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You Must Work Like Microsoft for Work Wherever to Work!

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Work Wherever Wednesday" is promoted by Microsoft to focus attention on the huge advances in software, hardware, and office design that make the idea of remote working - "whenever and wherever" - possible. But the technology is only a small (and very important) part of the equation - it's what makes the magic possible. The thing that makes the magic actually happen is something much more basic, centuries old, that many employers aspire to but few achieve.

Microsoft’s Work Wherever Wednesday is billed as your chance to discover just how mobile you and your team can be. On that day, Microsoft encourages people throughout Ireland to leave the office and work at home, in the park, on a boat, in a lift, wherever! The location is totally up to you – and the Sun God was definitely on the Work Wherever side!

The initiative is designed to highlight Microsoft Office 365, and the role that the 365 suite of products can play in ensuring that teams everywhere enjoy a full and productive day using email, web conferencing, documents and calendars, as if in the office.

But the software is only part of the story.

Over the past few years, Microsoft has been conducting pioneering research into the New World of Work. I was hugely impressed a few years ago with the radical redesign of it’s Dutch HQ at Schiphol which completely eliminated fixed desks and offices. Instead, employees from the CEO downwards choose how and where they wish to work at any given time, with options from communal ‘family’ tables to small private cubicles. That’s if they’ve decided to come to the office at all, of course. Each employee’s laptop acts as a personal communications hub through which they can access every business application and, of course, connect to the world.

Why do they bother? Microsoft cite benefits like an increase in sales of 51% at its Dutch subsidiary; a 30% reduction in office space costs with a yearly saving of $655k; an increase to 77% in the number of employees who enjoy a mobile workstyle and, as you might expect, a significant increase in employee satisfaction.

Flexible work spaces and great technology are clearly important elements in any 'work wherever' initiative. But how do you supervise the activities of your people when some are working at the beach, others in their homes, and with just a few in evidence around the office?

How do you know that they are actually working? You don't!

The truth is that you can't supervise them, and you can't really know whether they are working or not at any given time. Long-term, you can judge them by their results but in the meantime, you've got to depend on .... Trust.

Microsoft's profitability and 'mobile workstyle' levels are only possible because of the incredibly high levels of workplace trust that Microsoft enjoys in its global business. They truly are the Black Belts in high trust, as evidenced by their remarkable track record of success in creating great (aka 'high trust') workplaces. For example…

  • Listed among the Best Workplaces in 26 Countries in 2011
  • #1 Best Large Workplace in Ireland since 2009
  • #1 Best Workplace in Europe since 2008
  • #1 Best Workplace in the World on our inaugural 2011 list

Is it Time for You to Act?

If, like most businesses, you expect to come under growing pressure to allow at least some of your people to work remotely at least some of the time, now is a good time to get working on building trust. Here are a few resources that should inspire and/or inform you on your journey.

For more specific advice on how to get started on creating a great workplace, call us - we'll be delighted to help you to Create Yours!



  • Video of #1 World's Best Workplace Award Acceptance Speech by Lisa Brummel, Chief People Officer at Microsoft from October 2011 at NY Stock Exchange. It provides some interesting insights to why Microsoft is so committed to being a great place to work. See it here
  • What makes a Great Place to Work? Interview with Bob Lee, Communications Director with GPTW International for RTE's 'The Business' Programme. It's all about Trust - and it's not WHAT you do - it's HOW you do it!  Also features footage from Best Workplaces in Ireland Awards 2011 along with interviews with Microsoft's Cathriona Hallahan. See it here

  • What makes a Great Place to Work? Short video in which GPTW Co-founder Robert Levering explains what really makes a great place to work. Well worth a look! Here
  • The Future of Work : You can learn more about Microsoft's Dutch Offices in this Computer Weekly piece from 2010, including a video interview with Theo Rinsema, General at Microsoft NL. While you’re there, you can also download the Microsoft case study and six white papers on creating a hybrid office and adopting new ways of working. See it here
  • And of course, you can read more about Microsoft Ireland's Work Wherever Wednesday here
Bob Lee is Communications Director, EMEA with Great Place to Work International.



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