There’s a lot of buzz about the future of work. More and more companies are recognizing that catering to employee’s wants for flexibility and freedom will increase productivity, boost employee retention and create an overall better employee experience.
Every year, 5% of the workforce transitions from the office to remote work. And just this past year, companies like Zapier, GitHub, TopTal and Evernote all give their employees the option to work from home…or the coffee shop…or the beach.
In fact, currently about 70% of employees report working remotely at least once a week, and 53% work remotely about half of the week. This number will only continue to grow as more companies follow in their footsteps in developing robust processes for their remote teams, but even more are curious about exactly what steps to take to go fully remote.
That’s where Running Remote comes in. We recognized this knowledge gap and set out to plan an event that remote and remote-curious teams could attend to learn all about how to transition and scale into a fully remote or distributed team.
So in June of 2018, people representing remote leaders, employees, and enthusiasts of the future of work, flew thousands of miles collectively to Bali, to learn how to build, manage and scale a remote company.
Attendees represented a variety of industries, backgrounds, sizes, and valuations, but all shared a common goal. To expand their remote teams and spread the message of the value of work flexibility and location independence. And above all else, truly believed that remote work is the future.
With the help of our sponsors, Heetch, Transferwise, Crunchbase, Estonian e-Residency, Time Doctor, Scrapinghub, and 73 community partners, we worked with 20 speakers to create a diverse lineup of events and resources available to attendees.
Through the conference, we were able to shed light on these topics:
- Transitioning your team into a remote environment
- Structuring your business to accommodate employees in different locations
- How to define your processes for your remote team more efficiently
- How to scale your existing remote team
- How remote companies can spread the message that remote work is the way of the future
Overall, the event attracted 251 people from 35 countries around the world. Of the attendees, 73% were founders or C-level executives of their organizations.
As more companies choose to go remote, the people that attended this year’s event will be seen as the innovators and leaders of a movement. When asked about the effectiveness of the conference, over 80% of attendees said they got what they came for. It’s no surprise that nearly half of attendees plan on attending Running Remote 2019. Ninety-four percent of attendees rated the event a 4 stars or higher.
“I couldn’t recommend Running Remote more for companies interested in having remote friendly company culture, and entrepreneurs interested in the remote work culture. They’ve put on a fantastic conference!” says Sara Sutton Fell, Founder of flexjobs.com.
The speakers involved represented leadership from remote-first companies like Buffer and Doist, companies with distributed teams like Atlassian and GitHub, and companies like GitLab and FlexJobs who are streamlining remote hiring and internal processes for the entire world to follow.
Other speakers included leadership from powerhouses including MailBird, Time Doctor, Empire Flippers, Dribble, WebinarNinja and more, all running and scaling their own versions of remote teams. Every speaker presented a unique angle, but some overarching themes became apparent as the two days of events continued on.
The talks focused on nearly every aspect of business in a remote environment, answering frequently asked audience questions such as where and when to hire remote workers, communicating across timezones, how to transition from time-based to results-based performance reviews, deepening the trust and opening the lines of communication among remote teams.
Some speakers went a bit deeper too, highlighting the challenges remote teams face in creating a company culture, making sure their organizations are happy and healthy, and recognizing signs of burnout when you’re not meeting face-to-face.
Here are some highlights of the weekend’s talks:
Building a culture of transparency
Joel Gascoigne Founder and CEO of Buffer spoke on his mission to make transparency a priority when growing Buffer.
He founded Buffer as a remote-first company, meaning they’ve never had a physical office and have operated as a fully remote company since their inception. He also enforces a policy of open transparency, and shares detailed information about the company’s revenue and growth with their employees and publicly.
Buffer has also made strides in prioritizing employee health and happiness to avoid burnout and isolation, which is common among remote workers.
Scaling your knowledge for growth
Dmitriy Zaporozhets, Co-founder of GitLab, took the stage and talked about how he and the GitLab team are scaling the knowledge they’ve acquired by creating the open source handbook for others to learn about GitLab as well as how to build a framework for scalable, open-source resources.
The handbook has over 3,000 contributors distributed through their teams which allows it to exist as a living, breathing document that, at any moment, accurately represents their company. It also allows employees to be more autonomous and have readily available access to nearly any question they would have about company policies and procedures.
The handbook allows them to spend less time discussing internal logistics and more time building amazing products.
Maintaining communication and culture with a distributed team
Lara K Owen at Github shared examples on how their team has been able to maintain communication and healthy employee culture while working with co-located teams.
By analyzing the triumphs and failures of their various teams and projects, both remote and headquartered, they’ve been able to learn what processes work for them and how to build teams that are most likely to succeed.
She emphasized that the way to guarantee success is to build systems around your unique teams, rather than expect your employees to learn how to fit in.
Promoting asynchronous communication for better work-life balance
In an age of Slack, Messenger and more emails than you can count, Amir Salihefendić, CEO and founder of Doist, took the stage to share how he’s instituted a policy of asynchronous communication at Doist and how it’s become a prerequisite for building a healthy work-life balance with his team.
Like Buffer, Doist has been a remote company from the start. But unlike many other remote companies, never hold all-hands meetings. Instead, team leaders practice an asynchronous model that allows employees to work autonomously and gives managers the freedom to lead their teams with a hands-off approach that creates more strategic thinkers and problem solvers.
Finding the right tools to fuel creative collaboration
While a lot of the speakers talked about what tools they use for communication and managing their teams, Sarah Kuehnle, Head of Product at Dribble, went in depth about the top collaboration tools her creative team uses to not only communicate, but streamline their creative processes and collaborate on design projects.
Technology is making it possible for companies in virtually any industry to operate remotely, and Sarah provided technical and theoretical takeaways that attendees could quickly implement. From interactive whiteboards, to Zoom hacks that create a fun-filled atmosphere, Sarah emphasized the importance and ease of having a team that’s comfortable with each other and isn’t afraid of having a little fun.
The speakers didn’t shy away from discussing the obstacles and challenges that are associated with working remotely, and ways to overcome them. They brought to light some of the adverse effects of working remotely, and the challenges leaders and teams faced working in a remote environment.
We chose a lineup of events that were carefully curated to give the attendees physical skills and takeaways that they could immediately begin implementing into their management practices to help their remote teams thrive and grow, so it comes as no surprise 53% of attendees shared that they were already in the process of implementing advice that they learned at the conference only a few weeks after the event.
Creating a community of remote companies
What made the conference unique to other remote work-oriented events was that it made an intentional push to promote face-to-face networking and collaboration among remote teams who may have never meet in person. We saw great value in getting all of these people in the same room, talking to each other about their unique challenges and commonalities, despite their businesses all operating differently.
The networking aspect allowed the group to learn directly from each other in a location that attracts thousands of remote workers every year, Bali.
In recent years, Bali has solidified its place in the world as a digital nomad hub, and remote work hotspot because of its abundance of good food, great wifi, and a community of like-minded individuals. It boasts dozens of coworking spaces, including Hubud, one of the conference sponsors, and is home to thousands of entrepreneurs and location-independent workers who call the island home.
The venue contributed to the relaxed vibe of the conference but didn’t deter from the attendee’s hunger for knowledge and the intense passion for growing their remote businesses. The networking and informational talks were met with a spiritual balance only available on the island as well as a sense of synergy that only occurs when hundreds of like-minded people join together.
“It’s very hard to find people that are like-minded and really believe in this crazy mission. I talk to a lot of founders many of who are not remote-first, so being part of this is freaking amazing,” says Amir Salihefendić, Founder & CEO of Doist.
Why should you attend?
Attendees all had their own motivations for attending the conference which ranged from wanting to network with other remote companies and get to know industry leaders to wanting to learn the hard skills it takes to start building their own remote team.
Others attended to gather more insight into what processes work best in a remote environment and how to implement systems that will allow their existing teams to work remotely. Above all, attendees wanted to learn how teams of different sizes and functions could operate remotely and in a distributed environment.
As the planning stages begin for next year’s event, the 2018 conference reinforced what we already knew to be true.
The future of work is changing at a rapid rate, and events like ours will continue to push boundaries of what it means to be location independent and prove that remote work is not only possible, it’s going to change the way we work for the better.