To remain competitive, businesses of all sizes are discovering the need to make remote work a priority. And as more companies hire remote talent, they will need to hire a head of remote work to oversee this workforce.
Even before the massive shift to remote work triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses hired remote workers and a leader to oversee them. A director of remote work (or remote work officer or remote work leader) is often seen as crucial to success.
Yet what exactly is a remote work leader? What do they do? Does your organization need one? What skills should a person in this role possess? How do you know you’ve found the right person for this position?
Here’s what you need to know about hiring a head of remote work.
Why are companies adopting remote work?
There are a few compelling reasons for business owners to embrace a remote workforce, including:
- Better access to top talent – You can hire talent from anywhere, not just from the immediate vicinity of your physical headquarters.
- Reduced real estate costs – Fewer employees working in a single, central space require smaller physical footprints. This can lead to savings on expensive commercial real estate and reduce overhead costs. Some firms may eliminate entirely the need for office space or switch to renting meeting spaces on an as-needed basis.
- Increased productivity – Your workforce may be more productive (and perhaps less stressed) as employees save time and reduce costs related to lengthy commutes.
Businesses need to develop a comprehensive strategy for shifting to remote operations on a sustainable basis. At the same time, it’s important to remember that what works for one company may not serve another one well. Some companies may become entirely remote. Others may find a hybrid model – a mix of remote and in-person work – ideal.
Whatever path a business chooses, companies need dedicated experts to help them create remote work policies.
What is a head of remote work?
A head of remote work is someone who can build a work-from-home program (or a hybrid model) while managing all aspects of a remote, possibly distributed workforce of employees working from different time zones.
While many organizations have a remote work leader, there is little uniformity in the definition of this relatively new role. The good news? Each business can customize key elements of the role to suit their specific needs. And this type of role will likely continue to evolve.
Does my business need a remote work leader?
The answer depends on:
- Your company’s size
- The depth and breadth of your organization
- Its operations
- Whether your business is remote-friendly or all-remote
If your workforce has more than a few remote workers, plans to hire more remote talent, is exploring a hybrid model or is transitioning to an all-remote workforce, a remote workforce leader can build a model that:
- Enables expected organizational performance
- Retains the supportive elements of culture, values and sense of belonging for employees across your organization
What does a remote work leader do?
Generally speaking, a remote work leader is dedicated to making remote work a successful organizational strategy. As such, it’s a role that touches practically every part of your business, including:
- Addressing employee experience and culture needs
- Recruiting remote workers beyond the pool of applicants within commuting distance of your company’s headquarters
- Building a more diverse and inclusive workforce as you hire employees from many locations
- Supporting successful remote work environments with the right technology, such as webcams and project collaboration software
- Managing the cybersecurity risks of using technology for remote work
- Protecting proprietary businesses processes or intellectual property
- Helping managers understand how to lead remote teams and reward remote workers
- Addressing the shift in how sales teams meet with clients or project teams collaborate on complex initiatives.
What skills does a head of remote work possess?
The ideal individual is someone who is:
- Equally able to improve business processes in support of strategic imperatives and focus on the details of how people work
- Adept at working with leaders and teams at all levels of the organization
- A business partner with strong people skills and problem-solving skills
- A fast learner and innovative thinker
- Highly collaborative
- An excellent communicator
- Comfortable navigating technology and technical terminology
HR experience is not a requirement for this role. It’s arguably more important for this leader to understand people, culture and dynamic business environments than HR regulatory compliance issues. Plus, the remote work leader can always consult with HR about specific issues.
When recruiting for this type of position, it’s important to keep in mind that the role’s scope of responsibilities influences the title (i.e. chief remote work officer, executive, manager, director or leader). Remember, too, that you may also chose to hire someone either in a full- or part-time capacity, bring in a consultant or promote someone internally into a stretch role.
Bottom line: You should select a leader who can lead the creation and implementation of the best model (all remote, all on-site or hybrid) to meet business needs.
8 things a remote work leader should know
- Employees’ need for physical office space and equipment and how that impacts the company’s need for commercial real estate
- Ways to maintain the company’s culture and team spirit as well as how to design quality networking opportunities to help maintain communication and collaboration
- Remote recruiting and hiring best practices
- The art of virtual onboarding, employee development and effective two-way communication with all employees
- How to integrate asynchronous work schedules of remote workers with in-office workers, especially for those working from home with children
- How to meet remote workers’ needs for IT support while maintaining cybersecurity best practices
- Workers’ compensation for remote employees, including identifying and addressing burnout and implementing best practices for ergonomic home office design
- How to manage remote employees by focusing on the amount and quality of output, not the hours spent sitting in an office
Summing it all up
The shift to remote work – with virtual customer interactions and contact-free, digital processes – may have been sped up during the pandemic, but it will likely never entirely disappear for many companies. To support employees, customers and strategic partners in today’s digital-first environment, business owners are building new best practices, including creating a remote work leader in their organizations.
Whatever approach you take to remote work, don’t lose sight of the critical competitive advantage a strong, talented workforce can bring to your business. Get more ideas by downloading our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.
This blog was co-authored by Middle Market Strategic Consulting Services Manager Cindy Larson DeMarco, EdD, MA, BS. She brings more than more than 25 years of leadership and consulting experience within various industries including finance, banking, non-profit, legal and technology. She’s based out of San Diego, California.