It’s been over 2 years since we first learned about the Running Remote Conference. We were scheduled to attend the April 2020 event in Austin, Texas and back then remote work was a relatively new idea. Then the pandemic hit in March 2020 and everything shut down. The 2020 and 2021 conferences were held virtually. For the first time in 3 years, the Running Remote conference was able to commence in person in Montreal, Canada on May 17th and 18th. We have mentioned in previous blogs that we had plans to transition into a fully remote work model prior to the pandemic and how the pandemic accelerated this process for us. So we were excited to attend Running Remote in person to learn from the experts on how to create and sustain a healthy remote work environment.
On the evening of Monday May 16th, we landed in Montreal so we could be ready bright and early for the conference the next morning. The purpose of the conference is to learn best practices from industry-leading remote-first & hybrid companies. Although the conference was in-person, it still had elements of remote work making it realistic. One of the first sessions at the conference was a virtual call with Sagar Khatri, the CEO of Multiplier, speaking about the biggest trends driving remote work. This opening session was a great glimpse to the reality of remote work and how we can integrate in-person and virtual environments.
Aside from a wedding proposal happening on stage (congrats to the beautiful couple!), one of the most compelling sessions was by Ally Fekaiki, founder of Juno, elaborating on the idea of work life balance. The biggest factor in employees demanding remote work is the work-life balance it offers them. However, even with remote work, many find it is difficult to find this balance. Fekaiki talked about perceiving work-life balance as a more fluid concept and how the blending of the two may be a more realistic approach. The concept of ‘work-life balance’ suggests that one element must be sacrificed and that everything has a defined border. Fluidity allows you to bring other parts of your life together when you choose. Sometimes home and work can come together, and at other times they are completely separate.
An underlying theme throughout the conference was communication and its importance in remote work. Not only is it vital that we communicate, but in fact over communicate with full transparency and frequency. In virtual settings, it can sometimes be hard to show empathy with your colleagues in times of distress. This can make employees feel alone and isolated at work. In the Future of Teamwork session, Sally Thorton, founder of Forshay, touched on the different ways we can display these emotions virtually by turning on our camera, asking to check in, and offering help. This is all essential to promoting a healthy workplace.
Creating a remote first culture is not easy. Many companies who are considered thought leaders in this space, such as Gitlab, actually appoint a Head of Remote as they explained in the `Do You Need a Head of Remote?’ session. The Head of Remote is the person on an organization’s leadership team who’s responsible for all things remote within the company. This includes learning & development, knowledge management, tooling, onboarding, and culture/informal communication. They are there to set your team up for ultimate success. An interesting point that was brought up during this session was that if they did their job right, this role would be obsolete in the future. Because let us face it, “remote work” is just going to be “work” in the next few years.
We are delighted to have been able to attend Running Remote in-person for the first time! It was great hearing from all the panelists, networking with other attendees, and drinking the delicious coffee. This was a wonderful way to kick off the start of our in-person events and we look forward to congregating with our community again soon.