Running Remote Conference takes place on May 17th and May 18th in Montreal, Canada with a focus on remote work best practices.
This week, remote work will be the main theme at the latest incarnation of the Running Remote Conference in Canada. Running Remote 2022 will be held for two days (May 16th + 17th) at the New City Gas venue in downtown Montreal. The conference is not specifically a Canadian conference, having historically rotated its host city every year. The pandemic forced editions of the conference into virtual-only mode during 2020 and 2021, so this week’s gathering in Quebec will be a "post-covid"-style return to a hybrid gathering.
The hybrid future of work is indeed the main topic on the conference floor— it’s the raison d’être for the conference. But unlike a lot of remote work content you might see online, the audience for this conference is not individual people trying to “make the leap” and become remote workers. Rather, this conference’s agenda caters to employers, leaders, and organizations that are managing remote workforces. This focus on an enterprise audience means the sessions will lean into topics like organizational culture, HR, strategy, and practical management advice.
As an official Media Partner, Wayviator will be on-site to cover the presentations and panel discussions. Here are five topics we are interested in and a preview of what we looking to hear about on Tuesday and Wednesday:
1. Employee onboarding in a remote environment
How do you onboard employees effectively when they’ve never even been in an office? During covid, it was a hot topic of debate whether teams might be even more productive while working from home or a location of their choosing, rather than the office.
But there is a distinction between effective teams who developed trust, knowledge, communication skills, and bonding with a history of being in-person first (who subsequently went remote), versus teams who have been distributed and remote from Day 1 and develop remote productivity, knowledge sharing, and team skills from scratch.
Panelists will include Janelle Bieler, President at Adecco; Paul McKinlay, VP, Communications & Remote Working at Cimpress & Vista; Brandon Sammut, Chief People Officer at Zapier and Marion Balandra, CEO of Meridian Remote Teams.
Our Big Question: Does the panel foresee a future where completely distributed teams train and onboard effectively in a totally virtual environment, or does some amount of “bring people together” or in-person gatherings factor into the equation?
2. Discussing a new term: “Head Remote”: What is the meaning of this job title (one that didn't really exist 5 years ago):
Major societal changes bring new job titles at the corporate level — you can bet on that! (How many ‘Chief Data Officers’ were there fifteen years ago?)
‘Head of Remote’ is emerging as a key post-pandemic leadership position. The need to nurture culture and productivity with distributed teams has opened up a new field of management that can’t simply leverage the 20th-century playbook for HR and people management. Even the open-plan, Silicon Valley-style “new office” culture of the 2000s and 2010s may be obsolete in the face of employees who are working and collaborating from anywhere in the world — and have never met in person.
Darren Murph, Head of Remote at Gitlab; Samantha Fisher, Head of Dynamic Work at Okta; and Stephanie Lee, Remote Lead at cargo.one will discuss 'Head of Remote' with an insider’s view on management, communication, learning, and development.
Our Big Question: Some new job titles endure and some don’t. In the mid-2000s, 'Social Media Manager' titles exploded, but many of these “unique” positions were folded back into traditional marketing roles when it became clear that social media is a powerful channel, but ultimately just another form of marketing. Similarly, the use of the prefix “e” (VP of e-Sales) to denote online commerce back in the dot-com era was phased out when everyone decided that… well, sales is sales.
What might an enduring future for “Head of Remote” look like in a world where remote work becomes so normal it’s boring — will this theoretical “Department of Remote” just be folded into HR and Communications?
3. Asynchronous communication and the future of meetings
"Asynchronous communication" is still an even more obscure term than “remote work” or “digital nomad” for many, but it is gaining in popularity — with certain companies driving its popularity into the limelight and helping define it.
Asynchronous communication, or “async” for short, refers to an internal communications philosophy that downplays the primacy of meetings as the primary way to communicate and make decisions and doubles down on documentation and scalable systems to help people who are not physically located together get things done.
For instance, by now many of our readers would be familiar with the concept of the “shared document in the cloud that everyone can comment on”. Combine (a) a detailed document, (b) an open messaging channel, and (c) a clear time limit on when a decision needs to be made, and maybe that Product Design meeting simply becomes a thread in Slack that people comment on throughout the day, rather than a costly 90-minute meeting for seven people
Combining detailed documentation of decisions, ideas, and processes with instant messaging is a perhaps over-simplified example of how communication can happen without meetings. During this session, we’ll be looking forward to seeing how the panelists dive deeper into the concept.
Our Big Question: With many management philosophies, the loudest proponents can quickly become zealots who proclaim that ‘the new thing’ is not just one way to do something — but the Best way to do something. Many, however, are rightfully skeptical that the tried-and-true method of getting in a room and talking about problems (and providing emotional support, working through difficult interpersonal problems, generating intangible excitement and momentum for initiatives and ideas, etc.) is still just inherently preferable to 'async'
Is 'asynchronous communication' just a necessary compromise driven by the self-serving needs of autonomy-minded workers, or is it actually superior — from an organizational perspective?
On this panel, we’ll hear from Samantha Fisher, Head of Dynamic Work at Okta; Nathan Barry, CEO & Co-founder at ConvertKit; Julia Szatar, Head of Product Marketing at Loom and Ryan Burke, Chief Revenue Officer at Qatalog.
4. What will the office look like in a remote world?
Last week in our newsletter, we highlighted how Tesco, a major grocery store chain in the UK, was putting a coworking space inside of a grocery store. Commercial real estate is a major component of the economy — from the skyscrapers that dominate major city centers to the office parks that take up acres of land and parking space in and around the suburbs.
With macroeconomic forces putting pressure on tenants and landlords alike — with the price of oil, the after-effects of the pandemic, the stock market correction, and the remote work movement all bearing down on revenue forecasts — the future of commercial real estate is at a crossroads. What will become of millions in square footage that may not ever be occupied at 2019-era levels again?
Alex Morris, Partner at McKinsey; Dave Cairns, VP Office Leasing at CBRE; and Sami Hero, Chief Revenue Officer at Remo will discuss this topic.
Our Big Question: Commercial landlords, political leaders, private equity groups and commercial real estate agents will all have a vested and biased interest in the “return to the office” as they hope to revitalize their financial interests in bustling downtowns filled with occupied floors of workers. We hope to hear clear-eyed thinking on whether there actually will be a “return to the office” or if this might simply be the wishful thinking of distressed parties hoping for their rents and tax bases to come back. Can the commercial real estate industry adapt if we never go back to the way offices were prior to the 2020s?
5. Diversity and inclusion — how do companies manage diverse and inclusive workplaces when we’re not all together?
Office culture has gone through many changes over the last century, and the hybrid and remote work movement is just one of many cultural shifts that workplaces have adapted to. Other cultural shifts leading up to the pandemic included a much stronger focus in the 2010s on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The last decade saw a determined and consistent push by many affected parties to examine the elements of the workplace that were unfair, racist, sexist, xenophobic, non-inclusive, unjust, dangerous, and/or unkind.
When problems of inclusion are visible and quantifiable (for instance, an unofficial boys' club that heads to the pub weekly and discusses valuable work matters in a clannish, exclusionary manner) there are obvious symptoms of dysfunction for leaders to identify and correct. But when work is online and conducted over remote tools, just identifying and recognizing problems can be difficult for managers and leaders.
We’ll be interested to hear what Andrea Robb, Co-founder at Vibrancy; Dethra Giles, CEO at ExecuPrep; and Amina Moreau, CEO at Radious.pro have to say about diversity and inclusion on their panel.
Our Big Question: What are the panelists hearing directly from affected parties about issues of diversity and inclusion? We hope to learn some thoughtful insider knowledge on what we might be missing out on, as people face diversity and inclusion issues in the workplace this year.
Tomorrow, we hope to get some answers to our big questions and share what we are hearing not just on the panels, but in the hallways and around the catering table at lunch.
We’ll be back with a summary of Day 1. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to get even more real-time coverage throughout the day.