Steve Munroe


HUBUD is one of Forbes’ top 10 co-working spaces on earth. Steve is Hubud’s prime schemer and evangelist for new ways of working, learning and living. He is also the founder of Co-working Association of Asia-Pacific. Hubud is a co-working space in Ubud, Bali that we opened about 3 years ago. It is a collection of members at any one time that are freelancers, tech teams, creatives, video journalists, writers, dreamers and everything in between. As of now they have 25 founding members.

Following is the Speech by Steve Munroe at the Running Remote Conference 2018

I’m glad that I’m on the Running Remote Conference 2018

I’ve been here for nine years. I almost feel honorary. It’s kind of hard to go on after Liam. I think he could stole the thunder from every speaker over the next two days by saying that going remote is more impactful than going vegan. Well done. I think that’s the line of the conference right there so I’m here just to welcome you and say a few things over the next few days we’re goanna be talking about a lot of things around as he said getting started building scaling your companies etc.

I know most of the people in this room are people that are working for or owning remote companies. So when I thought about what I wanted to say for a couple of minutes before we kick this conference off what came to me.

Steve Munroe at the Running Remote Conference 2018

How has the remote work changed in a few years?

I wanted to talk about the people so not so much about how you run your company but what impact that has on the people that are working remotely. So in the last five years of running a co-working space here we’ve had around 8,000 members and the universal thing about all of them was they were working remotely so that’s kind of given a set who but a really kind of interesting opportunity to see how things have changed to see the impacts the struggles the kind of upsides of it so

I’ll mention a few things about that today before I do I just want to say as something that’s organized a few different conferences in different places you know. it’s one of these things where there’s always tons and tons of people involved but there is always somebody that is kind of like largely responsible for the heavy lifting that doesn’t sleep for months leading up to it that knows the names and  where every single person is coming from and that just takes a huge amount of weight and responsibility for putting on a show like this because this is a show to pull on and so that person is Igor in the room.

Igor man this was your moment to shine okay if you see. Igor give a hug just do it. He likes hugs it’s not weird we’re in Bali we can do weird stuff like that. But yeah Igor has really pulled this together it’s been incredible to see the work and there’s been lots of people involved but really he is he is somebody that deserves a hug what’s that Igor there is yes you really here really does like hugs so I like talking about work I really do I’m super passionate about work.

Workers should enjoy what they do

I’m a kind of unapologetic workaholic as much as possible. I try to align what I do and I spent day with things that I enjoy doing and I think it’s really important for everybody because we spend more time working than basically doing anything else as an adult other than sleeping so if you put together kind of hanging out with your friends and family commuting social events, sex, reading all that stuff put it together it doesn’t come close to the number of hours we’re goanna spend working as adults the only thing that comes remotely close this is a little depressing spoiler alert is watching TV so we either watch TV or we work so it’s right off pretty important to get into something that you enjoy doing we spend a lot of time getting there.

I know there’s a few Australians a couple of people. I met last night from Seattle. So an hours is pretty average certainly in Asia or some of the bigger cities in North America and Europe that number can creep up higher.

The work takes really long time

We spent a lot of time just getting to work we spent a lot of time fighting with our loved ones and ruining our relationships because of work. So working too much is kind of one of the single biggest determinants to relationship strife so there’s a lot of costs that come along with working too much Liam alluded to that a little bit previously but I think we can all relate to that especially if you’re running your own company in Japan they have a word called Karoshi which refers to be the phenomenon of spontaneously dropping dead at the office it’s a thing 10,000 cases per year in Japan now in Japan they like to work but my guess is this happens a lot more than people realize I mean this sounds a little extreme but it’s a real deal Japan has just been kind enough to give us a word for it so this is the part that depresses me the most we spend a lot of time working we spend a lot of kind of pointless. Annoying time getting there it comes off in at great personal cost in our relationships.

It can be fatal especially alluded if you’re Japanese and the truth is most people don’t like what they do most people spend the majority of their adult lives doing something they don’t like they don’t feel connected with thankfully not thankfully the office is broken. Sorry Laura the office is broken no it’s not broken.  There’s nothing wrong with offices per se but there is something wrong with the way that work is set up.

But a lot of companies are set up that priorities are set up what is kind of praised and what is vilified in terms of how we reward people for different types of behavior the way that we’re working globally speaking is not working very well so five years ago or so we started who would it’s a co-working space here in Bali for some of you I know you’ve been coming in this week welcome and we started it because when I moved to Bali nine years ago the most common story that I heard again and again and it was partly my story.

Creating workspaces for people from different countries

I left a career I work for the UN for about ten years and it was something that I felt passionately for a while but at some point it stopped it giving me that root that that feeling of satisfaction so we came to Bali we ended up meeting a lot of people who told the exact same story so different countries different kind of wealth levels different industries but a similar thing of being dissatisfied for us and feeling there was more to life and so we kind of got this idea around creating a space where people who were curious about living working and learning differently could come together an experiment with that at the time.

We were told basically  it was a totally rubbish idea if you’re going to do it in Indonesia you should do it in Jakarta because that’s where the tech scene is you’re goanna do it in Bali at least do it in seminyak where the money is but for God’s sakes don’t do it in ubud right most of you maybe have heard of her scene II pray love that’s kind of the branding of ubud.

It’s a place where people come to do yoga.Iit’s a place where people come to get married to be truthful It’s a place where people come to get divorced they just don’t know it before they get there it has been unshared ibly has been called the place where marriages go come to die so people don’t people didn’t really equate to the two things and the question that people ask this was who would want to work in Bali you know who wants to come to Bali to work and my question at the time was who wouldn’t want to work in Bali right now I’m not saying Bali is a perfect place we can talk about that all day long I don’t know that there is a perfect place for everybody certainly it’s you know places and things we do that give us energy and the kind of hugely growing trend of remote work is what gives most of these people the ability to do this.

Some news about the new digital  Nomad

So I’m a big fan of remote work mainly because my entire business model is predicated on it so you know keep your employees well paid and free but I’m really interested in kind of what it does to people and their lives. So I just want to share this it’s called meet the new Nomad so the term digital Nomad is used a lot. I’m not entirely convinced to the term we’ve heard nomad with a k’ KN owm ad location independent professional and those. Stu’s here somewhere he really likes this one tech spats which is arguably the worst one.

Motivators are an important part of the remote team

I’ve ever heard in my entire life but nevertheless you know you were trying to be clever in global citizen and I don’t know that new Nomad is any better. But I just want to give you a little kind of picture of who we get here and what motivates them because the more companies I talked to especially on the HR side the issue is retention with Millennials. it’s not that they can’t attract them it’s that they can’t keep them and so some of these things that we’ve seen over the over the years maybe gives a little bit of light in terms of what motivates them and who these people are so this first one passion and purpose versus survival an obligation is basically the sharing economy kind of kind of idea.

So people are not necessarily as our parents generation would be focused on accumulation what they’re interested in is having kind of meaningful experiences and they value those above kind of what we would say is like classical motivators in the employment sphere and that’s very confusing for big companies they just they can’t really get their head around that it’s taking them a while the second is they’re risk takers for the most part by definition over the years. If you have picked up and kind of blowing up your life and either started the company left a career to work half way around the world you are a risk taker by almost by definition they value experiences over posse ssions so that is that kind of same idea where they’re not necessarily motivated by kind of bigger things but they want a more rich and meaningful life lifestyle design this is a term.

I think Tim Ferriss coined it in the 4-hour workweek and so essentially this is around intentionality of creating the life you want so for example if you’re a surfer the idea being that you work in an office all year long so that you can say about money to go spend two weeks surfing is actually quite preposterous you should start with that first so if you’re a surfer go live by the beach and then design your life around how you can support that part of you that’s important they’re inspired by movement and so the you know and that has a shelf life we found over five years and so the idea and I talked to somebody about this today Joel.

I think it was you this idea that you at the beginning you get that laptop and you’re like this is the best thing ever and everybody has the kind of almost mandatory picture of the laptop and the sand put up your hand if you have a picture of you on the beach or somewhere really you’re lying okay some of you are lying we all know it so there’s this but there is this kind of this kind of trend with it let’s say so people tend to be inspired by movement and being versus doing and now.

How to give the team more spaciousness?

I don’t  know that this applies all over or maybe this is just that the crowd that gets attracted to Bali. Maybe a little bit even in particular but this idea that it is not all about doing and actually actioning the idea is they’re pulling themselves out of a daily grind that gives them a bit of spaciousness in terms of being able to kind of know themselves  well think differently about their work. So generally they’re pretty interesting people now people want freedom. We talk about the freedom paradigm we talk about and I mean I cringe sometimes at some of the tag lines we’ve used for different campaigns over the years and really kind of like banging the freedom drum.

I think the feeling of freedom is important especially if people have lived lives for a long time where they feel very contained so you know on the surface yes people want freedom but more importantly they need purpose.

So you know my kind of universal summation of the millennial generation and kind of existential angst that seems to come along with it is Millennials feel entitled to work. They feel passionately about that they feel like there’s a purpose to it and that by the way is the single most confusing thing to employers they just typical employers in the corporate world.

purpose for remote work

Formation of purpose and unity in remote teams

They just don’t get it but people need to feel connected to the mission. I love the end that you put a mission statement a vision statement up about the conference. It is so important so for you people running remote companies yes it’s important of course. That people feel purpose in any company you guys might have to work a little harder at it if your team isn’t there every day if you don’t have that opportunity on a day to day basis to inculcate around the purpose of what your company is doing. What you’re needing from your employees then. You have to make sure that they feel this because if they don’t they will leave so kind of a contrary in view that being remote can make people feel more connected than.  Ever before and you know there’s lots of reasons why this is categorically untrue.

I’d say there’s equal number that they are true what I’m referring to in this case is it gives people the opportunity to feel more connected to things that they care about that can be their family and family time we know remote work offers better flexibility and options around that it could be the ability to connect more to nature could be the ability to connect more to experiences that inspire them and motivate them and keep them going the nice thing is you don’t have to be there everything so as companies you know. I think this kind of press with like really big tech companies in particular where they literally are everything they’re their Laundromat they’re their cafeteria they’re their social life they’re their work they’re their paycheck.


Running a remote conference brings together employees from remote teams

I think the nice thing about being remote is you can get a lot of these things in your life and you as employers need to give them awesome work that they feel purposeful around but you don’t need to be there everything the remote part kind of takes care of that but you should buy them a co-working membership especially in Bali. I think it’s really important so co-working I think the biggest gift of co-working to the world is for the first time in human history it allows people to choose who they work with so if you think about that 90 thousand hours.

People are working and they might love your company they might love the work behind it. They don’t necessarily love everybody in your company you know. I mean they might like them fine they might respect them, they might work well with them but they’re not necessarily. Their people so for the first time people get to choose who they spend their time with based on who they are rather than who’s paying their wage.

Сo-working spaces help create ability to make feel connected and whole for remote team

I think co-working spaces have created this and the advice. I always give to people when they say what should I look for in a co-working space is go inside see who’s there and how you feel the amenities is a three beer is it extra comfy couches and sleep pods yes that’s all nice ultimately we’re social creatures and co-working spaces have this ability to make us feel connected and whole and finally this is related but it’s really so that I just kind of have to keep banging on about it.  I’m obviously strong company culture is possible for a remote team but I think you have to work a little harder at it.

I’m really if your company is in 40 countries if it’s different cultures if you’re on different time zones if there’s limited ways liyan refer to this in some of the kind of downsides of remote work that’s the offset of the kind of other side of it.

So as employers as companies as leaders you really need to prioritize this. I would argue more than a typical company does um so that’s it if you are in Bali after this feel free to drop by who we’ll do a tour at 12 o’clock on Monday.

If you’re around other than that if you want to drop by say hello please do and with that.  I will leave it there say welcome have an amazing conference enjoy this venue TEDx was held here and it was voted one of the top ten TEDx venues in the world. Which is incredible considering how many bloody TEDx events. There are so you are really in a very special place on a special island doing special stuff.


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