Running Remote Conference Explores Virtual Employment

by Anita

Work culture is changing at a rapid pace. Once a corporate perk, remote work is fast becoming the norm for many companies. Many businesses these days operate from numerous cities, with a mix of local and remote workers spread across different time zones. While remote work is growing in popularity, hiring and managing remote employees comes with its own particular set of difficulties.

Running Remote, a two day conference held at the Fivelements resort just outside Ubud last month, brought together over 260 remote team leaders and entrepreneurs from over 20 countries to discuss building, running, and scaling remote teams. “The idea came from the Time Doctor — the people behind software that simplifies managing remote teams — who got frustrated by the lack of information out there on how to effectively run remote companies,” says Steve Munroe, the founder of Hubud, a co-working space in Ubud, who helped to organize the event. “They felt that they had to figure everything out on their own. When they brought the idea of the Running Remote conference to the table, we loved it as we have been supporting remote work through Hubud for over half a decade now.”

Bali is one of the world’s most popular places for destination work. Coworking spaces such as Hubud and Dojo have hosted thousands of remote works in search of work-life balance. As such, it is not surprising that the organizers of Running Remote have chosen to hold the conference on the island. It is also not surprising that the event attracted so many participants, many whom had to put in many plane hours to be here. “I think remote work offers a tremendous opportunity for Bali. It is a popular destination for remote team members who want to spend some time on this beautiful island. It also offers opportunities to Balinese people to access well paying digital jobs without having to leave home,” Steve says.

The conference played host to an impressive lineup of speakers from companies with a remote work focus including Atlassian, GitLab, Doist and TransferWise. Some of the topics covered during the two days included processes and technology for managing remote teams, collaboration tools and techniques, processing payments across countries, hiring the right people, building trust, staying productive, and maintaining the all important work-life balance. Accordingly, while a lot of the sessions addressed the practical aspects of managing a remote team, others focused on topics such as how remote work can move the needle in terms of gender equality and mindfulness at work. In fact, the event ended with what must have been one of the world’s first ever remote meditation session.

Arguably, the highlight of the conference was the chat between Joel Gascoigne, the co-founder and CEO of Buffer and Amir Salihefendic, the founder and CEO of Doist. During the session, Joel discussed why Buffer — a remote company with over 70 employees — made the decision to go remote. Amir, meanwhile, talked about why he believes real-time communication may be counterproductive to remote work. With a virtual team of around 60 people, Amir’s company Doist is the mastermind behind Todoist, an app that lets users manage their professional and personal lives across fifteen platforms and in 20 languages.

Running Remote also provided a platform for remote team leaders to network and discuss the future of work. As such, lunches and lawn networking sessions, during which the participants were free to mingle over delicious vegetarian fare, constituted a large part of the conference. The post-conference dinners also gave participants the opportunity to get to know each other in an informal setting. According to Steve, most of the conference participants embraced the opportunity to learn from each other. “I think when people have been working on things by themselves, especially trying something new like running remote companies, there is tremendous excitement when you suddenly find yourself in a room with a few hundred others who completely understand you.”

Steve says that some of the biggest obstacles to running a remote team that were discussed during the event include poor systems and incorrect mindsets. Many participants were particularly concerned about tracking employee performance, and remote workers’ potential lack of connection with the business and company culture. As such, setting up the right mechanisms for successful communication and ensuring employee involvement were some of the recurring topics throughout the event. “If your company does not have good systems in place—including staff on-boarding, project management and internal communication—those flaws become much harder to hide in a remote company. You need to have your house in order,” Steve says. “In terms of mindsets, running a remote team does require a major shift in thinking and practices so it takes a new way of thinking to adjust to this model of working.”

And perhaps the biggest question on everybody’s lips, why no remote Running Remote conference? “As every remote company learns, face-to-face interactions are sometimes very beneficial. As this was the first conference of its kind, we wanted to do it in cooperation with the remote community and enjoy Bali at the same time,” Steve says. “This event will definitely be held again in 2019. We are still exploring location options but Bali is definitely in the running.”


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Running Remote –