Working outside our organisational borders: #_Unbound Mexico DF

On Friday 11th April we kicked off our first #_Unbound day in Mexico City. It was hosted by the wonderful team at Extend in their centrally located office on the Reforma. We had a great free form space, a terrace, some food, coffee, wifi, work and great conversation. These guys went above and beyond on their hosting responsibility and they even made up a welcome sign for us 🙂

As per the original #_Unbound concept the day brought together a small group of people from different backgrounds and organisations to work together for the day. We had people coming and going as it fitted with their schedule, and those who couldn’t be there physically joined by phone and online. The number of people fluctuated between 5 and 10. The perfect number to allow valuable work to be done independently but also enable fluid group conversation involving everyone.

At the beginning of the day we shared our expectations and any key conversation topics we were hoping to cover with the dynamic and interesting people in the room. Although there was no set agenda for the day, we found it valuable to capture these thoughts, questions and challenges on the walls. As new people joined the #_Unbound day they could gain an insight into the minds of the people who were already there or those who had passed through.

The visual display of these expectations also provoked many interesting conversations throughout the day. Some topics which really sparked discussion were the changing role of physical office spaces, the growing gap to employees without smartphones as the reliance on technology increases and the measurement of business value in immature enterprise social networks.

As an individual attending my first #_Unbound day I really enjoyed it. I am, however, use to the idea of working remotely, from different locations with new people. So for me, the feedback from people who did not find this so ‘normal’ was more insightful. Some of the participants were from relatively rigid and traditional organisations. This was the first day that they had ever ‘worked’ out of the office. For them the idea of no set agenda, at an ‘event’ was difficult to comprehend. As a group we struggled with how to deal with this a little. In the feedback rounds at the end it was proposed that next time we would have a very basic agenda to keep the day fluid. For example, allocating individual work time and discussion time. This does sort of goes against the grain of #_Unbound but perhaps it is a way to transition to this new way of working and an approach to make those who are used to more structure feel comfortable attending their first #_Unbound day.

Overall though the day was great, and all participants said they would like to be part of a regular one. So we are looking at doing another one in June.

The #_Unbound concept is iterative. Each event is different. They are popping up in various locations around the world and people are seeing what happens when they come together for the day to get work done outside of their organisational borders. At #_Unbound Mexico DF we shared good conversation, fresh coffee and a valuable work day. Why don’t you run one, see what happens and let us know how it goes?

The Life of a Remote Worker.

I am a proud and happy remote worker. I am also really productive. People often think that these two statements are mutually exclusive. But myself – and all my colleagues – are evidence that they are not.
Currently I am based in Melbourne, my work is predominantly associated with organisations across Latin America, and my manager is in San Francisco. This means I am living and breathing in one country and time zone, working in another, and reporting into a third. People often ask me if I feel lost, confused, unaccountable or disconnected. But to be honest I feel empowered, efficient and productive.

I regularly work at home, at cafes, co-working spaces or – now it is warming up – in parks. This way of working allows me to be get inspiration from different environments, get silence when I want it, work with people when I need it and also make it to the bank when it is actually open.  Last week I also found productivity in a Melbourne laneway (True. Hub Melbourne shifted all their furniture outside for the day and it was superb).

This style of working regularly comes with small agile start-ups. Groups of people who are forming around a shared vision and passion, not a shared office space. And traditionally as you look at larger, older organisations the structure, cubicles and stacks of paper on desks increases.
Originally I was part a small start-up like this, Yammer. Then we were acquired by Microsoft and we thought that perhaps our days of being empowered to work where and how we were most productive would near an end. Pleasantly, we were so wrong. Microsoft is one of the few large global organisations empowering employees to do just this.
The Microsoft Australia head office, for example, is all activity based working (no-one, even the Managing Director, has a set desk or office), and employees are actually encouraged to work in locations other than the office. Earlier this year we had Summer’s Day Out and tomorrow, this is really being highlighted again. This time around though, Microsoft is calling it Spring Day Out, and it is global. A day where the whole of Microsoft is being encouraged to work anywhere but the office and still get things done.
I understand that this is not possible for all types of work and I am part of a tech company which provides the tools and devices to make this happen. But when most people have a smart phone, a lap top and a tablet is there really a need to be in the same place, all day, everyday to do a job that is rapidly changing and evolving? As Pip Marlow, MD Microsoft Australia, eloquently sums up ‘for some reason, so many Australian managers just don’t get the basic fact that work is something you do, not a place you go; people need to be accountable for outcomes, not for time served; 9 to 5 is a song, not a lifestyle’. Hear, hear Pip!
So tomorrow, as part of Spring Day Out, I am planning  on starting the day early (while Mexico is still online) at Little Mule with good coffee & wifi, then head to an Australian customers office, get in a few hours at The Hub Melbourne coworking space, then finish up at my stand up desk at home so I can take some business calls while I stretch. Honestly – I find it makes me so much more productive 🙂
Where are you working from tomorrow?