Learning to put wellness first

While living in the Hague, expat partner Emma Smillie has created a wellness-first, coworking space for health-conscious entrepreneurs and freelancers. In sharing her personal story, she explains what motivated her.

The hustle and grind

“I worked long-hours in the corporate sector for many years. Despite the stress of my day-job, I also had a side gig selling cosmetics. It wasn’t until I moved to Auckland on our first assignment that I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder. I was officially burned out,” says Emma, who is originally from Edinburgh. “I loved New Zealand – the lifestyle, the people, the scenery – but obviously it was a tough period. When you experience a burnout you have no choice but to stop. I was constantly fatigued and suffering from a lot of anxiety.”

Time for reflection

“Inevitably I reflected on pretty much everything during this time! My diet, lifestyle, my mental health and philosophy of life. After we moved to the Hague, I was in a better place and tentatively returned to the workforce at a call centre. That’s where I met Zhana, who, like me, had a business idea that she wanted to develop, so we went in search of coworking spaces. Everywhere seemed very corporate. In some cases, I found places isolating and lonely. That observation – and our own personal experiences – inspired us to establish a more mindful working environment that put the wellness of members first.”

Growing organically

The result is FloLab Collab – a coworking space created for health-conscious entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers. “It grew quite organically. At first, we just held a weekly event but there was enough interest for us to draw up a business plan. We secured funding in February 2019 and opened our doors in April, after finding a wonderful location in an old building,” says Emma. “We’re quickly growing in terms of members and the goal for 2020 is to make it more self-sufficient.”

Burnout epidemic

“This whole experience has made me very aware of the demand for alternative work environments around the world. I believe that’s a response to a burnout epidemic. People are overworked and being ground down,” says Emma. “It’s a wonderful feeling when our members tell us how much they appreciate what we have created and to know that we have made an impact on the community. I am most proud that we can show people there’s another way to live and work.”

You can connect with FloLab on Facebook


Photo of Emma Smillie by Tara Shupe

This article was originally published (in late January 2020) for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.

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