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Running Remote Recap 2023

Innosphere COO Greg Phillips' recap of his time at #RunningRemote2023.

The 6th edition of the annual Running Remote Conference was held on April 25th and 26th in Lisbon, Portugal. It was the fourth in-person conference, with previous locations including Bali and Montreal. My first time attending the in-person conference was last year in Montreal. I took away a lot of information and was able to implement some enhancements to Innosphere’s remote work environment. Once again, the Lisbon conference provided a great deal of useful takeaways.

During the conference, the current state of remote work was described as a “Trough of Disillusionment” and as “Chaotic.” Peak support for remote work occurred during the pandemic when working from home became the sole option for many. Now that the pandemic has subsided, many employers are forcing employees back into the office. This has created conflict and a state of chaos leading to quiet quitting and the Great Resignation. In the long-term, support for remote work is expected to increase as we reach the stages of “Slope of Enlightenment” and “Plateau of Productivity”.

The Gartner Hype Cycle

The advance of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and new software applications are expected to provide tools to enhance the remote work environment and experience. AI tools will collect data on all things company and employee related. AI will mentor both employees and managers. It will connect employees by scheduling meetings with agendas to foster collaboration and connections. It will free managers from excess tasks and allow them to focus on leadership. VR headsets will create a 3D metaverse for employees that will evoke a feeling of closeness and a customized workspace. Communication and productivity apps will increase collaboration and social interaction.

During the conference, ChatGPT answered several questions about the current and future state of remote work. It indicated that the biggest current concerns around remote work are employee burnout and mental health issues. It predicted an increase in remote work over the long term.

Proponents of return to work believe that collaboration, social interaction, and a sense of belonging are not possible with remote work. Opponents of return to work believe that there are no limitations to work from anywhere. They believe companies want to make use of their million-dollar workspaces since they have committed the funds, even if it is not what is best for their workforce.

The consensus from Human Resource and People leaders from large companies Typeform, Zendesk, Deel, and Marqeta speaking at the conference was that at the current time it is not possible to maximize collaboration, a sense of belonging, or culture without some in-person interaction.

Some practical takeaways from the conference to enhance remote work are to document employee work agreement expectations, meeting guidelines, employee work preferences, communications protocols, playbooks, and culture. It is also recommended to make use of regular surveys to collect employee feedback.

  • Work agreements define what the employer expects from the employee so that there are no misunderstandings.

  • Meetings guidelines help to ensure that meetings are only held when necessary and that only those that need to be there are invited. This helps to increase employee productivity and satisfaction as excessive meetings have been associated with employee burnout.

  • Employee work preferences define when and how employees prefer to work. This can include preferred methods of communication and insights on how to best interact with the employee.

  • Communications protocol defines when to use Slack, Email, Phone Call, Video Call, or in person meetings.

  • Playbooks define various practices and how the organization works. All company documentation should be online and easily accessible.

  • Documenting the culture that the organization operates by everyday can provide authenticity and access to better talent. This can be shared both internally and externally.

  • Quarterly employee surveys can be used to assess sense of belonging and engagement level. This info can be used to adjust current practices.

More than 400 attendees from across the globe attended the Lisbon conference. This supports the belief that remote workers seek and desire in-person human interaction.

The 2024 Remote Work Conference will return to Lisbon, Portugal next year.

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