Many organizations — including my own, which is full of 15-year veterans of remote work, with people across all time zones — have come to realize they need someone to serve as head of remote to take teamwork to the next level. Before you rush to hit publish on a head of remote job opening, let’s dive deeper into some considerations for the position and process.
Being ‘remote-friendly’ doesn’t cut it anymore.
Until recently, remote organizations were so unique that attracting top-notch talent was a foregone conclusion. Then the pandemic happened. Remote work went from a rarity to table stakes in an ever-tightening labor market. Employees won’t settle for just remote work anymore — they expect you to create a great (remote) employee experience. Consider:
• What remote-friendly perks do you offer?
• How does the team build camaraderie in a virtual setting?
• How do you handle global pay, benefits and hiring?
• How does your team help employees maintain boundaries between work and life?
There are companies that offer remote work, and there are companies that make sure remote employees thrive. Employee well-being, engagement, productivity and, ultimately, your organization’s bottom line all rest on having an intentional strategy for making remote work, work, at the highest possible level — and someone needs to lead that charge.
What works for one organization is not necessarily what works for another. If you’re considering hiring a head of remote, it’s important to consider what role this person will play on your team.
What does a head of remote actually do?
Head of remote duties will differ from company to company, but generally, they fall into two buckets: internal operations and external employer branding.
50% internal operations: This includes leveling up remote work best practices, tools, events, perks and rituals. The head of remote works to improve how your team collaborates together and also how you connect personally while distributed across the globe. In practice, this means predominantly focusing on the following areas:
• Coordinating events: I suggest to bring your team together occasionally to collaborate in person and foster stronger relationships. Our team meets twice a year, and these events are vital to our long-term success as a remote-first organization. These events require an emphasis on serving the specific needs of a distributed team. The head of remote should take the lead on crafting the retreat strategy, from location selection and travel details, to agendas and team-building activities.
• Updating policies and procedures: There are a number of operational areas to enhance, ranging from documentation and onboarding to implementing new tools and perks that support distributed collaboration. It’s important to review all areas of your infrastructure through the lens of optimizing for the remote experience. For example, we recently implemented a new perk to encourage spontaneous meetups, and we’re evaluating tools to better manage well-being.
• Virtual connection: The head of remote should create intentional opportunities for your team to connect with each other on a human level virtually, to foster a more balanced, productive and sustainable workplace. For example, I recently formed a “Social Crew,” uniting teammates around the common cause of building a better social network internally, and we’re creating a robust social calendar filled with high-quality virtual events.
Simply listening to the needs of the team in regards to their remote setup and initiating conversations about how you can push your current framework to the next level is the level of intentionality that can be the difference between simply functioning and thriving as a remote team in 2022.
50% external advocacy: We made the strategic decision to become a more vocal advocate for remote work. In doing so, we have strengthened our remote-first brand, ensured we continue to attract top talent and paid it forward by sharing our remote experiences with other teams.
If your organization desires to attract top talent or position your services as a leader in the remote workspace, you also may want to consider centralizing this area of focus behind someone who can lead this initiative.
The head of remote can reach people around the world by contributing to discussions, articles, webinars and conferences related to remote work. Rather than continue to stretch your leadership team thin with these activities, you can design the role to be your lead megaphone for remote work advocacy.
Do you need a head of remote?
Each team’s needs will vary depending on where you currently are on the remote work spectrum. Distribute Consulting and Remote collaborated on a fantastic white paper on this subject. If you’re considering hiring a head of remote, they suggest to start by asking:
• Are we in construction mode or maintenance mode? For construction mode, look for a change agent with experience constructing remote infrastructure. For maintenance mode, look for someone who understands your organization but can provide a fresh perspective on your current operations.
• Do we want to attract top-notch remote talent and position our services as leaders in the remote space? If so, you’ll want someone with public speaking and writing skills who is comfortable in a public setting.
• Do we want to build a remote workforce, or a hybrid or co-located environment? In either case, you’ll want to invest in someone who has been an integral part of thriving remote or hybrid workforces, and who knows the requisite best practices to implement in your team.
After speaking with dozens of other heads of remote, it’s clear the role will vary greatly from company to company, depending on where you currently sit on the remote work spectrum and your organization’s goals. But a thread that unites these organizations is that they all know their competitive advantage is their people, and they believe that whether you are in a hybrid organization or going remote-first, you can’t leave the remote employee experience to chance. Working remotely takes a high level of intentionality, and without someone who has the space to dedicate energy to it, you may end up with a mediocre result.