Looking for a personal leadership style? Head to the Grand Nord

I was very excited to meet Marianne this winter as she shares a lot of the same values that we believe in at The Library; empowering entrepreneurs, Nordic work-life balance and achieving sustainable growth. We asked her a few questions to get to know her better.

What is your main area of work?

Leadership development through training and coaching for individuals and organizations. My passion and ambition is to support future leaders in finding a sustainable and personal leadership style. To support organizations in growing and keeping talents (especially women) in their organization and to be a partner and sounding board for entrepreneurs. My experience is from international organizations and I really enjoy working with different cultures and languages.

 

You have travelled a lot and lived and worked abroad for many years. How do you find working in Belgium, compared to the other countries you’ve lived in?

I am new in the Belgian work environment at the same time as I am new to the life of an entrepreneur. But so far, I do find Brussels open and people eager to help and find solutions. I love the international atmosphere, it is exactly as Geneva where I used to live and work but more relaxed and down to earth.

 

What brought you to The Library?

I was looking around for meeting rooms to have somewhere to meet clients. Visiting the Library Europe, it was love at first sight. Anne-Sofie kept inviting me to events at Ambiorix and Ixelles and after a few months I just could not resist even though I was quite happy to work from home. I was amazed by Anne-Sofie’s networking skills and the positive and friendly energy in the buildings. I am now in the co-working at Ixelles since a couple of weeks and just amazed what I can get done in a day. Starting the day with a clear desk, being outside my home and around inspiring people.

You can learn more about Marianne and what she can offer here: http://www.grandnord.se/en/start/

Welkom in het walhalla van ‘Hygge’

HYGGE (/huugə/)

De kunst van bouwen aan een gemeenschap en een heiligdom. De ander uitnodigen tot nabijheid en aandacht schenken aan openhartigheid en wat ons doet voelen dat we leven. Welzijn, verbondenheid en warmte creëren. Het gevoel dat je op dat moment bij elkaar hoort. Van elke dag een feest maken.

 

 

Vijf jaar geleden was ik in Brussel op zoek naar een even gezellige en knusse werkplek als mijn huis, maar met de infrastructuur van een kantoor en andere mensen erbij. Het moest een plek worden waar je je persoonlijk welkom voelde, met huisgemaakte snacks, waar mensen duidelijk moeite hadden gedaan voor je bezoek, waar de spanning instant van je af viel en je zonder reden een deuntje zou beginnen te neuriën. Al deze factoren samen beschrijven eigenlijk de essentie van ‘hygge’.

 

Het woord hygge (ik laat de aanhalingstekens weg, nu je het idee hierachter kent) werd met de jaren populairder en schopte het tot in de Collins English Dictionary. Hygge veroverde de tweede plaats in de lijst met nieuwe woorden van 2016, net na het woord Brexit. Dat is grappig genoeg het tegenovergestelde van hygge, maar dat is een andere zaak. Hygge werd zelfs erg bekend in België, hoewel er nog steeds een beetje een waas hangt rond wat dit nu precies is. Sommigen denken dat hygge een sport is die je beoefent – een soort Scandinavische mindfulness of zo. Anderen denken dat het vooral om taart gaat. Een journalist belde me zelfs onlangs op om me te interviewen over hoe hygge in een beoordelingsgesprek met je baas op te nemen. Wat je eerlijk gezegd niet echt kunt doen. Hygge is heus geen toverstokje. Een kaars aansteken, thee zetten, glimlachen naar elkaar en dan tegenvallende prestaties bepreken, dat gaat gewoon niet samen.

 

Ik dacht dus een lijstje op te stellen van hygge-momenten die vergelijkbaar kunnen zijn met je eigen ervaringen in je vrije tijd:

 

  • Vrienden nodigen je uit voor een etentje. Wanneer je aankomt, speelt er muziek. De tafel is gedekt, op het vuur pruttelt een pan. Op de tafel staan al glazen en aperitiefhapjes. Je vrienden bieden je een zitplaats aan en vragen hoe het met je gaat, hoe het écht met je gaat. Zie je de moeite en de aardigheid die hierachter schuilgaan? Dit betekent dat je klaar bent voor een hyggelige
  • Het was een lange week. Je bent een beetje kortaf en gestrest, maar een paar coworkers vragen je mee om samen met hen iets te gaan drinken. Jullie blijven een uurtje of twee kletsen en plezier maken bij een drankje. Wanneer je naar huis gaat, voel je je een beetje lichter en klaar om het weekend in te zetten (je zou ervan versteld zijn hoeveel er op Deense werkplekken wordt gedronken).
  • Buiten regent het. Je steekt een paar kaarsen aan en vraagt de kids of ze je willen helpen met pannenkoeken maken. Dit samenzijn onder een laagje suiker en confituur staat in schril contrast met buiten, waar het koud en donker is, en dat maakt het net zo hyggelig. (Het werkt het beste wanneer het donker is, met koud winters weer buiten en misschien enkele ruisende bomen die te lijden hebben onder de stormwind).
  • Je collega is bijna jarig. Achter zijn/haar rug zorg je samen met de coworkers voor taart (zelfgebakken of gekocht, dit doet er niet toe, het is de attentie die telt). Iedereen gaat zitten en geniet er samen van. E-mails, telefoontjes en bazen worden een half uurtje terzijde gelaten om alles in het teken van de ander te stellen.
  • Omgeving: Je kunt hygge creëren door een persoonlijke toets te geven aan je huis of kantoor, zoals kunstwerken ophangen die een diepere betekenis hebben voor jou, door te werken met tapijten en kleinere sfeerverlichting in plaats van de plafondverlichting te gebruiken, door ervoor te zorgen dat het overal lekker ruikt en door rommel op te ruimen die je zou kunnen irriteren.

Ik denk dat je door deze voorbeelden wel ziet dat hygge draait om een kleine inspanning voor een ander of jezelf om je dag een beetje beter te maken. Ik hoop dat dit is wat je voelt wanneer je The Library binnenstapt, ook al wist je niet dat dit concept een vreemde, onuitspreekbare naam heeft.

 

www.thelibrarygroup.be

 

 

Meet Enkhzül

All smiles and Mongolian friendliness

When Marcela, Yasmine, Robert and I first met Enkhzül, we were blown away by her positivity and easy laugh. She has now been working for The Library Group for a little more than a month and it’s time to get to know her a little better. So here are a few Q&As with this exotic beauty from Mongolia.

 

Where did you grow up and what do you miss from there?

“I grew up in different places from Ulaanbaator in Mongolia and East Berlin to Kiev, but I spent the most time in Ulaanbaator before I came to Brussels, when I was 20.

I miss mostly Ulaanbaator; it is my hometown. Of course I miss my parents and my high school friends – especially all the small talk in Russian. I also miss the Mongolian cold winter and hot summer and the steppe with its unlimited blue sky, where you will see millions of stars on summer nights”.

 

What do you like the most about Brussels?

“What I like the most is the international society, the old European buildings and the Belgian fries”.

 

Now, you’ve worked at The Library for a month, what are your impressions so far?

“I find The Library to be welcoming, friendly and interesting. The trust of The Library team and the easy conversations with the members is so fantastic. I am really happy with my choice of new workplace”.

If you need Enkhzül’s help, just contact her at eo@thelibrarygroup.be 

P.S.  If your tongue has some trouble with Enkhzül’s name, she says to please call her Zula…

 

PPS. To read more about Enkhzül’s hometown, visit: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/mongolia/ulaanbaatar

The Library : More like home

Article from Together Magazine June 2017.

 

Gemma Rose met up with the founder of The Library, a woman that defies the conventional office.

If there was an ‘ugliest office’ title, mine would hold it. I have what appears to be a cross between a cubicle and an office. It’s an office because I have four walls and a door, but it’s a cubicle because the walls are flimsy and detachable. The walls are dull; the linoleum floor is dull; the fluorescent beams are blinding; and the furniture is bland, uncomfortable and sterile. To top it off, my office is adjacent to a heavy, secure exit, since it’s located on the main thoroughfare of the building. The door is pulled open and slammed shut about a hundred times a day. After four months of enduring this, my ears hurt.

“Why should we accept a work place being so ugly?” asks Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld, the founder of the Brussels-based co-working space, The Library. “Why should we buy ‘office’ lamps – which are usually ugly – for the office, just because they are called so? An office doesn’t have to look like an office.”

This reasoning sums up The Library quite perfectly. The Library’s members can opt for co-working spaces, private offices and meeting rooms, in prime locations in Brussels. Its aim is to make the office feel more like home. “I decorate it like I would my own home, and the members treat it well because they see the effort that I’ve put into it. They appreciate it and therefore feel protective of it,” explains Anne-Sofie.

She shows me around the Ambiorix premises: a stone’s throw away from the art nouveau curiosity, La Maison Saint-Cyr. The Library is a converted maison de maître, with high ceilings and luminous spaces (“Danish people believe it’s a human right for places to be well lit,” she remarks). Each room – whether it is a meeting room, office or bathroom – is tastefully, thoughtfully and personally furnished, with light touches of humour here and there. She uses Nordic colours: calming whites, blues and greys to create this cosy sanctuary. Plus, less is definitely more: no clutter or clunky furniture, just simple, mostly custom-made pieces, with usually block colours. The wooden meeting-room, coffee and dining tables are made in Denmark; and the lights are designed by up-and-coming Danish designers. Sustainability, authenticity and ingenuity are key components to Anne-Sofie’s furnishings – for example, in a corner stands her great-grandmother’s stove, which her mum retiled into a side-table.

Seven years ago, when Anne-Sofie first arrived in Brussels from Copenhagen, she was lonely. “I was working from home as a consultant, married, with a six-month year old daughter,” she says. “You don’t meet people when you work from home.” At her daughter’s crèche, she met another Danish mother in a similar set-up. To stave off the loneliness, they decided to work at each other’s houses. Anne-Sofie had toyed with the idea of signing up to co-working spaces, but she found them too corporate. “I missed getting dressed in the morning and meeting people. But I also wanted to work in a place that felt like home but still had an office infrastructure.”.

There are 100 members in total and each house is almost at full capacity. The Library runs many social events and workshops to support its members, from krav maga to managing one’s finances.

Setting up the business was not smooth sailing. “When I first started describing the idea of The Library, all the people you need to start a business – accountants, estate agents – just didn’t get it,” she says. Not only did she have the challenge of conceptualising her idea to get people on board, she also had to find the right house to rent. She invested all her savings into the idea. The nights were sleepless, and even today, they still can be. Nonetheless, the factors that keep Anne-Sofie going are self-belief, the acceptance that risk is uncomfortable and delayed gratification. “The harsh reality of what I have to pay out every month is pretty scary,” she notes. “But, if you want to build something, it doesn’t come without risk. This is where being good at delayed gratification comes in, because at one point, I know I will be comfortable.”

The gamble is paying off. The old days of filing cabinets, dreary offices and tiny cubicles are opening up to space, light and comfort. Even for the innovative players, like Google and Coca Cola, the ‘office as a play pen’ concept is becoming outdated and rather, the trend is moving towards the ‘office as a home’. Design publication The Spaces, which explores new ways to live and work, writes: “Today’s best co-working spaces are conceived as just that – places people would happily live in. And it’s the little touches of domesticity that make the difference.” As Anne-Sofie recognizes, work and home life is becoming more fluid, and consequently she hopes that The Library helps to “win some of your life back”.

Designing office space in such a way makes the business itself more attractive. “Outstanding!” beams a member, Jacqueline, who runs a small consultancy firm. “The Library inspires you to come to work. Everyone here is really welcoming, and it has a nice balance in that it pleases our more corporate clients while not putting off the smaller ones.”

According to the book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplaceby Nikil Saval, the workplace began with the rise of the factory in the 19th century and then of modern business (accounts, insurance, shipping, banking). Imagine dimly lit cubby holes by candlelight at the beginning. Then, the 1920s office was characterised by rows and rows of steel desks, with piles of paperwork. In 1968, the workstation was introduced, made up of three sides with interlocking, adjustable walls, joining at 120 degree angles; bright-coloured storage units; a desk and a chair. Soon enough, the angles became right angles and the workspace smaller, which led to the creation of the dreaded cubicle. Thankfully, Saval believes that the cubicle will soon die out as a new way of working emerges. Whatever the future of the workplace will be, one thing is clear, people need community, company and companionship. These needs are what encouraged Anne-Sofie to fulfil her dream.

The Library’s namesake is thanks to the library of Anne-Sofie’s childhood in Denmark, where her mum was a librarian. She remembers it as a cosy, warm and friendly place. Her mum also played a key role in setting up the business. “My mum is such an inspiration,” she says, “she is very brave, and she must have given me that belief in myself.” After an afternoon at The Library, I come away with a deep admiration of Anne-Sofie’s achievement. I also come to the conclusion that The Library is an allegory for generosity and bravery, as well as being an homage to her mum.

http://togethermag.eu/library-like-home/

www.thelibrarygroup.be

Copenhagen City Guide

So you’ve become used to the ambience of ‘hygge’ (well-being and cosyness) at The Library. You’re enjoying the Danish lamps in coworking and in your private offices. Or you’ve tasted the cakes during your day in our meeting rooms. And you are wondering if it might be time to tap into the source of Danish happiness and visit Copenhagen. Here is my very personal and thoroughly tested once and for all Copenhagen City Guide.

Where to stay

Book a stay via Airbnb.com. Look around the lively area of Nørrebro, slightly posher Østerbro or gritty and hip Vesterbro.

Bonus info: I can promise you that you will not find naked light bulbs or horrendous kitchens anywhere. Danish people treat interior decoration like a religion: Something to revere, cherish and spend a lot of money on.

Or why not check out the small Danish chain of design hotels: http://www.brochner-hotels.dk

Bonus info: Both my sisters work there!

For a stay in 100% luxury and magic, check into Nimb Hotel in the Tivoli Gardens: http://www.nimb.dk

Bonus info: They put fresh flowers in their müsli and live peacocks entertain you if you eat on the terrace.

Where to eat

As you might know by now, I love porcelain. Probably from my time working for Royal Copenhagen. If you also prefer your coffee in crispy white porcelain with hand painted illustrations, then head for The Royal Café on the main shopping street of Strøget. Hidden away in a courtyard between the Royal Copenhagen and the Georg Jensen shops, you can enjoy cakes and Danish open-faced sandwiches in beautiful surroundings. http://www.royalsmushicafe.dk

In general, Copenhagen is full of great places to eat. Oh and the bakeries…be sure to try fresh bread or kanelboller (scrumptious cinnamon buns). Here are a few of my favourites:

Danish specialities, from Claus Meyer (co-founder of Noma): http://www.meyersmad.dk/spis-ude/deli/gl.-kongevej/

Chain of restaurants with THE BEST SUSHI and fantastic menus and entertainment for kids: http://www.sushi.dk

Madklubben litereally means ‘the food club’ and their slogan is ‘honesty has the best taste’, you can’t disagree with that…http://madklubben.dk

For a Paleo-style lunch, a quick ginger shot, some lumpfish roe or regional cheeses, candy or even soap products, take a stroll through the covered market of Torvehallerne…https://torvehallernekbh.dk

Amazing restaurants all of them, tremendous, the best! http://cofoco.dk

You know I like baked goods…: http://mirabelle-bakery.dk and http://lagkagehuset.dk

Where to shop

Where to not, I ask you. Here are some more of my favourites: For design classics, head to the mothership: https://www.illumsbolighus.com

Forget Inno, in Copenhagen the department stores rock: http://www.magasin.dk and http://illum.dk

For more unique pieces and little illustrations or art works, visit the tiny shops of http://www.anneblack.dk or http://vaerkstedet.getshopflow.com or Handcraftedcph (a Facebook profile, but no homepage). I also like the Danish brands Ganni, Designers Remix, Malene Birger, Baum & Pferdgarten and many more.

What to do

There is so much to see and do in Copenhagen that I don’t know where to start. Did you know that there is an enormous beach? And you can swim in the harbour? Take a train up to world famous art museum Louisiana? Admire architecture and bridges all day long? Rent a bike (don’t worry, many of them are electrical) and visit all the lakes of Christianshavn? Admire the cutest little castle and the crown jewels in the middle of the city? Browse antique shops and find new treasures on Nørrebro?

I can’t even pick a favourite neighbourhood, because I’ve lived all over the city and every area holds memories for me. But check out events and suggestions here: http://www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen-tourist?_ga=1.198520751.1260462050.1433677102 or here http://www.visitdenmark.com/denmark/tourist-frontpage or here http://www.aok.dk/english

 

What to say

Hello =             Hej

Good-bye =                    Hej, hej (easy, right?)

Thank you =                  Tak

See you =                       Vi ses

Now you are ready! Enjoy your trip to Denmark.

 

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