Quite a few things have changed in the last two years. And, as humans are known to do, we’ve adapted. We’ve learned to work in our pajamas, to deal with demanding pets and loud construction noises, learned to work the dreaded mute button, and much, much more.
Organizations have also accommodated these changing times, and as the need for flexible working arrangements has risen, one role has come to the forefront: Head of Remote. But before we dive into why your company needs this special person, let’s start with this:
What is a Head of Remote?
A Head of Remote, Director of Remote Employee Experience, Remote Operations Manager, or whatever title floats your boat, oversees and handles all operations and processes related to remote or hybrid working models.
But who better than an actual Head of Remote to describe what the role entails. Darren Murph, the Head of Remote at GitLab Inc. tells us:
“Initially, a Head of Remote sets the tone for behavioral and cultural shifts required to embrace new models of working. Longer-term, the role evolves to lead overarching workplace experience. A Head of Remote ensures operational agility and durability as a workforce decouples from physical geography. It serves as a cross-functional internal consultant to evolve key pillars (e.g. learning & development, knowledge management, tooling, onboarding, and culture/informal communication) such that each function becomes more effective in a distributed setting.”
Some of the responsibilities of a Head of Remote are:
- Defining the benefits and amenities for remote workers
- Optimizing the onboarding process to meet the needs of remote workers
- Mapping the remote employee experience
- Choosing the optimal digital tools to accommodate for virtual work
- Designing and outlying the digital experience for employees
- Using research and data to find areas of investment in the employee experience and measure success
- Monitoring the market landscape to understand how the remote employee experience is developing across the startup and tech worlds
- Closely collaborating with HR, Operations, and other stakeholders
Why do you need a Head of Remote?
Remote work isn’t going anywhere. But neither is our need for human connection. Not to mention the importance of creating a culture of inclusiveness, belonging, and collaboration. It’s not so easy to do this virtually.
Rhys Black, the Head of Remote at Oyster, tells us:
“The impacts of becoming a distributed team are wide-ranging across an organization. They span everything from the obvious, like how you make decisions to the not-so-obvious, such as how you ensure high levels of support for your customers. This means that without a Head of Remote or equivalent, decisions about how to operate well as a distributed team are done by committee. As we all know, committees rarely work well. Having a single owner that works across the organization to help all teams adapt and excel is needed.”
Rhys adds companies need to think about the capacity for autonomous work. Can individuals get the information they need to get work done without having to rely on others? Colleagues are no longer just a desk away — they might be 10 time zones away and asleep. Rhys explains: “the physical distance also heightens the need for increasing levels of visibility through the company, so that people can understand what work is going out and its status without asking others. These two areas lead to a lot of work around Knowledge Management and Project Management.”
What are the benefits of hiring someone to handle an organization's remote operations?
Darren tells us, “as more organizations embrace remote-work variations, they are realizing that remote and hybrid workforces run the risk of creating two opposing cultures and workflow defaults. For an organization to thrive, charting a harmonious path forward must be someone's job. Not just a part of their job, but the whole job.
Distributed work unlocks talent and productivity, but not without intentional effort. The underlying infrastructure of how a team works will change without an office as a crutch, and it requires a leader to steer teams through the shift, coordinate upskilling, and enlist new tools where appropriate.”
What experience or skills do you need to be a successful Head of Remote?
- For starters: experience working remotely. Someone who’s managed remote teams is even better positioned to have a feel of the associated challenges and how to overcome them.
- Tech-savvy, and the patience to transfer these skills when needed. An inclusive remote team means not everyone will have the same knowledge when it comes to technology. Finding the proper digital tools that work for your company is also essential.
- Communication skills. This may be a basic one, but definitely not one to be overlooked. The ability to efficiently communicate across all means (in person, via video conference, in writing, etc) is key to successful remote work.
The future of remote work
What the future holds for the workplace is unclear. And that’s why having someone in your organization dedicating their time to figuring it out will set up your company for success. Whether you go fully remote or adopt a hybrid model, decisions and processes need to be determined for optimal efficiency. And as times are changing, so are these processes. Someone with a clear and constant overview of what changes might be coming will help you future-proof the way you work.