Job: Head of remote
The role: As more organizations seek a hybrid or remote work model some have designated a professional to oversee and manage that transition. As a relatively new position, “head of remote” can mean different things to different organizations, but typically it involves a degree of ownership of remote work policies, and advocacy on behalf of remote staff.
“A very large part of the role is working across the organization, addressing individual problems, and trying to find polices, suggestions or training to make sure those things are resolved,” says Job van der Voort, the CEO and co-founder of Remote, an HR technology company that supports remote work. “A head of remote can be someone who brings in knowledge on how to do these things, acts as a representative for remote workers, and also just works on making remote work better at the organization.”
Mr. van der Voort adds that responsibilities typically depend on the organization’s size, experience with remote work, and goals. For example, in larger organizations that have prior experience with remote work, the role is often more external facing, and involves speaking publicly and writing about remote work. “The main function of your job is to spread the gospel of remote work, and remote work specifically at your company,” he says.
In smaller organizations, or those with less experience in managing a remote work force, Mr. van der Voort says the role is typically more internal-facing. “They are a representative of the remote workers,” he says. “They’re making sure people can do their jobs well, which encompasses not just the thing they have to do in their job, but also if they’re happy and feel included.”
Salary: Annual compensation for the head of remote position can range widely depending on the employer size, the job requirements and the candidate’s credentials. As a new position there is little compensation data available, but Mr. van der Voort says compensation is typically comparable with a position as a human resources director, which commands an average annual salary of more than $101,000 in Canada, according to PayScale.
Furthermore, as a remote position, Mr. van der Voort says Canadians have the ability to work for U.S.-based companies, which typically offer higher salaries.
“Organizations that treat this role as part of the HR department might not compensate them very well,” he says. “Larger organizations that are growing really fast and are taking this very seriously could easily pay US$100,000, maybe more; I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the more famous heads of remote earn more than that. "
Education: There is no single educational pathway for heads of remote, though a background in human resources could be an asset. “If have a technical background and you just really like this [work], you will do fine,” says Mr. van der Voort.
He says the best education is relevant experience. “You want to build a catalogue of experiences around how companies of different sizes deal with this problem.”
Job prospects: The sudden transition to remote work during the pandemic and the continuing trend toward more flexible working arrangements have created a significant demand for heads of remote. While job opportunities are plentiful, Mr. van der Voort says there is a lack of applicants with relevant experience and expertise.
“The demand for people that fill this function is higher than the supply, but it’s very hard to make yourself part of the supply, because it’s something you sort of have to fall into,” he says.
Challenges: Being an advocate for such a significant change often requires heads of remote to deal with resistance to that change, both from staff members as well as leadership.
“Maybe they’ve been working in the same office for 30 years, and you’re telling them they have to change everything about how they work, and that’s difficult,” he says. “Another challenge you’re going to face is that a company might say that they want this, but the leadership might not, in their heart of hearts, be convinced this is what they want to do, or they might not give you enough power to create change.”
Why they do it: Heads of remote are often motivated by the opportunity to have a positive influence in their colleagues’ lives.
“You can have a massive impact in the way organizations operate, and the way people live their lives, and I think that’s really cool,” says Mr. van der Voort. “People will love you because you just make their lives better; their work lives and their personal lives.”
Misconceptions: Organizations that are struggling to adopt a hybrid or remote work model might have the misconception that simply hiring a head of remote is the solution itself, rather than one step in a lengthy process.
“You can’t hire this person and think your problems with remote work are fixed,” says Mr. van der Voort. “You must have executive buy-in, and grant them privileges or power or the ability to execute on things, because if they cannot enact change there’s no point; you might as well not hire this person.”
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