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Running Remote 2024: async, remote, hybrid, distributed, WFH, WTF?! 🙃

May 17, 2024
37 min read

#RunningRemote 2024 Personal Takeaways 

My TL;DR: remote & hybrid are harder, have to be very intentional. Remote makes many things easier, and it’s centric around culture and people – that’s why People and Culture is key to the future of workplaces [Chief People Officer functions will flourish, People and Culture will be more strategic, and CHRO and HR as we know it (“policing”) will diminish].  At Gyfted we believe that recruitment is the world’s most inefficient supply-chain for the #1 input into any organization: people. It has to and will change thanks to distributed work and AI.

Nick Bloom on LinkedIn re. growing role of People function / HR:

Last month reaffirmed my takeaways from 2023 – Running Remote seems to be one of the best remote OG events with an extremely high density of People and Culture professionals passionate about this topic. Although activity/atmosphere was calmer (recruitment’s in a downturn, remote work has stabilized, and we’re out of the mental COVID trauma). 

What remote work eases significantly: 

  1. Access to talent (it’s so easy if you know how to hire that is 😉
  2. Easier to bootstrap 
  3. Work-life balance (talk to parents – data shows this clearly) 
  4. Flexibility (esp. important for women & parents, individuals with disabilities, talent in emerging/frontier markets being able to access opportunity across borders!) 
  5. Significantly cuts operating & talent costs – no permanent office costs, lower/optimized pay 
  6. Creates a much more competitive, global labor market – employers have to care more about the People/HR function! This is amazing, as in my view 90% of the problems in recruitment stem from the way companies/organizations operate and (mis)manage things. And the signal at Running Remote is precisely about this – you have to be among the top managers if you want to run a remote team/company well.  

What remote work makes harder: 

  1. Communication (probably #1 factor that’s made harder) – communication has to be much more structured and intentional [written and verbal], whether it’s in synchronous or async mode  
  2. Hybrid ie. mixing remote and hybrid is the worst scenario – it’s the hardest, mixed up mode of operations, communication and management! 
  3. As a consequence coordination and collaboration get harder, especially there where fast-paced innovative product development that benefits from face to face (behavioral/visual/social) interaction 
  4. “Fairness” (it’s funny because we’re social animals, just like these monkeys in this experiment, with a strong sense of justice/fairness around money and resources, but we try to game the systems we’re in all the time – including leveraging remote work to our benefit [flexiblity & freedom]
  5. Screening/evaluating candidates for hire (will insert an article specifically on the why and how on this subject here later – doing some user research on it) 

What remote companies* excel at vs ‘old world’ companies: 

*fully distributed teams, remote-first teams, flexible hybrid

  1. People and Culture / HR – you have to be very intentional and caring for teams if you want performance, you have to build a culture that’s people-oriented for remote to work well, communication has to work great and you need people who are aligned in teams and very self-disciplined and proactive as individuals 
  2. Resilience thanks to flexibility – as an economist this is clear to me, and the best example for this is the heroic Ukrainian nation that is thriving and surviving [entire sectors are] in the middle of the biggest war since World War II. Why? Remote work during COVID prepped them to go fully remote and distributed, to minimize risk in war mode. 
  3. Talent Acquisition – access to talent is easier, but doing so remotely also requires more finesse when f2f meetings aren’t an option, and I think that basically it’s the result of remote teams having to get their sh** together and correct in talent acquisition! Remote enforces better behavior and rules on teams who want to hire top talent. However, screening/evaluation are still in a shift to a new equilibrium IMHO, which we see from two things: a) the huge mismatch in job markets, which I like to call a dual job market that’s formed [candidates want remote work above all (if you’re a candidate btw check out Remote Rebellion), and most companies want control via weak hybrid/office work modes], and b) the shit-show happening during recruitment around definitions of remote/hybrid/WFH regarding time-zones, location, geographic (border) boundaries, and jurisdictional work/tax compliance – all because most companies (non-remote ones) are still figuring it out… which is an organizational and culture matter as much as a pure recruitment process and job expectations matter.

Running Remote 2024 Recap  

People and Culture, Remote Team Alignment

The shift to remote work puts a spotlight on the need to get asynchronous communication right. It’s crucial because our teams are scattered across various time zones and effective written communication becomes the backbone of project success. Another big deal in this space is honing writing skills. When teams communicate well in writing, it ramps up engagement and ensures everyone’s on the same page, regardless of their location. 

  • Leadership Styles in remote settings: effective remote leadership involves clear communication, transparency in expectations and outcomes, and a focus on building a culture that aligns with your remote and organizational values. And while some companies bootstrap their way to success while others tap into investors. But irrespective of the path, the value of diversity in leadership—bringing varied experiences and viewpoints to the table, is really important to build strong (knowledge workers after all..!) teams in remote. Leading a remote team demands transparency and a knack for clear communication. It’s about setting clear expectations and building a culture that fits your remote work model
  • Asynchronous communication matters more as the nature of work shifts to remote, eg. effective written communication ensures we can, irrespective of time zones, contribute meaningfully to projects. In this writing skills matter – AI will help this though IMHO 😀 
  • Celebrating small wins is huge—it builds a positive culture, especially during the wild early startup days when everything feels like chaos. It helps build a culture that fosters collaboration. Basically, acknowledging every small win to foster a positive work environment. 
  • The principle of “employees as customers” underscores the need to treat work as a product offered to them, aiming for high satisfaction and retention. There’s real importance in building a culture of trust to accelerate collaboration and impact. Atlassian’s approach of designing team locations to match time zones, ensuring the best overlap for collaboration, and prioritizing skills over physical location in team assembly.
  • note: the old “don’t stay in the base camp” mantra is a reminder that businesses need to keep moving and innovating, or they risk stagnation and obsolescence – and I personally think that many ‘old world’ companies will suffer and collapse because they won’t be able to embrace remote as well as the AI revolution (I bet that the propensity to embrace both remote and AI is the result of a similar open, industrious mindset… 😉 )

Quotes from #runningremote about remote culture and leadership growing teams: 

  • “If people aren’t enjoying work they will walk. There are other jobs for people to go to.”
  • “how the People function is evolving, tracking productivity vs. profitability, zone-based pay, the old world of office as management vehicle vs. the future of HOW work happens.”
  • “Our discussion delved into themes of resilience, perseverance, fears, strengths, and the driving forces that motivate us.”
  • “Those initial years are all about tossing spaghetti at the wall, hoping something sticks.”
  • “It’s a messy, experimental phase where every success and failure SHOULD be celebrated. So make sure you are celebrating every day, even if it’s just a little win.”
  • “[Remote] doubled their number of candidates per role, enjoyed a 20% offer acceptance rate, and celebrated 53% decrease in attrition among women.”
Ilma Tikki, Bobbie Racette & Chris Reynolds @ Running Remote 2024

Best Practices for Distributed Teams

Remote work has flipped the script on how we connect. Now it’s less about physical proximity and more about building trust and keeping the collaboration engine running smoothly, which is hard! But we’ll get there. Mastering asynchronous communication is critical for effective collaboration across different time zones. Investing in good writing skills for teams enhances clarity and engagement in a distributed setting. Using the DARE model (Describe, Acknowledge, Review, Evaluate) to manage conflicts demonstrates the importance of structured communication in distributed teams. Atlassian’s data suggests that when teams are structured around tasks/skills rather than location, they can be more innovative. It’s all about leveraging digital tools to maintain connectivity without needing an office setting.

Quotes from #runningremote about managing distributed teams: 

  • “With teams distributed across different time zones, synchronizing schedules is a big challenge for companies.”
  • “This makes mastery of asynchronous communication—like writing—critical.”
  • “Annie Dean offers a top tip for getting hybrid work right; train your team to be great writers. Effective writing ensures that everyone, regardless of location or time zone, can engage fully and meaningfully.”
  • “Everyone at #runningremote knows what this means, but it’s an echo chamber. Outside the distributed world, asynchronous isn’t trending.”
  • “make information self-serve – info is easily accessible and documented online”
  • “design your time to deliver results”
  • “Remote is a revolution we’re living through & is akin to other revolutions (industrial, PCs, internet etc.) & will take time to settle & „figure out”
  • “Time Zones Matter: consider the world as if it’s divided into 6 time zones stripes. The most successful teams have a 4 hour workday overlap. If you are early in your career, Atlassian tries to match you with a manager in the same stripe. If more senior, you might oversee people across 3 stripes.”
  • “Team Design: organize teams based on the skills you need for the problem you are trying to solve (not based on the building they work from). If you operate digital-first then this allows you to create the best team with the right skills (within the right time zone stripes).”
via Nick Bloom @ LinkedIn

Evolution of Workspaces 

The idea of the office is changing forever – and it’s not disappearing but evolving. We’re seeing the evolution of the office into a digital-first environment where the internet becomes the primary workspace. The chatter at Running Remote was all about making in-person interactions count without making them a strict requirement, whether it’s through hybrid or through remote team retreats. Being in the ‘office’ or at a retreat then is not about ‘getting work done’ but interaction and interpersonal experiences, fostering a culture and building relationships that glue teams together more strongly and help set everyone on the same path. Also viewing work as a product we offer to our employees, like any other customer, shifts our focus towards making work conditions better and more conducive to retaining talent. RTO is failing, or it’s a corporate strategy to ‘ease’ firing.. Insights into the challenges and repeated attempts of Return to Office (RTO) initiatives, suggesting a move towards more meaningful and well-thought-out in-person interactions rather than enforced returns. The growing resistance against ineffective RTO policies, pointing towards the need for adaptable and employee-centric office policies. 

Quotes from #runningremote re. hybrid, RTO and workspace evolution: 

  • Work as a Product: a compelling point made during the conference was that employees should be seen as customers, with work being the product sold to them. This perspective shifts focus to improving the work environment and conditions to retain talent – I see this as truly core to the remote revolution that’s happening (it’s not visible to the naked eye, but boy if 15-25% of all workers in an economy are remote, this impacts housing, urbanization, society, economic activity, transportation – everything). 
  • “The office is not where you do work. The internet is.”
  • “The office is evolving, not disappearing.”
  • “An indicator of a failed RTO is a second attempt. Having heard from several managers around RTO make-overs, we wondered how common they were? In a SWAA survey with Gable we discovered many RTOs are still struggling:”
  • “RTO reruns are frequent. Amazingly 6% of employees have had five or more attempts. In the US alone that’s almost 10 million employees. Imagine what it must feel like to experience 5, 6 or even 7 RTO attempts!”
  • “RTO compliance is lowest for those with the most attempts. One quarter of employees at companies with multiple RTOs are still ignoring the policy.”
  • “One third of managers are still not enforcing RTOs, presumably as they make little sense. This is the resistance of middle managers ignoring bad RTOs.”

Gable + Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes (SWAA), May 2024 via Nick Bloom

Community Building in Remote

Running Remote is a goldmine for networking. Running Remote’s unique community aspect where connections are profoundly valued, enhancing both personal and professional growth. The importance of in-person retreats and offsites to strengthen team alignment and rejuvenate commitment to organizational missions, as discussed by Chase Warrington at Doist. Community building through shared experiences and the fostering of an inclusive, supportive environment at conferences and within remote teams. RR attendees often talked about how it feels like a community where everyone is eager to lift each other up. These events are crucial – they’re where lasting professional relationships are forged and doors are opened. Community requires F2F – we’re not robots no matter how much we love remote work. 🙂  

Quotes from #runningremote re. community and culture in remote: 

  • “The Running Remote community is unparalleled in its genuine desire to support and uplift one another.”
  • “This conference was incredibly powerful because of the PEOPLE.”
  • “My ROI of coming to Lisbon is strengthening connections and creating new ones.”
  • “intentional in-person reunions can’t be overlooked. These allow space to co-create, re-energize, and engage with the team and the organization.”

Future of Work is Distributed and Digital

The enduring relevance and expansion of remote work was discussed by several leaders, noting that the future workplace will increasingly be distributed. The continuous innovation in remote work setups, as shown by Atlassian’s findings on the effectiveness and diversity of distributed teams.

Some panels/speakers shared insights into practical challenges like zone-based pay (and “fairness” around this) & data shows there is no ‘solution’ to this, it’s organization and culture context dependent; the complexities of remote team management; and how hard matching remote job-seekers is to roles when neither side (esp. companies) defines well what they ‘expect’ from their remote work style. It’s all about clear, direct communication and expectation setting when posting remote jobs – salary, time-zone/location (with all the details and nuance: border boundaries, physical requirements to visit the office, work daytime / async, etc.). 

  • Data-driven decision-making: several sessions provided data insights into the benefits of distributed work, including increased diversity and innovation, remote being awesome for women, parents, diversity, disabled, and data underlining the effectiveness of remote work when it is executed with intention and planning.

Quotes from #runningremote re. Future of Work for real: 

  • “Employees are your customers. Work is the product you sell to them.”
  • “the future of work is digital”
  • “presence doesn’t mean productivity”
  • emotional intelligence is key, and learning how to leverage AI tools to enhance communication is crucial
  • “defaulting to trust is essential”
  • “When we work differently, location doesn’t matter.”
  • “Loyalty vs Connection – going into an office helps improve company loyalty and belonging, but NOT team connection (which is linked to team effectiveness). Team connection is better built via intentional gatherings.”
  • “At Atlassian we’re seeing signals that distributed teams are more innovative.”

My favorite panel that @ RR with many data insights into distributed work by brilliant Holly May Nick Bloom Annie Dean Brian Elliott – I summarized it this way:

  • Remote is a revolution we’re living through & is akin to other revolutions (industrial, PCs, internet etc.) & will take time to settle & „figure out”
  • Remote is productive: depends on many factors related to management quality & culture — this group knows it 💯 — and it’s all about how work is done & measuring/managing by outcomes, which takes managerial intent, norms, culture & processes as it’s harder than „office management”
  • RTO is extremely damaging to employees & culture the way it’s often done intentionally (probably to announce layoffs without announcing them)
  • Zone-based pay is a very hard problem with no clear solution
  • Setting very clear and detailed expectations & being transparent (re pay, job details, culture/org norms) is a must do
  • there’s no going back to the old ways, even if inertia’s bringing some organizations back to the „old ways” of office management.
Holly May, Annie Dean, Nick Bloom & Brian Elliott on stage @ Running Remote 2024

Flashback to Running Remote 2023

TL;DR – Running Remote is where remote OGs and people passionate about distributed, remote and hybrid work, and above all the People and Culture function gather – whether online or IRL. 

In 2023 I first hand saw how Running Remote is not just conference and an online community. You could feel coming across remote OGs who’ve been at it for 5-10-15-20+ years, that it is special and full of deep knowledge and insights. 

I joined the Running Remote community in mid-/late-2022 I believe, still in the fumes of the covid lockdown sh**show. It certainly is one of the most well run remote/online communities (FYI another I had an amazing experience with is the Transcend future of work/edtech community) – RR’s Community Lead Kasia Triantafelo does a terrific job working with founders, people and culture professionals, managers and remote leaders in the community. 

In April 2023 attended RR’s Running Remote in Lisbon. It was amazing – the first big post-covid conference had astronomical levels of energy 🙂. But there was something amazing in attending this last year – it was, to me as a ‘Silicon Valley emigre’, an event full of signal owing to the composition of the participants and audience (which easily blend). I knew that remote is a state of mind, and a culture, not the result of lockdowns/covid, but this was a real pleasure to see and feel. And the event location was pretty bad ass too (see below). This was while the world was coming out of being bonkers and awash in the remote work mumbo-jumbo talk full of noise and grandiose statements. Now many of the speculators are on the Return to Office (RTO) train to nowhere..  

What stood out to me personally at Running Remote 2023 and it’s a theme that was even stronger at Running Remote 2024, is how very intentional and caring (not just for personal preference or altruistic reasons, but for business/management reasons!) most people at the event are about the People and Culture function! And it’s no surprise – to manage and sustain performance in remote teams requires much more work, and much better managerial and communication skills than the old world of office work. 

It was also the first large unconference I attended along with Blaze – Gyfted’s CPO & co-founder, where we got to discuss remote hiring and remote worker assessments – something we work on. But we’ll write about that separately.


So, was it worth going to? Yes. Is the community worth joining? Certainly for founders & People Ops & People&Culture folk it’s definitely worth it. Is remote (or WFH if you prefer, or distributed if you prefer) here to stay? Yes. The rest will get figured out over time. 🙂

Robert @ Gyfted

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