don’t want to admit their homes are not fit for work... as their bosses will soon suggest they better return to the office.
With office return being rejected on grounds of very poor acoustics (yes, again), air, temperature control, natural light, greenery combined with lack of privacy and closed focus space; it’s clear that human workspace is largely dysfunctional across the board: in offices, at home and in co-working.
Bringing Best of Breed together
The good news is that plenty of research and best practice is abundant. Smarter Working principles, activity based working, WELL buildings with biophilic design - it’s all there to be leveraged. Unfortunately it’s often a bit too complex as it has been designed for larger organisations with big pockets - think Apple, Google, Microsoft et al.
Enter EASI: a combination of Rituals, Spaces and Places designed to embrace good work habits, in work optimised studios nestled in awesome nature-blessed places.
Go experience for yourself, work-life will be different ever after.
Philip Vanhoutte, Founder EASI