It is 7:30 am. I’m sitting on the terrace of a small holiday house in the south of Tenerife, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the nearest Canary Island, La Gomera.

You might think I’m on holiday but I’m not.

I came to Tenerife with Kasia, my co-trainer, to plan the work-life balance course we will run here in October.

You might assume that we are organising a getaway for sun-seekers. Actually, our purpose is to bring participants far away from crowded beaches and noisy bars. We want them to discover the authentic side of this wonderful island, and a peaceful place to reflect on what brings balance to their lives. This work-life balance course is designed for teachers and NGO staff, two groups of people who are especially prone to burn out. It provides the environment and practical tools that empower people to achieve better balance between their professional and personal lives. This can be seen as a luxury that those who work in these underfunded sectors cannot afford—something which undoubtedly contributes to their burnout. However, the Erasmus+ programme allows these groups to access a wealth of training abroad for free or at very affordable rates.

So how have we ended up planning to bring these two groups of people to Tenerife?

I guess it all starts from our own needs and experiences. I am what we call in Design Thinking “an extreme user”, a person whose needs are on either side of this curve:

I will give you a good example of extreme users and how, by identifying their needs, we now have a widely used product. Older people and people with disabilities were struggling to carry heavy bags. They were “extreme users”, people who have a specific set of needs when it comes to baggage. In response to this need, the wheelie bag was invented. Now we all regularly use this kind of luggage. By catering to these extreme users, a solution was found that meets the needs of everyone, even those with specific needs. This is good design practice: Design something that can be used by everyone, rather than having to design individual projects for every type of user. The best way to achieve this is by focusing on the extreme user.

I’m definitely an extreme user when it comes to courses and training. A year ago, I participated in a course on emotional intelligence. The course was very static. I spent four days in a conference room, mostly sitting, drinking coffee, and listening to PowerPoint presentations. The whole experience sapped me of all enthusiasm and motivation. I craved fresh air and more interaction with my fellow course participants. I wanted to stretch my legs, walk, and exercise. For me, these conditions did not support the learning process.

So when I plan my own courses I always imagine they are for people like me—extreme users, who are not easily pleased.

Therefore, Kasia and I spent the last few months carefully planning the logistics and content of our work-life balance course in Tenerife and, during our time here, we have tried and tested our ideas. Below are the results of our research:


We both agreed to say no to hotel conference rooms!

We managed to find an amazing place in the south of the island, far away from touristy beaches. It is called Hacienda Cristoforo and was designed by world-class architect Denis Devaris. He created it as a retreat where like-minded people could collaborate on their ideas through workshops and seminars. It is now an ecological centre where space is provided for visitors looking for peace, quiet and good weather. The environment itself is designed to therapeutically revitalise and relax people who are exhausted and stressed.

We absolutely love the place!

Course programme

We design the course programme around the main work-life balance (WLB) themes:

  • What WLB means to an individual,
  • The body – physical activities,
  • Healthy diet,
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques,
  • Time-management according to our own WLB principles,
  • How to incorporate WLB strategy in a work place: schools, NGOs, offices.

Mind, body & spirit

We have planned stretching and strength exercises. We’ll also practice exercises that help with spine pain, which is very common in people who have sitting jobs. Finally, we will do a beautiful hike to Barranco del Infierno. Initially, we had also planned to incorporate a diving challenge. We tried it ourselves, but it turned out to be very challenging for Kasia, who is more of a “mountain creature”! Bearing in mind that other participants may find it similarly challenging, we decided to make it optional.

We are including a healthy diet module by having a cooking workshop using fresh local ingredients.

We will also learn about breathing exercises for stress relief and mindfulness. Finally, we will conclude our course with some prototyping of WLB strategies using the Design Thinking method, a process that is both useful and fun, and feeds our creative souls.

We cannot wait to run this course!

If it sounds like something you would be interested in doing, you can find out more on our website. Places are very limited so get in touch soon to secure your place!

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