It’s funny what a global pandemic can do for one’s enthusiasm towards conferences. There was a time not so long ago, when many of us had become accustomed to flying thousands of miles to sit alongside hundreds of people as dozens of experts shared their thoughts on lessons learned, current trends and future theories. Truth be told, some of us may have even tired of doing so.
Then came a global pandemic that saw us confined to our own corners of the world for two years and suddenly the idea of attending a conference became a whole lot more attractive. Sure, virtual events did their best to fill the void but it didn’t take long to miss the buzz that comes from gathering with like-minded souls in a foreign city and being inspired by passionate speakers about the industry we love.
And that’s why I’m smiling from ear to ear this week.
Running Remote 2022 is the world’s largest conference dedicated to remote and hybrid workplace transformation and I am one of the hundreds of people who have descended on Montreal’s historic New City Gas venue to indulge in a two-day program featuring more than 40 speakers across 32 sessions, including high-profile executives from the likes of Twitter, Zoom and Adecco.
It’s been great to once again be surrounded by friends and strangers sharing innovative ideas and, in the spirit of the event, I’d like to share my Day 1 highlights from the keynote speakers, panels and fireside chats I’ve enjoyed, not to mention the first onstage marriage proposal I’ve witnessed at an industry conference. Needless to say, it’s been an incredibly unique event.
Sagar Khatri, Multiplier CEO – ‘From crypto paychecks to rebalancing supply and demand: The biggest trends driving remote work’
Sagar sat down with Quartz senior reporter Lila MacLellan for a fireside chat and touched on an experience that many of us who have worked globally would appreciate. Prior to the pandemic, he was working with a company that was expanding internationally and was frustrated that it took six months to open a bank account in Australia. I had similar headaches moving into the Philippines market and Sagar used his experience as motivation to launch Multiplier, a platform that takes care of global teams’ payroll, taxes, social contributions and local insurance policies. I love that notion – that some of the best ideas for businesses are born out of one’s own pain points.
Sagar also had plenty to say about how COVID has inspired a shift in mindset when it comes to remote work, including this great line: “If you want to be an employer of choice, give us the choice to work where we want.” His company is hearing loud and clear that distributed workforces are here to stay and that once a company opens the door to people working from home, there is no going back.
Multiplier has also seen an increase in customers wanting to pay with cryptocurrencies and has taken a strong position in wanting to provide them with a platform to do so, along with committing to pay their own people in the currencies that best suits them (eg: an employee based in Bali getting paid in US dollars). It’s all about doing what needs to be done to attract talent and perform best in a digital-first operation.
Ally Fekaiki, Juno founder – ‘A brief history of Work-Life Balance, and how we can build a better future’
Ally’s keynote speech centered on a very cool theme – that the era of work-life balance is over. As the brains behind employee wellbeing platform Juno, he believes the concept is now a myth with a huge number of people burning out during COVID when they had too much access to their work laptops at home. In the U.S. alone, burnout is estimated to have cost the economy $80 billion and that is why Ally is advocating a new approach – work-life blend – with the next generation of workers to be more fluid in their careers, less centralized in their workplaces and seek more joy and connection from their work.
To help stem that flow, Ally promoted the notion of flexible employee benefits, with staff given the chance to choose their own rewards and recognitions. A lot of the companies Juno works with even offer food deliveries as a reward to their team members as that means more to them than a trophy or voucher.
Panel – ‘Beyond Remarkable Employee Onboarding’
With the likes of Adecco’s President Canada Janelle Bieler on this big-name panel, there were great tips about how to best hire and onboard in a remote world. Along with hiring recruiters in local areas to leverage local knowledge and revisiting your tools and tech stacks to ensure they suit the new world, a key message was to increasingly focus on candidate experience. In an ever-competitive talent market, it is essential to understand the needs and wants of potential staff and that includes assessing their feedback about the hiring process. One panelist even suggested spreading the recruitment process over a few days rather than overwhelming candidates by pushing it all into a short timeframe.
Ike Stranathan and Fiona Lideza, STAFFVIRTUAL – ‘Where does the future of Remote Hiring come from?’
As the respective founder and COO of STAFFVIRTUAL, Ike and Fiona have overseen huge growth in their Philippines-based outsourcing firm during the pandemic and discussed their exciting decision to continue as a 100% remote workforce. With many workers forced to endure lengthy commutes, working remotely is a significant advantage for Filipinos and the couple has adopted a range of engagement strategies to compensate for any isolation issues including Facebook Live, online social activities and a dedicated mental health platform. They also stressed the need for data security measures, with their tech stack emboldened by the inclusion of Time Doctor. Then came the most memorable moment of the fireside chat (and no doubt the conference) – Ike proposing to his life and business partner on stage. Talk about a hard act to follow!
This is an incredible family business that’s been going for 13 years, agile, innovative and extremely focussed on the needs of their staff and their clients.
Dan Martell, SaaS Academy founder – ‘Clone yourself virtually: how to buy back your time in a remote team’
I’m sure I was not alone in nodding my head countless times as Dan laid out his vision for how to improve efficiencies. As the founder and CEO of SaaS Academy, a renowned coaching program for B2B SaaS founders, he highlighted many areas where business leaders fail to make the best use of their time, be it poor inbox management, performing low-value tasks that could be assigned to others or working in one’s business rather than on it. I especially loved his array of business mantras such as “Million-dollar businesses were not built on $10 tasks” and, my personal favorite: “If you don’t have an assistant, you are an assistant.”
Panel – ‘Should most remote work be asynchronous?’
Another inspired topic from conference organizers, especially given the number of companies who dipped their toes in the remote work world due to the pandemic and are still trying to get their heads around what work should or shouldn’t be time agnostic. One of the key tips I walked away with is the need for clear communication in a remote work environment, especially given the potential impact of time zones. With workers spread across different locations and times, do not assume everyone has always had time to read material and always strive to work to team members’ individual communication styles, be it written word, video or audio.
Needless to say, it was one very big opening day to Running Remote 2022.
I’ll be posting some more in-depth recap articles on the Running Remote panels, keynotes and workshops over the coming weeks.
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Aimee is the Chief Revenue Officer at Time Doctor writing about remote work, scale, growth and profit for leading businesses globally.