WorkTech Madrid and unexpected remote working across Europe…

By Esme Banks Marr

My flight to Madrid was midday on the Monday. After a few calls gate-side to clients, I boarded and was on my first solo work trip. I read New Statesman cover to cover while in the air and caught up on the running order of the conference. Once I landed I obviously knew all about quantitative easing, UK house prices, the reason millennials are getting a hard time, and why they take so many photos of their food (yep, I do it too) – if we could afford a house, we’d be Instagramming it. An easy and exhilarating metro trip to the centre meant I was at my hotel in no-time and ready to head to the networking ‘lounge’, hosted by Bisley, at their new showroom in the nearby district of Salamanca. Bisley has been present in Spain for over 20 years and the showroom provided the perfect backdrop for all us attendees to meet and discuss key themes on the agenda for the next day!


After a lovely glass or two of rioja and a few top-notch canapes I went back to my room, so I was fresh to report the next day.


Tuesday: I woke up, strolled down the busy road in unexpected heat and watched the sunrise over the tops of a few beautiful old churches and skyscrapers. I didn’t get breakfast, for I expected coffee and croissants when I got there – my only mistake and qualm with an otherwise excellent event. WorkTech found its home in Castellana 81. A landmark skyscraper in Madrid and a reference point for 20th Century Spanish architecture that’s leading the way in sustainability, accessibility and technology. Ticking all the accreditation boxes it possibly can.

An introduction to the day’s proceedings came from UnGroup CEO and co-founder, Philip Ross, who presented the WorkTech Academy as a place where all knowledge on the future of work houses itself.


The rest of the day saw seminars and presentations from many experts in the field, from all over Europe, interspersed with various breaks, full of sweet treats, cheese shavings and excellent views over the city from one of the open spaces at the top of the building. The talks all fell under the groupings of ‘Brick, Bytes and Behaviour’. The content was excellent; I really couldn’t fault it.

The discussion provided a very rounded overview of where we’re at and where we’re heading in the workplace. Key phrases were flying around. Science fiction is becoming science fact. The way we work now will never be the same. Disruption is the new norm. Are you personally driving change, or are you being driven by it? Anything that cannot be digitised is set to be extremely valuable. The only space left to innovate in, is ourselves. Technology represents the how, we represent the why. And so on.


It was around 3pm when I heard the words, ‘flights’ ‘strikes’ and ‘cancelled’. Hmmm. So, air traffic control in France were on strike and no airline could fly over the country. BA had cancelled all flights, and EasyJet (my taxi home) were delayed. Not so bad, I thought, it meant I’d have a lovely little Spanish dinner on my own before heading to the airport for my flight which was now at 3am the next day, not 9pm that night. I would be a little tired, to say the least, for my London meeting with Jo and Cathy the next afternoon, but nothing a few coffees couldn’t fix.


Luckily, I met a great amigo from the WorkTech academy who was scheduled on the same flight. We headed to review the day over a glass of Cava and wait for updates about our flight… As you may have guessed, it was cancelled and we both spent the next few hours trying to arrange accommodation through EasyJet – who failed miserably at housing us anywhere. It was now almost midnight, I had found a hotel and luckily the WorkTech team were around, so I grabbed a late dinner and toasted their success with them.


Wednesday: I woke up, with a flight to Lisbon ready to go at 3pm. After catching up with emails and the team back at Magenta towers, I headed to the airport to fly the short journey over to Portugal, ready to meet up with the entire Magenta crew on Thursday morning, for our team trip! Another quaint little hotel, a suitcase full of corporate clothes, Wi-Fi and a custard tart and I was in bed ready to see some familiar faces the next day (read Ollie’s round-up of the trip here)


Not quite what I expected from the week, but a thrilling experience nonetheless. Made all the better by the fact if I’m armed with my Mac, a charger, my phone and some caffeine, I can work anywhere, anytime, and connect with everyone I need to.

… Thanks to Jo for packing double of everything, so I had something to wear the back end of the week!



Ben Keeley