Unboxing Days: why our employees don’t work during the Holidays and yours probably shouldn’t either

I run an ideas company. Every day, we deal with clients who look to us to help them solve problems in ways they’ve never explored before — and that, often, we’ve never tried either. Our job is like walking a tightrope while teaching others to walk too. It’s a demanding job, especially when you cultivate the art of self-doubt.

The challenges are multiple

Our job is intellectually challenging. Because we are looking for emerging paths on untrod soil, we’re continually striving to challenge assumptions — ours and our clients’. Perfection is never achieved. It is only sometimes glimpsed, fleeting, always asking for yet another round of iterations.

Our job is physically challenging. Because we don’t stop, we never stop. We will stay late at the office to wrap up a proposal or presentation. Wake up in the middle of the night to jot down an idea, sketch a project, write a blog post. And get up early to attend or, better still, organize the next great creative event.

Our job is emotionally challenging. Because we are heavily invested in what we do, invested in the success of our clients — it doesn’t take long before we start saying “we” (instead of you) in client meetings. And we are all invested in the success of our own startup, whose business proposal, as a service provider in business creativity, can only be as stable as the times we live in, i.e. not much.

Down with the rigid lines

I once had a superior whom I respected a lot tell me I needed to “compartmentalize” work. Work hard within that box, she said, do the best you can and then do what you please — i.e. enjoy life — outside of it. This is where — that very moment sitting in her office — I broke away from “work” as the older generation had defined it for me.

I didn’t want to work in a box and live in another one. I didn’t even want to “think outside the box.” I wanted no box at all. I wanted to be the change, not the function. And this is why I founded f. & co with my fantastic partner: to make things happen, now. Like there was no other life to live. Because there just ain’t.

We knew we might step on a few toes along the way but there was no way we would let life and work be two parallel lines. We would become advocates of letting more humanness, more togetherness enlighten organizations with bright new ideas. Reaching out to the human behind the function, the dreamer and the idealist behind the janitor or the bookkeeper, we aimed to have people — not just their job descriptions — collaborate to create.

When we hired our first employees, in the late spring of 2014, we looked for people who shared the same passion, and who would bring their own colour — Swiss pragmatism, keen aestheticism,philosophical perspective or fresh, artsy enthusiasm — to our storyboard. And it’s the blending of those colours that made f. & co what it has become today. Or rather: what it is becoming, every day.

A story in the making

We strive to make working for f. & co what working for any knowledge-fuelled company should be: a personal, meaningful commitment to making things better.

Making the workplace more fun. Fostering the feeling that the time you spend away from your family to earn a living is actually well-spent, with another family of sorts.

Making the company evolve. The world is constantly changing, people too. Organizations are organic vehicles of collaboration for people to have a greater, more efficient impact on the world. That vehicle should not only be mindful of the people who operate it. It should resemble them, even as they individually evolve.

Making the world a better place. Organizations falter when they stop pouring meaningful input into the world. Employees should be able to project their values and the vision of the world they want to leave their children into their daily work and wake up every day with the feeling of a purpose greater than just trading precious life time in exchange for a pittance.

Time off is time well spent

Le Ratacat is quite pleased with his new LEGO Architecture Studio box

In the knowledge economy, in the networked society, the things that we learn and the people that we meet outside of work often bring greater value to the work that we do than most things we will do within the realm of work. There are no set times at which good ideas happen. Conforming to an idea inherited from the industrial revolution of how and when work actually happens, is a disservice to our society.

There will still be sick people to be cared for, food to be produced and distributed and roads to be maintained in a snow storm — and therefore a need for a good number of us to valiantly hold the fort through the holidays. But for those of us who don’t have to deal with actually urgent matters, it is our social responsibility to take some time away from work, from the daily grind of email, meetings and deliverables.

We have to talk, passionately or nonchalantly, to people we care for and who care for us, yet don’t necessarily understand (or even care for) the technicalities of our work. We have to reflect broadly on the year that passed and question our assumptions about the year to come. We have to dance and sing all night, eat, drink (responsibly) and sleep in when needed. We have to take a plane somewhere, see the earth from above and get a taste from foreign lands.

We have to. Otherwise, we’re just living in boxes.

Happy holidays to you all, and to the fantastic f. & co team, that’s disseminated out in the world. Have a great time and spread the love in Charlevoix, New Brunswick, Mexico, Switzerland or Montréal. This is also our work. This is how we’re making the world a better place.


Louis-Félix Binette is managing partner of f. & co. He wrote this piece on Christmas Day, on the train to visit his mom in Quebec City, in what started as a thank you note to his amazing employees. It was originally published on cllbr, on Boxing Day.

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