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Work/life balance: Maarten Boon, Minivegas

One of the most common explanations for Amsterdam being such an appealing city to work in is that it offers a much better balance between work and life than, say, London or New York or other such creative hubs. But how true is this, and does it extend to the people at the very top?

To get a better idea we asked a selection of agency CEOs, presidents and partners what their lives entail. Here Maarten Boon, managing director/partner at Minivegas Amsterdam, shares his day with us.

What time do you get up?My day generally starts at 7:30am with a simple breakfast, whilst scanning through the emails that have come through overnight. Minivegas operates 24 hours a day, between two production offices – one in Amsterdam and the other in the US – so many of my morning emails will invariably be from our LA office, regarding US projects.How do you get to work?I normally jump on my bike and cycle to my office in the morning. I live in the city centre, close to many global agencies such as W+K, 180 and our offices, so I will often bump into clients and contacts on my morning commute – although cycling is an extremely Dutch style of commuting it seems that most of the creative industry has picked it as their preferred mode of transport. On rainy days I will walk in to work with my trusty umbrella – a very ‘zen’ experience.What does an 'average' day at the office look like?I try to schedule daily and weekly team meetings in the mornings, as well as clearing the majority of emails pre-lunch, so that, in the afternoons, I have as much time for clients as possible, working on everything from concepts to creative reviews. Lunchtime at Minivegas is spent in the traditional Dutch style, round a big table, covered in food provided for everyone to enjoy together. Although members of the team hail from all over the world this concept is hugely popular with everyone and I try to join in as often as possible. However, inevitably, I do have to grab lunch at my desk when I’ve got an especially heavy workload. When do you get home?This can vary greatly from day to day, depending on what projects we are working on and what the workload looks like. On two evenings a week we hold status calls with the LA team. On other days I switch off, go home and put a TV show, such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men or Boardwalk Empire, on the TV.The magic of living in Amsterdam is that when I have a big project underway it is possible to have dinner with my girlfriend, hop on my bike and be back at the office in under five minutes to crack on with another hour or so of work.What time do you get to bed?I generally head off to bed at midnight and get around seven hours’ sleep, which works really well for me. I’m hard-wired to wake up at the same time each day, whether it’s a weekday or weekend… but obviously not after an especially long night.Does work impinge on your evenings/weekends? As deadlines approach I will often head to the office over the weekend. However, we are set up so that much of what I do can be handled remotely, including a really advanced creative review system that we use for our broadcast and digital work. This is great because it allows you to be more flexible with your weekend schedule. I am happy to work weekends as long as I can make time for a personal life too. For some reason, shoots are often scheduled for the weekend so I spend quite a large proportion of my weekends abroad, with clients. For instance, recently we spent a weekend directing a shoot in Bucharest for an upcoming global campaign. It was a 4am start, followed by a 16 hour shoot, then drinks with the client, two hours’ sleep and a 6am flight home. Undeniably hard work but it's a cool way of meeting people and getting to know them better.Is there a culture of long hours in the industry?If you want to be successful in the creative world you have to work hard. However, what drives me is the digital and visual innovation that Minivegas focuses on. The work we do is complex and challenging because the technology and formats we use is often brand new and has never been tried before. It would be impossible for me to work hard if I was just repeating the same thing every day. Can you get to the top working 'normal' or even reduced hours?I believe that, for ambitious people, working hard feels 'normal'. You do have to put in the hours but today you can be flexible about how and where you work and if you have that drive and passion for the industry you will eventually get to the top. What impact has mobile had on your working day?I have turned off the email delivery alerts on my phone because otherwise Minivegas LA would be waking me up all night long. However, I must admit that checking my mobile is the first thing I do in the morning. Apart from that, mobile working helps me greatly and makes my day so much more efficient. I can access and review the majority of our projects via my phone, as well as give creative feedback to our artists, which is a great help when I’m out of the country. How do you relax?I try to switch off and do something completely unrelated to work, such as hanging out, drinking beer, with people who don’t work within the industry, to avoid shop-talk and help me to take a break.Another relaxation tonic is going wakeboarding with my brothers and friends on the northern lakes. We’ve got a boat out there and it’s brilliant therapy. Sadly there’s not much opportunity to get out there in the winter so we have to save it for the summer months. But I try to get out there as much as possible.Do you feel you have a good work/life balance?It sounds like a cliché but my personal passion lies within the work I’m doing. If I worked in another industry I’m sure I would spend my weekends doing, as a hobby, the work I do during the week. I’m very lucky to have a job doing exactly the thing that I love.What would make your work/life balance even better?I have to say I think I’ve got a pretty good work/life balance. However, taking exercise is the one thing that can often slip through the gap. If I had a magic wand I’d definitely make time to exercise more.Maarten Boon started his career in visual effects for the film industry, working on films such as Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book, where he mastered the art of digital rendering, user experience, visual effects production and the skill of the digital brush. Having met Luc Schurgers while the pair were studying in Amsterdam, they went on to work together for 14 years on a number of projects and more recently became partners in Minivegas, with Boon launching the Amsterdam office in 2009. Boon's extensive experience in visual creation, from CG development and creature design to VFX supervision, honed in the film and commercial industries, has greatly influenced Minivegas' work on diverse campaigns for leading international brands including Old Spice (Mr Wolfdog), Heineken, Universal Studios, Louis Vuitton and Adidas.

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