What is a Director of Remote Work?

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You may not have heard of this relatively new role, created by some organisations to reflect the changing nature of how we work today. Here’s what you need to know

What is a Director of Remote Work?

A Director of Remote Work is an experienced HR professional with an understanding of distributed, hybrid and virtual teams. They are responsible for building, developing and governing a business’ remote workforce strategy, as well as implementing remote working programmes and providing support to managers.

I’ve never heard of one before…

That’s no surprise – it’s a relatively new role that’s been created by some organisations to reflect the changing nature of how we work today.

Remote working is on the rise worldwide. Online jobs search engine Adzuna announced in October 2020 that the number of remote jobs being advertised in 2020 had risen by 147% from the previous year, while searches for jobs with opportunities to work from home have risen by 660%. Out of the 590,400 jobs on offer in the UK alone, 47,300 job ads specified that they were for a remote role.

To respond to this shift, companies are creating management roles to look after staff who will continue to work this way permanently. Think of a Director of Remote Work in the same way as a Chief Diversity Officer, a Chief Culture Officer or a Chief People Officer. These are all roles that help businesses with their evolving needs.

“It’s good to see companies prioritising the online transition and starting to hire remote specialists,” says Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna. “Chief Diversity Officer was one of the fastest growing roles of 2020. Head of Remote Working could be the new hot job title for 2021 and beyond.”

Who’s hiring them?

In September, Business Insider reported that Facebook was looking for a Director of Remote Work, as it plans for a more permanent shift to working from home. According to a job posting for the role, it’s looking for someone to help it develop a long-term remote work plan and to lead Facebook’s push “toward remote-first ways of working”. Facebook employees will continue working from home until July 2021, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying he expects half of the company’s workforce to work remotely within the next decade.

Questions-and-answers social platform Quora is also in the process of hiring a Head of Remote Work after 60% of employees said they’d rather work from home even after the pandemic is no longer a threat.

“[We] need somebody with an HR background, but they also need to be really strong at [communication skills] and to be pretty adept – or at least knowledgeable – about technology,” Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo has said. “This pandemic has forced us to just flip a switch and now this is suddenly a role a lot of companies need.”

Meanwhile, open-source software firm GitLab, which has been all-remote since 2011, already has a Head of Remote, Darren Murph. As reported in The Washington Post, his duties include helping staff members relocate to non-city centre locations, assisting senior leaders in structuring new projects in remote-friendly ways and distilling work-from-home policies into remote work handbooks.

What could a Director of Remote Work do for my business?

On his blog, corporate speaker Dr John Sullivan explores the possible roles and responsibilities of a Director of Remote Work – of which he suggests there are many. These include determining the appropriate hiring criteria; maintaining remote worker engagement; assessing new remote work technologies; and sustaining the established company culture.

He also suggests the role could be responsible for calculating workforce metrics for the new world of work. “A Director of Remote Work must be a data-driven decision-maker who can effectively build a business case,” he explains. “They should also be responsible for measuring the relative effectiveness [of different work options] to continually maintain the desired level of innovation, productivity, and employee safety.”

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