Hiring a Head of Remote Work can help businesses stay productive and efficient in this new normal.
A new role that has emerged through COVID-19 is the “Head of the Remote Work.”
While this role of the future may not yet exist for many organizations, companies like Facebook have been quick to hire for it. It has already existed for years at companies like GitLab who have a more established remote culture.
The transition to “remote-first” work culture has several implications that employers must consider as they create new policy and procedures. For example, companies must now consider whether or not to keep their main office, how to adjust salary based on relocations, and how to be intentional about company virtual culture.
This is where a dedicated “Head of Remote Work” can help organizations maintain productivity and efficiency within this new environment. Let’s explore this new job title and what the implications might be for small businesses.
Head of Remote Work: role and responsibility
This position will have a unique focus and look different depending on the needs and culture of the organization. It will almost certainly be a collaborative and cross-functional role, touching many areas of the employee experience. Let’s examine just a few areas of responsibility that this leader may influence.
Maintaining and iterating company culture
In many organizations, culture can be highly dependent on the physical parts of the office. For example, working at Google, employees expect to find a unique physical office with a culture of togetherness. The company encourages people to connect over their free lunch and breakfast.
As companies lose the in-person experience, leaders need to be very thoughtful about how to iterate components of their culture that no longer work in a remote environment.
As companies lose the in-person experience, leaders need to be very thoughtful about how to iterate components of their culture that no longer work in a remote environment. If you rely on after work happy hours or team off-sites to create camaraderie on your teams, you’ll need to find new ways of helping employees connect and network in a structured and formal way.
If you’re going to be switching to a “remote-first” model, you’ll need to have a leader to think through what role a centralized office will play in the future for your company. For example, you may consider:
- Keeping a headquarters
- Renting out some coworking spaces, or
- Completely getting rid of the traditional office altogether
It will also be important to consider what role you’ll want to play as an employer in ensuring that your employees are setting up an ergonomically sound office from home. Some companies are offering generous stipends to their employees to help them buy the supplies and furniture they need to comfortably work from home.
Training and development
Your employees may not yet have the technical abilities to perform their best in a virtual environment. Some areas of training that will be important include:
- Teaching managers how to coach and deliver feedback with virtual teams
- Providing technical training on virtual collaborative tools
- Empowering leaders to trust their employees
To help employees maintain their productivity and upskill them, this new leader will need to set out a training strategy.
Creating remote-first practices
It will be important to evaluate how the daily practices of your organization function within a distributed workforce. For example, if you always host live synchronous events like town halls, consider that not everyone will be in the same time zone. Creating asynchronous experiences may help with engagement and involvement.
If you always host live synchronous events like town halls, consider that not everyone will be in the same time zone. Creating asynchronous experiences may help with engagement and involvement.
If your company does not have proper processes for documentation, this will have to change; colleagues can no longer walk over to their neighbor’s desk and ask for help. If you’re used to being in all-day meetings, you might have to rework that strategy. You’ll want to ensure your employees are not suffering from video chat burnout.
In an interview with Darren Murph, head of Remote Work for GitLab, he explains that “Remote work isn’t merely something one does; it is an intentional series of organizational motions that create a fundamentally unique environment. A supportive remote atmosphere is more flexible, more disciplined and more inclusive, but it requires a tremendous amount of focus.”
Why this matters for small businesses
Having a dedicated leader in charge of setting out the long-term strategy to create a “remote-first” organization will help you remain competitive and attractive to prospective candidates.
Companies that prioritize the shift towards remote-first will be better positioned to:
- Compete for global talent
- Increase their productivity
- Create more sustainable processes, and
- Become a leader in a new era of work
If you’re a small business, this means you’re probably positioned to be nimble and adapt to these circumstances. This is a new opportunity to design your organization for the future! If you’re just starting out, then you’ve got a blank canvas to retain the good parts of working from home while hiring a dedicated employee to solve for the gaps and build sustainable processes for your future.