We're a remote-first organization, and we always have been. Find out what we do differently, and how our remote work ethos helps our team live their best lives.
Maybe in a few decades, we’ll be shocked when we look back and realize that most workers experienced remote work for the first time only because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though remote work has been growing in popularity since the 2010s (becoming more and more accessible as technology progressed) the majority of companies had never given it much thought. Until they had to.
At this point, the shift to remote work was abrupt, ad-hoc - a contingency to deal with an immediate and frightening situation.
Some companies evidently never wished to commit to remote working long-term. Many have now called their workforce back to the physical office, whether full-time or on a hybrid schedule. Other companies took an adapt and embrace approach, and have transitioned to fully remote.
This means that more companies than ever are operating with a fully remote workforce. However, before the pandemic, only around 5% of knowledge workers were fully remote.
Our team has always been a part of that small group.
Runn has been fully remote from the very beginning. It’s never been ad-hoc or an afterthought - it’s an intentional part of our makeup. As such, building our organization from the ground up with remote work as a central principle, we believe we’ve been able to get the most out of it.
And with hundreds of businesses as delighted customers, and more signing up every month, it’s clear we’re getting something right.
Indeed, you could say we’re remote work experts.
“Runn chose to be remote from day one,” says Rowan Savage, Runn’s CTO, “And we've continued that culture and those ideals as we’ve grown from four founders to where we are now.”
Back when Runn was just a concept, CEO Tim Copeland knew exactly who he wanted to bring onto the project. But the kicker was that everyone was thousands of miles apart, in totally different time zones.
“Tim was in the UK, Nicole in the US, Felipe in New Zealand, and I was in Colombia,” says Rowan, “So, to get this dream team working together, we knew that we’d need to work remotely.”
In short, being remote-first from the very beginning just made sense. And because we’ve built our operations around this model from the beginning, we’ve always made choices that support our remote work culture.
The Runn platform is all about getting the right people working on the right projects at the right time. And, in the spirit of that, does it really matter if everyone is or isn’t together in the same place all at once? To us, it’s never been an obstacle.
As Rowan explains, not being tied to hiring in one location helps us build the kind of team we need to deliver quality at the highest level:
“Runn is headquartered in Wellington, New Zealand - a city of just 300,000 people. We recognised that, to hire and attract the talent we wanted at Runn, we’d need to be open to hiring and having staff around the globe. By looking globally with our hiring, we’ve opened up to a world of almost 8,000,000,000 people. The talent we have access to increases exponentially.”
Being location agnostic means that we’ve thrown the doors wide open to a diverse global workforce of skilled, talented individuals. We currently have team members in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ukraine, the US, the UK, Denmark, and Germany (not to mention a couple of nomads exploring different locales around the world).
And as the team gets bigger, that list is only going to keep growing.
“Most importantly for the business,” says Rowan, “We’ve been able to create a high performing team that has built, launched and expanded a category-leading product in the space of a few years.”
For us, being remote-first means that we’re always intentional about our remote working culture, and always have been. We do all we can to make it the optimal arrangement for the whole team.
Every new starter gets a budget to furnish their ideal home office - or for a membership to a coworking space, if that’s what they prefer! We’re forever on the lookout for best-in-class apps and tools to make communication effortless.
But our remote ethos is not just about having the freedom to create the physical and digital space that helps us do our best work: it’s also about building routines that help us get the most out of our days. We work flexibly, creating space not just for our commitments, but our lifestyles and passions.
“This means that everyone has more time to do the things that are important to them,” says Rowan, “From spending more time with the kids, to renovating the house, to surfing when the waves appear.”
Besides, because we’re based all over the world, what is 8am for one of our team members might be 7pm to someone else. So tying people to rigid working hours wouldn’t make a great deal of sense. Even if we all worked a strict nine-to-five, many of us wouldn’t even be online at the same time anyhow!
This is an added layer of complexity. But working flexibly also helps us accommodate for different timezones, which makes it easier to get everyone in a meeting if we need to.
“It’s not about working over your hours to accommodate for timezones - but sometimes you have to adjust your hours to take an early or late call.”
Whether that means taking a longer lunch break if you have an evening meeting that day, or finishing at 3pm because you started at 7am, we make it work by being flexible and extending trust. Everyone knows the hours that they’re working, and we trust people to make the adjustments and set their boundaries as necessary.
With that said, it’s not all straightforward. Finding a meeting time that works for Vancouver, London, and Wellington is a challenge. Likewise, we realize that too many meetings outside of regular business hours isn’t ideal for most people. And so, a big part of our remote set-up has been to take lessons from the asynchronous working approach.
As our CPO Felipe Skroski has said in the past, the beauty of async work is that all our colleagues - no matter their location - are empowered to contribute equally and collaborate effectively, while working the hours that suit their life.
(Curious about how asynchronous work works? Read Felipe’s thoughts on asynchronous work here)
We try to keep real-time, synchronous meetings to a minimum, and actively have conversations about whether regular meetings are serving their purpose. We do stand-ups asynchronously, and we encourage the recording of voice notes and video (we’re big fans of Loom here).
Overall, adopting this approach means really embedding an ethos of respect for each other’s time - and a high-trust, high-accountability environment.
“You do have to be prepared that some things are harder with a fully async remote team,” reflects Rowan, “You have to be willing to put in that extra work for all the benefits gained. But, for us, the benefits massively outweigh the negatives.”
Some organization leaders are concerned that a remote workforce won’t be able to build bonds. But we’ve actually found that the opposite is true.
It seems like a contradiction in terms, but in many ways, being remote-first has helped us maintain the Runn team as a strong, supportive community - resilient, together.
And there’s a big reason for that: no location restrictions means that when people’s life circumstances change, they can still stay with us. Rather than work being a limiting factor, or a restriction that causes additional anxiety, our team can go where they need to go.
Perhaps someone’s spouse is offered the opportunity of a lifetime, but they have to relocate to accept it. Or maybe they need to move to be closer to a family member who needs care. Life is unpredictable; people’s situations can change overnight.
Conventional office set-ups aren’t great at accommodating that, though. When everyone is tied to being within commuting distance of an HQ, if a team member has to relocate because of a change in circumstances, it means goodbye.
This means losing a piece of your organization's puzzle - their unique skillset, interpersonal connections, customer relationships, and organizational knowledge.
Being remote-first and location-agnostic means that wherever our team members may need to go, for whatever reason, and whatever challenges they are facing, they don’t have to be anxious about what will happen to their job.
As Rowan reflects, this flexibility has meant a lot to him in his own life. It meant that he could be with his family during a difficult time, while still staying with the Runn team.
“I personally had a major family emergency, which sent me overseas for six months. And the flexibility allowed me to be with my family and support them, while still maintaining my income working reduced hours.”
Equally, perhaps someone just decides that they’re a bit bored of their current city and they want to try living somewhere else. We believe that people shouldn’t have to sacrifice their dreams of seeing the world in order to keep a job that they love.
“Runn has actually had four team members who have moved overseas and stayed as part of the team, and a further three people move to different cities or regions,” says Rowan, “Instead of losing these talented, experienced people who we have invested in, we can retain them worldwide.”
We grow stronger as a community, precisely because our colleagues are able to stick with us no matter what is happening in their lives, or where their desire to see the world takes them.
However, being remote work evangelists does not mean that we don’t appreciate the value of in-person time. If anyone in the team is traveling and they happen to end up in the same city as another member of the Runn crew, they’ll often get together for a coffee and some coworking. We love to see team members taking this opportunity - informal get-togethers help build those bonds!
In fact, because in-person meet-ups are the exception for us, they are often a real occasion. When we bring the whole team together, it’s about quality time and enjoying a real convivial feeling without worrying about work.
For these events, the focus is on getting to know each other, partaking in activities that create memories and help us see each other in a different light - whether that’s doing a pasta-making workshop in Rome, or going on some wild theme park rides on the Gold Coast.
“When our team meets up, it’s often a social affair - it’s about getting to know each other, hanging out and enjoying ourselves. Because meeting team members isn’t work related, it creates a lot of cross pollination of friendships between different teams and areas,” says Rowan.
Remote work looks different for everyone. But ultimately, it gives us all a lot of freedom - and so it’s up to us what we do with that.
Chloe Park, a member of our talented software development team, had the following to say about our work-from-anywhere culture. She’s currently working while traveling, exploring some destinations that have always been on her list:
“Working remotely has opened up so many opportunities for me - the biggest one is being able to work and travel at the same time, which I adore.”
After catching up with the team in Italy, Chloe flew to the US and made her way to Mexico, Antigua, and Guatemala, updating us along the way (and dropping photos of incredible tropical scenes in Slack!).
Traveling is rarely predictable, but having flexible working hours also means that Chloe can structure her days as she needs. Whether you need to catch a midday flight or train, or simply wish to walk around the local neighborhood to get your bearings, having a flexible schedule makes traveling while working a lot easier to handle.
“I feel happier having flexibility and more autonomy over how I use the time in my day,” says Chloe, “I can work during times when I naturally feel more productive, rather than set hours. Working late one night doesn’t mean I have to lose sleep, for instance. I can just start late the next day.
I love that I don't have to feel like I have to put my life plans or other interests on hold for work. With in-person work, it can often feel like an ‘either/or’ sort of decision. For example, if I want to move to a different city, or even if I just want to go traveling for a while, that wouldn’t be possible in so many workplaces.
But, at Runn, it feels to me like we’re met with a big YES. Like - yeah, go ahead and have it all!
Working while traveling has been a hugely rewarding experience for many members of our team. Just remember, though - if you're tempted by this lifestyle, be sure to check the rules and regs of any destinations you're planning to visit when it comes to working there remotely! 🏝️
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